Coping with stress in troubled times
Stress. We’re told we can’t live with it, and yet we can’t live without it. It’s impossible to have a stress-free life. Good stress gets the job done. It pushes us forward ensuring that we achieve the day to day tasks in our lives, all the way up to accomplishing the greatest of feats.
So, why does stress get such a bad rap? We’ve all heard it, stress kills. Your doctor tells you that you have high blood pressure. Why? Because of stress. Arthritis flaring up… stress. Obesity, depression, diabetes, asthma and Alzheimer’s disease. Stress.
In our culture, stress is almost a right of passage. We have told ourselves that it proves you are pushing hard and living life to the fullest.
And now stress is pushing the limits more than ever. Since COVID-19, life as we knew it has changed. It is impossible not to be personally affected in some way.
I watched an elderly woman in the grocery store trying to open a plastic bag without being able to lick her fingers. A frustrating experience and for her even more so as she was trying to also hold on to her walker. (I suggested she use the water from the fresh produce.)
The list of possible stress inducing events due to this pandemic is long: You or your children have lost their jobs, your retirement fund decreased in value, you can’t see your loved ones since you’re considered high risk, you scheduled an elective surgery which has since been postponed.
How do we handle all this additional stress?
First, it’s helpful to identify the stress. Remember, stress can be also caused by good things. Changes in our lives may be good, but stressful just the same. With those types of events, however, when they pass, you carry on with your life.
However, when the stress is without a clearly defined ending, as we are now experiencing during the pandemic, we need to develop better coping mechanisms.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but give yourself permission to have some fear. This is normal, given we are all just learning about this disease.
However, manage how much news you expose yourself to. Make sure the media you watch or listen to is informative rather than sensationalistic and relays credible information. Do not let fear control your life. Be mindful of this and find other things to watch and to discuss with your loved ones.
Remind yourself of the skills you’ve used in the past that have helped you through difficult times (and see below for additional ideas). Be kind to yourself and others. New skills can take time to learn.
And make sure that you contact a professional if you are finding that coping mechanisms are not working, and you are feeling overwhelmed.
Ways to cope with stress:
- Practice mindfulness: Sit in a quiet room with no distractions, take five to 10 deep, slow breaths. Do this daily.
- Exercise: Get out for walks as much as you are able, do yoga, stretch. There are several great apps for that!
- Don’t overindulge: In either food or alcohol. If you have more time, use it to create new, healthy recipes.
- Pick up a new (old) hobby: Cross-stitching, knitting, woodworking… do something with your hands that keeps your mind busy as well.
- Get enough rest: Go to bed and get up at the same time. Have a pre-sleep routine: Small herbal tea, read a chapter of a book, brush your teeth, wash your face…
- And stay connected: Make sure you chat with someone every day.
|Agnes Ramsay is a Registered Nurse, Personal Trainer and Wellness Coach who specializes in Electric Muscle Stimulation Training.|