How to manage stress in difficult times.
How are you coping with the effects of corona and lockdown?
Like most of us, you’ll be doing the best you can. I’ve been noticing a variety of reactions in people varying from anger, anxiety and overwhelm to making do.
The Stress Reaction
The human brain is geared up for survival and most of us are in the stress reaction and getting caught up in its cycle. And sometimes that means we use unhelpful strategies. We don’t mean to use ways of coping that are unhelpful. At some stage in our life, they may have served a purpose. Sometimes we get stuck in a habit that is counterproductive.
How to intervene
You can intervene in the stress reaction and prevent it from becoming a cycle with unhealthy effects on the body and brain.
Take a step back from being busy and distracted. Acknowledge how you feel and what is happening with your physical sensations, your thoughts, your emotions. It’s human to be experiencing a range of responses to the threat we perceive. Assess what’s happening to you. Write it down – be as objective as you can. Choose how you will respond. There are some things you can do however small. There are some things you can control however small.
I’d like to encourage you to think about what you can do that will be helpful.
Seven tips on managing stress
1. Sleep. Try and keep to a regular sleep pattern – get to bed at the same time and get up at the same time. Stress can cause problems with sleep – take note of what you are doing in the few hours leading to bedtime. Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol which disturb sleep.
2. Keep to a regular, healthy diet. As far as obtaining food from the supermarket goes, try and have a balanced diet. Avoid snacking too much on sugary/refined carbohydrates.
3. Physical activity. Do what you can within the limitations of restrictions. Keep moving. There is an abundance of helpful material available online. Be sensible – don’t suddenly do anything strenuous. Set aside a time for a period of exercise or several times during the day.
4. You can decrease your stress reaction by addressing your worries and thoughts.
i. Use a cognitive or Cognitive Behavioural (CBT) approach to managing stress. Breaking the model down simply to a 3 area model, look at thoughts, feelings or emotions and behaviour. They interact with each other. It’s difficult (perhaps impossible) to change feelings per se but if we adjust our thoughts or our behaviour, this can shift our feelings (so lessen anxiety or improve mood)
ii. Use of mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness is being aware or paying attention in the present moment. It’s noticing things as they are rather than wishing they were different. This allows us to see things as they are and to be more aware of the choices we have.We have been so busy doing things and now we have the opportunity of being.
5. Decide how much time you will spend watching/reading/listening to news. Continuous exposure to the news will increase and perpetuate stress and anxiety. Consider when you will watch and for how long. In a similar vein, when you’re talking to others, have conversations about a variety of things.
6. Communicate with loved ones, stay in touch with friends. We have phones, apps, the internet. Staying connected is a basic human need and is essential for wellbeing and happiness.
7. It helps to be grateful for things – expressing gratitude boosts our mood and helps with resilience. Try noticing 3 things every day that you are grateful for, however small. Write them down or share them with a partner or friend.
We are living in uncertain times and learning how to navigate uncharted waters. Although there are some things we don’t have control over, we do have some control on how we choose to respond.
We can choose how to take care of ourselves, our families and community. We can influence what happens.
Starting with yourself, I encourage you to create your own wellbeing plan.
Take care everyone.
If you’d like to know more about how I can help you, contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
*** Disclaimer. This is not medical advice. Stay up to date with current government advice and restrictions.