Stress—it can make you tense up, blow up, cry out loud, laugh silently, run and hide; or it can turn you into the monster you thought you had hidden from the world. Hopefully, these reactions aren’t your usual response to the jaw-tightening events in your life, but it’s not unusual to feel like you are “losing it” in our ever-changing, tension-filled world.
Just as stress affects all of us differently, our methods of coping vary also. What works for one person is not necessarily the answer for another. And, what is effective one day may not be your anti-stress cure the next. Times change, we change, and the factors or people who contribute to our anxiety are never predictable.
So, how do we deal with all of this? One thing to remember is that there is no single answer to dealing with your stressors, just as there is usually no single source of stress.
Almost everyone has seen their life change in the past few months—and how those disruptions and modifications affect you, your family, friends and co-workers varies. “We’re all in this together,” doesn’t mean we are all in this in the same way. And stress, though common in many lives, needs to be addressed in your own individualistic way.
Recognize Your Stressors
Oddly, what stresses you out one day, may not be the same thing that stresses you out the next. But, recognize stress for what it is in your life. It may be a feeling of not being able to cope. It may be a feeling of disorganization. It may be a feeling of intolerance toward others or yourself. It may be a feeling of inadequacy. You may simply feel exhausted and unable to think clearly. Recognize what is stressing you out that day and make plans to deal with it. Don’t ignore your emotions.
Take a Deep Breath
Often just taking a deep breath, or two, helps relax your mind and the body. It may help you clear your mind and look at your stress from a different perspective. There’s nothing wrong with taking that deep breath in the solitude of a closet. Or, you can dramatically inhale deeply, and loudly force that breath out in the presence of others—which may be a subtle indication to your stress-producing child, or spouse, that you have had enough! Deep, patterned breathing and meditation may help you reconnect with your inner self to relax your mind, body and spirit and reduce anxiety levels. There are many good meditation websites to get you started.
Self-care is important during any major or minor stresses in life. And, good self-care is being active in mind and body. Exercise is proven to decrease stress and anxiety and releases hormones and endorphins. Physical activity can reduce mental stress. Find something that you like to do. Choose solo exercise for solitude, or if you are a group exerciser, join friends in person or through a video or Zoom. Doing something physical like walking, dancing, yoga, bike riding or running helps calm the mind.
Activate your mind, as well. If you need some separation, tune out your stressful environment by reading a good book, watching a movie, or doing crossword or jigsaw puzzles. Need some social interaction? Encourage a family game night and play old-fashioned board games or laughter-producing pantomime games.
Don’t forget to get adequate rest during stressful times. Your mind and body refresh with sleep. Even an afternoon (or morning) cat nap often helps your mental attitude. Light a candle and unwind awhile before heading to bed. This might be a good time to do some deep breathing and relaxing in the scent of a calming fragrance, or sip on a cup of sleepy-time tea. Or, indulge in your favorite wine if that is your choice.
We all have heard the expression “the new normal.” Recognize that there are some things you will miss and long for that may never return. But, there are some things that may be changing for the better—if not now, then perhaps in the long run. Above all, recognize that you can’t be all things to all people in your life. You are who you are, and you do what you can do—period. Although social media posts often make it look like your friends have it all together, the truth is, they probably don’t. You don’t expect perfection out of others in your life, so why do you demand it of yourself?
Ask for Help
Above all, seek help if you need it. If the stress in your life is overwhelming and you feel as if you can’t cope, get professional help. Friends and family can help talk you through some things and may lift you up for a time, but counselors and medical personnel can be the lifeline you need to get over a difficult time in your life. Seeking help doesn’t make you weak; it proves that you are strong, intelligent and unselfish. Many health insurance policies cover mental health and telehealth services; check your coverage.
Nothing Lasts Forever
Remember, as you struggle through the stresses in your life, that this, too, shall pass. It may seem difficult in the present, and it may be overwhelming at times, but take a breath and be proud that you are doing the best you can. No one should ask for more.