We are all dealing with stressful times
Stress is a feeling that we all experience on a regular basis. But dealing with Covid-19 can certainly bring a completely different level of stress. After all, we have never been quarantined, experienced the unknown of when we are going back to school, work, or even to a restaurant. While staying home and maintaining social distancing is our best medicine, it does not necessarily mean that we don’t feel any less stress.
We fear to be near someone who may unknowingly carry the virus, worried for the safety of our loved ones, concerned about our job or school situation, whether we have enough Lysol wipes or if the supermarket would bring a new batch tomorrow am. It is easy to fall into fear mode, only if we disregard that there is another way of looking at this challenging situation, which is that of remaining hopeful.
Hope is what keep us alive and motivated. Hope is what helps us to get up in the morning and see the positive side of challenges. Hope teaches us to appreciate whom we have, what we have, as well as what we don’t have. As we remain hopeful to slowly facing a new normal, we can practice stress management strategies to help us navigate these challenging times.
If we find ourselves feeling frustrated and being pessimistic, take a pause and re-evaluate what is triggering your stress. Going with the emotions and being carried away into a negative spiral will only increase stress levels. Hence, take a brief pause and breathe by taking simple, but conscientious breaths. My favorite trick is to start counting backwards starting from 100 by skipping in 7s. Example: 100-93-86-79-72, etc. You don’t have to reach down to zero. Just stop when you have regained a sense of calm.
2. Use positive reframing
Reframing negative thoughts into positive ones is a very powerful tool. We often find ourselves being immersed in negativity as we picture a pessimistic outlook. Sometimes, we become so ingrained in our negative spiral that it consumes our energy and we find ourselves spreading it out to people around us. The final outcome is definitely not productive. Hence, if we find ourselves heading into a place of negativity, we can put a strong stop to it and reframe it. Most of the time, what we have negatively envisioned may not even happen. Taking a pro-active action NOW can surely alleviate potential future negative scenarios. On the other hand, if there is nothing that can be done now, then worrying will only increase our stress levels. Remember, use positive re-framing when faced with a stressful situation or a negative mindset.
3. Find time to turn electronics off
In a society where we have become so electronically dependent, we are increasingly using our computers, tablets or phones to such an extent that is rapidly becoming an addiction. We seem to have difficulty putting the electronics away. We tend to believe that unless we respond to every text or email right away, we may be socially cut-off. We must learn the difference between urgency and importance when faced with an overwhelming amount of electronic communication. Many of our messages or emails are important, but maybe just a few of them are so urgent that require our immediate attention. The important ones can wait. If reducing stress is our goal, then differentiating between important and urgent texts or emails will certainly alleviate some of our stress.
4. Visualize a positive outcome
There is a direct relationship between visualizing a positive future outcome and its eventual result. The more positively we envision, the more likely such a scenario will occur. Remain hopeful and see the positive outcome even during challenging times.
5. Get a good night’s sleep
Along the lines of our “electronic” life, it’d certainly help if we could turn our computer or TV off at least half an hour before going to bed. The blue light from either object triggers the brain into thinking that it is still daylight. As a consequence, the melatonin hormones, which helps us to rest, drop and our sleeping difficulties increase. At the same time, stress hormones remain elevated throughout the night. This combination of elevated cortisol and drop in melatonin makes our bodies feel tired. To compensate for this tired feeling, we tend to jump start our day by drinking coffee, which increases our stress hormones even more. Therefore, remain disciplined to shut down electronics half an hour before bedtime. Our bodies and minds will be very grateful in the morning.
6. Meditate for 10 minutes a day
Research shows that meditation has multiple benefits. It allows our bodies to disengage from our stress, produces calmness, builds our immune system, and promotes healthy hormonal balance. We would all be better off if we took 10 minutes before going to sleep, close our eyes and pay attention to our breath. Bring awareness to the inhale and exhale of each of our breaths. As we pay attention to them, we will likely notice thoughts coming up. Rather than following these thoughts, just notice them and bring the attention BACK to the breath.
7. Make time to socialize
Last, but not least, do maintain an active social life. Either via facetime or just making phone calls, any reaching out will keep your social engagement alive and kicking. The more we interact with others, the better our ability to manage our stress.
The Takeaway: Stress is unavoidable, but there are actions we can take to help us to mitigate its uncomfortable effects. These strategies can help us manage stress and have better control over our emotions. As we manage our stress, the people around us will less likely react in stress. Like any new habit, it takes commitment. Following a stress reducing routine will help to remain hopeful and motivated.
Alex Diaz, PhD
Sports Mental Edge ®