Going into the third year of a global viral pandemic, it’s no surprise that people are experiencing tremendous amounts of stress. For some, exhaustion and frustration might come from government-mandated rules and restrictions (i.e. public health measures). For others, it might come from dealing with groups or individuals who are disobeying these seemingly simple measures.
No matter your own views on COVID and mandates, we can all agree on the following: nobody wants to feel unsafe or discriminated against, and to feel this way is a huge source of stress. But even if we all agree on this, we may disagree on what constitutes safety or discrimination, and those beliefs may be difficult to reconcile between people.
What’s more, the need to constantly navigate these opposing viewpoints and ideas can be a tremendous source of stress itself. The last few years have seen countless conflicts between friends, co-workers, and family members, as well as between members of various online and real-world communities.
In addition to all this, the COVID-19 virus is a significant source of stress for many people as well, especially immune-compromised individuals or households.
Factor in growing political tensions, worsening economic conditions, and the possible start of a nuclear world war, and it is safe to say stress levels are at an all-time high for a lot of people.
What Can I Do?
Here are some tips to help you deal with stress during these challenging times.
1. Do The Bare Minimum
Food, sleep, water and hygiene are the bare minimum for staying alive. We’re not talking about the quality of life here, we’re talking about keeping that pulse beating, so don’t neglect any of these things! If this is all you can muster today, that is okay… there is always tomorrow.
2. Move That Body!!
If we’re looking at increasing quality of life, get that body MOVING! Exercise can reduce the mental and physiological effects of stress on your body, increase your health, boost your vitality and significantly extend your life expectancy. Plus, it can be fun! If you’re looking to start with a low-impact and casual way to move your body, consider going for a hike.
3. Do Nice Things For Yourself
Doing nice things for yourself is a very effective way to help you deal with stress. This is often referred to as self-care. Self-care can be very different for each individual, as the things that are supportive for people vary from one person to the next. For myself, I love to listen to podcasts, get exercise, or spend my time learning something new. Whether your self-care involves making art, taking long baths, or doing yoga, it won’t be effective unless you actually put in the time to be good to yourself.
4. Do Nice Things For Others
Believe it or not, doing good things for others can be a really effective self-care practice. Engaging with empathy and goodwill has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress, and help shift your focus toward the positive. Just be careful you’re not pouring from an empty vessel by helping others at your expense. To incorporate acts of kindness into your regular routine, you may wish to consider volunteering!
5. Take Responsibility For Your Digital Wellness
Digital Wellness is all about your relationship and engagement with technology, especially when it comes to screens and social media. In a future blog post, we’ll talk about what it means to take responsibility for your digital wellness. Until then, we recommend you check out this resource from Google.
6. Recalibrate Your Focus
Sometimes, stress can come from over-extending our focus. If we stress about the things that we cannot change, we are likely wasting our mental energy for nothing. To recalibrate your focus, it can be useful to think about your sphere of influence (i.e., what do you control, what do you influence, and what do you have no effect on) and to have that inform how you use your time. Another thing to think about is the various roles we have in our lives and how well we are doing in them. Which roles do we care about, and what are your responsibilities in those roles?
7. Focus On Meaning In Life
There is an important distinction between the meaning of life and finding meaning in life. The former probably doesn’t exist, while the latter can be a tremendous source of comfort and happiness. By finding meaning and purpose in life, you can be more resilient to stress, as you’ll learn to frame it as a bump in the road, rather than a focal point. Here are a few practical exercises to help you get started.
8. Surround Yourself With Supportive People
We’ve talked in the past about the importance of family, friends and community, as well as the benefits of building great relationships. The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely brought up feelings of loneliness for a lot of people. Luckily, the pandemic has also provided opportunities for us to address those feelings. Seek out people around whom you feel safe and able to be yourself.
9. Set Good Boundaries
Setting good boundaries is a really powerful way of keeping stress at bay. Boundaries can involve not bringing your work home, or disconnecting from screens after a certain hour in the evening. They can also take the shape of interpersonal boundaries, such as “I’m not interested in discussing this with you.” This is particularly relevant for navigating conflicts around different beliefs or ideas surrounding COVID-19.
10. Seek Treatment For Addictions And Mental Health
Problematic substance use and addictions can be a tremendous source of stress. Substance use has also seen an increase during the pandemic for a variety of reasons. Working through issues of addiction and problematic use can help to reduce the stress load in your life. Seeking support for mental health can also provide tools and resources to help you lower your stress and maintain your wellbeing.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or mental health, give us a call today.
———————-Ionatan Waisgluss is a writer, educator and tech professional living in the qathet region of British Columbia. He is the founder of SquareByte.ca