Stress is with us. Stress was with us prior to the pandemic and will be with us long after the pandemic is in the history books. Some stress (eustress) is good for us. It is the kind of stress we feel when we are challenging ourselves in a good way… think skydiving, mountain climbing, going on a vacation to an unknown place, or getting a new job or promotion.
We need some stress but too much and the wrong kind (distress) can wreak havoc on our immune system, on our brain’s capacity to think and function well, and on our patience and our ability to show up in relationships not wound too tight.
How do you know if your stress levels are too high? For one pay attention inwardly. What do you notice about how your muscles feel? What do you notice about your breath? Is it shallow or are you often holding your breath? These can be signs of distress along with physical manifestations like frequent headaches or stomach issues.
Additionally, if you are feeling both curious and courageous, ask the people around you how you show up? Are you generally irritable, short on patience, snapping at your kids or partner?
These are all signs to pay attention to as they provide clues as to your current stress levels and how well you are (or are not) managing them.
Here’s 5 ways to cope better with managing your distress:
Stop telling yourself a story that perpetuates your distress. “I don’t have time to deal with me” is one such story. “I’m too busy and have to tend to … (the kids, my partner, my job etc.) to make time for me.” Start telling yourself a more accurate story .“I must make time to destress and rejuvenate so I can tend to my own wellbeing and be able to bring a better me to my work and family.” Come up with a mantra you recite repeatedly throughout the day. E.g.“I am valuable, vulnerable and precious and worth caring for.”
Deep Breath- Think of this as a daily vitamin. Deeply Breathe 5 minutes or less first thing in the morning prior to the kids waking up, or before the demands of the day begin. Practice deep breathing again midday, and pair this activity with your lunch break either right before or after. Engage in deep breathing around dinner and before bed. Even 2 minutes can make a world of difference to restore a feeling of calm.
Listen to music. Choose music that feels soothing, energizing or just has a beat that historically makes you happy. Sing, dance and get lost in the music for a 5 minute break.
Pray, meditate, or read. Any of these can serve to bring down stress hormones, and research tells us that prayer and meditation have a calming effect on the brain. These are all things you can do in under 5 minutes.
Havening- A simple technique to learn via a you tube video ( or reach out I can teach it to you in 5 minutes) is a way you can find immediate relief in feeling stressed out. This technique induces a change in brain waves that is very calming.
Ultimately, one of the best things you can do is create a list of a minimum of 5 things you can do to feel better, increase calm, and feel less stressed. Keep the list handy and refer to it often. Do something off the list at least 3-5 times a day to retrain your brain that no matter what your current circumstances are, you can learn to manage you and find an inner calm.