Updated: Nov 7, 2020
As if daily, weekly, and annual stressors weren’t enough, we are now also trying our best to survive a global pandemic. COVID-19 has not only increased our stress levels big time, but also thrown anxiety, fear, sadness and a general sense of grief into the mix. It is very important to remind ourselves that these feelings are all normal and being experienced by all of us around the world.
Pandemic or not, during unavoidable periods of high stress in our lives, it can help considerably to have a go-to stress management list.
Take a look at your lifestyle at the moment, without judgement, and see if you can add in some of these stress management tips to help offset the stress. The aim is not to “get rid of” the stressor, as that is the ideal solution. If you can’t adjust your schedule and drop unnecessary stressors, the aim is to manage the stress when you can’t do much about it or are feeling quite overwhelmed and trapped:
How are you at saying no to other’s demands of your time, energy, and attention? Remind yourself that as a human being you have the right to:
say no to others; and
not justify yourself or give reasons why.
Of course it is helpful to give a reason, but it is important to honour your needs and express these to others when feeling stressed and or overwhelmed. It can be as simple as this conversation between two work colleagues:
“Could you please stay back for an hour and help me with this project?”
“I’m sorry I would like to help but tonight I have commitments, I’ll see you tomorrow”.
GRATITUDE: DAILY 10
Set aside 1 minute every day to consider 10 things you’re grateful for.
For example, as soon as Dan wakes up he thinks “I’m grateful:
that my parents are healthy;
for my job;
for my beautiful home;
for my health;
that I have water;
that I am handsome;
that the sun is shining today;
that I have a fridge full of food;
for my dog;
that I have money”
By doing this Dan is cultivating an attitude of gratitude, which can temporarily give him a break from rumination and thinking about topics that are stressful. It's the act of searching for things we are grateful for that informs our mood.
Assert yourself: set boundaries
You have the right to express your needs, what you think and how you feel. Simply because you are a human being. Where you want to be is freely able to say “I want to go to lunch in the city” while your friend says “I want to go to lunch by the beach”, and then you compromise from there. When one of us keeps quiet about what we want, or overpowers the other with what we need, it increases our daily stress big time, builds resentment, and affects our overall self-esteem.
JOURNAL: write about stressors
Writing can seriously help get things off our chest. Feeling anxious and overwhelmed? Open a note in your phone and write out your thoughts and feelings. Minus the judgement. Sometimes you might feel a little lighter than before you wrote the note. No-one needs to see it, and you can delete it later. We know that writing is “the window to the soul” so handwriting can be an excellent outlet for stress also. You might even come up with some new solutions to problems that were previously only stressing you out whilst in your mind.
Go for a 10 minute walk even if you’re exhausted and can’t be bothered. Around the block and back; or
Do some push ups; or
YouTube a video of Yoga/attend a class and do 10-20 minutes of poses and stretches.
Movement is life, and there are hundreds of thousands of articles and research explaining the benefits of exercise to absolutely every aspect of our lives. Try to gradually create a habit of it. A non-negotiable time every day or second day of the week that you commit to moving your body somehow.
Fresh fruit, veggies, fish, nuts, plenty of water daily. The Mediterranean diet has for a long time been linked to longevity and optimal health outcomes. Have a look here and try to emulate this as much as possible within your personal constraints. Outstanding and extensive information on this diet is given by Healthline here.
BE IN NATURE
Being in nature grounds us and restores our attention. Attention restoration theory reminds us that just being in or looking at nature relaxes and restores our brain functioning which can maximize optimal performance throughout the day and in general. If you can't get into nature, watch a Youtube video of a jungle or a waterfall. See how it helps.
Connect with friends and family
When we feel stressed and connect with friends and family it can help to alleviate some of the pressure, remind us we have support and are connected, and give us something to look forward to. If you don't have the option of connecting with family or have few friends, a supportive forum, local community group, or an ad-hoc therapist can be just as wonderful.
TAKE SMALL BREAKS: Relaxation, deep breathing & stretch
During the work day, set aside 2-5 minutes to stop, stand up, have a long stretch and take 5-10 deep belly breaths. As in breaths like a baby. Start with breathing in for 4 counts but breathe in from your belly so it expands, hold your breath for 2 counts, and breathe out slowly for 5 counts until your belly deflates.
That is called diaphragmatic breathing and can help very much to reset. This is excellent for shallow breathers or many of us who hold our breath whilst concentrating hard during the day. Setting a timer on your phone to go off every hour can be helpful to make this a habit during each work day.
Look at something that relaxes you, waterfalls, jungles, bunnies. Do some deep breathing as above, listen to calming spa music, touch/pet an animal, take a warm bath. Try to schedule this in as much as possible to give you something to pacify the stress, and try to do these activities mindfully (per below), rather than whilst still thinking about all those stressors.
When feeling overwhelmed and stressed, acknowledge how you're feeling and validate yourself, then notice 5 things you can see, 2 things you can hear, 2 things you can feel, and a thought you're having. That'll help get some distance from the stress for a moment.
For example "I am feeling very stressed and overwhelmed in this moment and that's totally understandable. I can see a desk, the sky, my computer, the chair, and the plant. I can hear the air conditioning, and the cars outside. I can feel my shirt on my skin, and the weight of my body in my chair. I am having the thought that this is relaxing".
Do something that brings you genuine joy
Even if it is for 5 minutes, every single day. It could be as simple as searching for new music on Spotify and listen to it in the car, or old music that reminds you of good times. Cultivating this every day for a tiny part of your day can help offset some of those stressors.
The benefits of meditation have been written about big time. We know that expert meditator's brains are actually thicker in grey matter than novice meditators. Who wouldn't want to increase their cortical thickness? A meditation to start the day even 3 days per week can be incredibly relaxing. Plenty of Youtube videos are available for beginners and of course the Calm App.
Start the day without your phone
Looking at our phones can be tempting, and probably habitual as soon as we wake up. But delaying this by 10-15 minutes and replacing this habit with a stretch, yoga, deep breathing, meditation or exercise can help alleviate and delay the onset of stress and overwhelm.
Trust your body
Sleep if you're tired, cry if you're feeling sad, workout if you have a little energy. Notice how much you hound yourself to keep going vs. how much you stop and listen to how you feel and trust that all bodies need rest, connection, love, movement and nourishment day to day. When we don't get that, we don't feel great but ignore our feelings to "get on with it". Trusting how we feel is essential to our health and wellbeing.
Crying has an enormous amount of benefits. See our blog here on crying. And really, have a big cry. Wrap yourself in a warm blanket and cry it out. Emotional tears secrete cortisol and function as a way to soothe ourselves. The crying centres in Japan have already got that figured out with Riu-Katsu (tear-seeking) as a reliever of stress in a group setting.
REMOVE substances & prescriptions
It’s just a distraction, and dependence on these isn't helpful for long-term reduction of stress or enhancing our health, wellness and/or our lifespan.
Finally, don't forget to keep setting goals and focusing on them, just like this courageous and strong little bear! Watch and enjoy this beautiful gem of a reminder thanks to Arod:
If you'd like any further information or some additional support with managing stress please send us a message, give us a call or make an appointment with us via our website. We at Neu Wellness Group look forward to hearing from you.