Let’s face it, we all have stress in our lives. Right now, we are living in one big stressor of a world and we can’t get out of it. And while some are thriving in this world of self-isolation – I talked to someone yesterday who said he has never felt happier or been more productive – most of us are enduring some stress. Most Canadians report that their mental health is suffering in this pandemic.
So how do we know if we are feeling too much stress and what do we do about it?
First, stress is not always bad. Stress can be the motivator we need to get things done, to be innovative, to push us to go just a little further. When it becomes a problem is when we live under constant or very high stress. It can affect us both physically and mentally.
Signs of problematic stress include:
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Feeling angry or irritable more than usual
- Problems with concentration or memory
- Feeling overwhelmed or unmotivated
- Depression or anxiety
When we are experiencing stress, or maybe when we see others, like our children, experiencing stress, it is easy to judge – why is she being so lazy, what is wrong with me, I keep making the same mistake, he is so frustrating right now – but what we are seeing or experiencing may actually require a very different response.
For my teaching colleagues who may read this blog, I see you. You are in a very stressful situation. You have had to change everything about the way you do your work, and you have had the students you care so much about taken away from you. Yes, you can see them online, but we all know it isn’t the same. There are new responsibilities you may have, technology that isn’t always reliable and some students and parents who are not particularly understanding of the magnitude of what you have done. Try to be gentle with those students and with yourself. Especially yourself.
To my parent friends out there – you are trying to do the impossible. You are home 24/7 with your small humans, trying to help them learn, maybe working from home too. One of those jobs would be hard during a global pandemic. You are doing three.
Some of you may be wondering if you have a job in a few weeks or perhaps you have already lost your job and your are unsure when or how you will be able to find another. There is so much tied to our work. Yes, there is the money we need to sustain ourselves and our families, and there is also the feeling of purpose and pride that can come with the work we do.
To my readers who are missing your families, your grandchildren, your friends. I see you. It can be so hard to be away from the people we love. We need people. We are social creatures. Being away from our people is adding tremendous stress to our lives.
So, what do we do about the stress? We know that chronic stress is not good for us. I spoke with my therapist yesterday who gave me some ideas.
According to her, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to cope with stress. We decided I should focus on the healthy. So this is my stress-management plan for the next two weeks. We are going to see how it works.
- Get enough rest (see my post on healthy bedtime routine)
- Journal my feelings every day
- Start running again (even though I am afraid it will make my knee hurt – it won’t. There is no medical reason I can’t run.)
- Release pent-up emotions through movement or words without hurting anyone else – dance, yell, angry-write, paint
- Mind-body practices like yoga
- Distraction from the stressful situation
- Talk to someone every day
- Using PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation) to release tension held in the body
What do you do to help release the feelings of stress that you may be feeling?
Today, as we go through another day apart, I am reminded that we are all in this together. So to all of us, stay healthy. Stay safe. Reach out. Be well.