Managing stress can seem nearly impossible even on a typical routine day. So, how do we manage stress during such extraordinary times as now with the COVID-19 pandemic?
First, we need to understand that effective stress management is more than simply prioritizing schedules and upping our exercise regimens. Although both are excellent tools in managing stress, it’s important that we adopt a comprehensive approach to combat stress.
Extreme levels of stress can lead to feelings of vulnerability, insecurity and physical illness. For many people, stress is just a way of life. We hardly recognize the signs and symptoms, not to mention the impact it may be having at work and home.
We all deal with stress at some point in our lives. Sometimes we can feel stressed for a short period of time and it’s usually nothing to worry about, i.e. a project at work or school. However, ongoing stress can cause serious problems. Some signs and symptoms of stress include: feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control; having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind; and mood swings. People react to stress differently, so it is important to discuss specific signs and symptoms with a medical specialist.
By engaging in a comprehensive approach to stress management we are able to take into account physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual factors that may not otherwise be addressed.
According to WebMD, 75% to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Stress can contribute to physical problems such as depression, headaches, weight gain, anxiety, high blood pressure and may others. Eating a healthy diet can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body and may also help to reduce weight gain, another side effect of stress. Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, increasing endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, putting more pep in your step every day. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week.
What causes stress in one person may be of little concern to another. Some people are better able to handle stress than others. For some, stress can increase the risk of developing depression and anxiety. Developing an awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can help decrease stress in our lives. The practice of paying attention to the present moment can help us control the racing, repetitive, and non-productive thoughts that lead to stress.
In today’s society, we thrive on performance, competition and perfection, which leads to an insidious increase in stress. Many of us experience difficulty balancing work, personal life and family life. At work, discuss your issues with your manager or coworkers. They may be able to help you find strategies to reduce your level of stress or your workload. At home, talk about your problems with people you trust. By expressing your feelings, your stress will be reduced. There is power in the word “no.” Learning to say no is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress in our interpersonal relationships.
Our minds need to be inspired and exercised just as our bodies do, but our minds also require rest. After a long day at work, it’s okay to “zone out” while watching TV. Meditation is another way to rest your mind. It can clear your mind from thoughts that are stressing you, and over time, regular meditation can lead you to be less reactive to stress, and more resilient in the face of your stressors. Journaling at the end of the day can also help clear our minds.
While specific spiritual views are a matter of faith, research has examined whether the benefits of spirituality and spiritual activity are provable facts. People who feel comfortable and comforted using spirituality as a coping mechanism for stress can rest assured that there’s even more evidence that this is a good idea for them. This, along with other research, demonstrates that there may be tangible and lasting benefits to maintaining involvement with a spiritual community. This involvement, along with the gratitude that can accompany spirituality, can be a buffer against stress and is linked to greater levels of physical health.
Stress touches all social groups and all age categories; no one can truly escape it. Recognize the types of events that cause you stress. Be attentive to the symptoms of stress and take note of the things that affect you the most. Accept the fact that there will always be things you cannot control. And lastly, don’t be so hard on yourself.
Debra Fox is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a Business Marketing Specialist with Iowa Workforce Development. She partners with employers, community agencies and economic development professionals to promote employability programs and large scale workforce initiatives to eligible stakeholders. Before taking this role Debra worked as an HR professional in the private sector. Her passion to serve others has been a driving force throughout her career. Debra is a coordinator for the Employers’ Council of Iowa. She is a national and local SHRM, CHCSEIA and NAWDP member. She holds a dual degree from Iowa Wesleyan University in Psychology and Sociology, along with PHR and SHRM-CP certifications.