Let’s be honest. The year 2020 threw us a few curveballs. (In truth, a “few” is putting it mildly, and “curveballs” is an understatement.)
The Harris Poll conducted a study on behalf of the American Psychological Association. The results show that 78% of the survey responders (8 in 10 adults) identify the global pandemic as a major source of stress in their lives. Meanwhile, 60% (3 in 5) of those asked say that the many issues facing America overwhelm them.
While health officials broaden vaccination efforts and glimmers of hope begin to appear, the stressful effects of this past year linger. Even with all the changes 2020 delivered, methods to deal with your stress are always available.
Personally, I like to draw from great thinkers from our past… Gandhi, Eckhart Tolle, Vanilla Ice.
You read that right. Vanilla Ice touched on important keys to effective stress management. His basic principles of “Stop, Collaborate, and Listen” demonstrate how Vanilla Ice can help you manage your stress.
The circumstances causing the stress can be overwhelming. Work projects, kids running around the house with endless energy, finances, and relationships can hit a person hard. Of course, this list doesn’t even include the backdrop of a global pandemic and political combativeness. Facing them one by one or all at once, it’s easy to feel overloaded and buried.
It’s helpful to clearly identify what is causing the most stress in your life. Knowing the greatest stressor can provide you better direction on how to address it. Recognizing what you can control (and what you cannot) enlightens you to when and how you can be effectively make changes you need to be happier in the situation.
While you can’t fully escape the majority of these situations, you can and should take a break from them when you can. Stepping away (either physically or virtually) for 15 to 20 minutes can make a world of difference. Take a Candy Crush break. Walk around the block. Invest in a hobby (play the piano, crochet, creative write). Journal. While you can’t control all the factors that influence your life, you can filter the depth to which they affect you.
Stopping to create space from the stressful conditions leads to new perspectives and a refreshed, strengthened spirit.
To collaborate at work, list your current tasks that could be delegated to others. Also, identify co-workers you respect to see if they can assist on a project that might be a bit too much for you as one person. This lightens your load and provides opportunities to develop the professional experience of your colleagues. At the same time, delegation expresses trust and strengthens professional relationships.
You are not alone. It can be very easy to feel isolated in your situation. Whether you are a single parent or running your own company, stressful circumstances perpetuate the idea you are doing it all on your own. There are resources out there that can help. All you have to do is look.
Do you need help with child care? Ask nearby family for some (free) babysitting. Reach out to friends and neighbors to schedule playdates. Be sure to offer “trades” because, just like you, your friends need a parenting break too. Even during the pandemic, research day camps that will entertain and enrich your kids while providing you some “me” time.
Schedule time with your friends. By now, most of us have mastered using Zoom for virtual dinners or happy hours. Now that spring is basically here and vaccinations continue to spread, options for face-to-face time start to reappear. Whether outdoor picnics and cookouts or simple walks with friends, take advantage of what the weather prevented during the winter.
Filled with laughter or just a time to vent (or both), socializing with those you love and respect creates a sense of togetherness that many have missed for a year now. Build your community and remind you that you’re not alone!
If things are really feeling too much to handle overall, schedule time with a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Mental health professionals will be able to provide unique insight and methods to cope with the specific stress you’re facing in your life. Check with your health care provider what might be covered with your insurance. If you need free options, search on the internet for free therapy near you. Many hotlines exist solely to provide you mental health support exactly when you need it.
There is no harm in asking for help.
Take a moment to listen to everything around you. This includes things that may not actually make a sound or talk, like your calendar, your body and your mind.
What is your calendar telling you?
Where’s your time being spent? Color-coding by category can help you quickly see. Is your calendar balanced? Are you scheduling time for you to refuel and refocus?
No matter how full your calendar may seem, it’s important for you to build in time to do things that you enjoy, whether that’s practicing a hobby, watching a movie, reading a book, or doing nothing at all. And, remember, “No” is not a bad word. Prioritize your own well-being high enough so that you are not afraid to say “no” when too much is asked of you.
What is your body saying?
Stress is proven to take a toll on the body. The more you keep yourself healthy, the better you manage your stress. Healthy sleeping habits, regular exercise, a balanced diet, yoga… practice activities that keep you physically rested and ready work through challenges as they arise.
The important thing is to listen to your body when it tells you what it needs. It doesn’t lie.
What messages is your mind sending?
Frequently, in times of stress, the mind can be a tricky place. Negative thoughts can multiple, and negative voices can get louder.
“You’ll never do it.”
“This is too hard.”
Often, the stress and your surrounding challenges fuel these thoughts.
Remember, not every thought we have is true.
While a discouraging thought can echo around inside, take a moment to capture and analyze it.
Is the negative thought true?
Do you have control over or can change the negative situation?
Is it helping you succeed in what you aim to do?
Is the thought kind?
What if a friend said he/she/they was thinking that same thought?
What would your response be to that person?
The kindness you would extend to others needs to be also shared with yourself.
Train your ear to listen to parts of your life that may not have an actual voice but can tell you a lot about how to reduce your stress.
Will It Ever Stop? Yo, I Don’t Know
No matter how well we practice social distancing, stresses find us. How prepared we are to deal with them will determine the degree to which they affect us.
Be prepared to face your current and future stresses with strength and confidence so if there is a problem, you’ll stay cool as ice, ice baby.