As we move into fall, and as COVID-19 remains an issue, many of us are dealing with chronic stress. The risks of becoming ill with coronavirus raises enough worries and concerns. But in addition, many of us are facing other problems such as unemployment, loss of income, and more. It’s therefore understandable that many people are dealing with stress in some form or fashion. And the longer our stress continues, the more important it is that we deal with it a healthy way. Failing to do so could lead to all sorts of additional problems that might make matters even worse.
Thankfully, there are several excellent techniques for managing pandemic stress in a healthy manner. Rather than reducing stress through short-term strategies that have little lasting value, a more long-term approach can be pursued. Not only are these behaviors more effective, but they also can promote better habits long-term. In the process, we can build resilience that allows us to overcome life’s challenges more effectively. Understanding none of us know how long this pandemic stress will last, these are pursuits well worth considering.
Understanding Reactions to Pandemic Stress
Stress of any kind tends to trigger some natural reactions within all of us. While we each like to think we handle stress in a rationale manner, this is usually not our “go-to.” Stress naturally evokes strong emotions that are anchored in our fight-or-flight response. When we feel a threat, we inherently react at an instinctual level. Our prehistoric ancestors survived as a result of these reactions when being chased by a wild animal. But they are often not as effective (or healthy) today in relation to pandemic stress.
The emotions we feel when under stress are naturally uncomfortable. We want to do something about them while reducing stress quickly. But with chronic stress, this is not always possible. So instead of dealing with stress in a healthy, rational way, we turn to various distractions. These distractions help us avoid feeling these emotions. It might be something as simple as binge-watching television, or it could be indulging in alcoholic beverages a bit more. But neither allow us in reducing stress in our life, and eventually, it returns with a vengeance.
Create a Good Foundation for Reducing Stress
For pandemic stress or any chronic stress, there are a few basic behaviors that can help you greatly. These provide a foundation upon which you will be able to deal with chronic stress more effectively. Several involve taking proper care of yourself during this time by developing healthy habits. For example, eating a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol, and having a daily exercise routine greatly helps in reducing stress. And making sure you practice good sleep hygiene can also help ensure your well-rested and can deal with various pressures.
Another important foundation for reducing stress on a regular basis involves your social supports. One of the ways we try to avoid stress is by ignoring the feelings we are experiencing. By connecting with family and friends, even over Zoom or Skype, we are more likely to share our emotions. This allows us to acknowledge what we’re feeling and deal with them rather than suppressing them. And the social networks we have can help us in this process as well. Because everyone is dealing with pandemic stress in some way, this is something from which we all can benefit. And it’s a great way to strengthen your foundation in reducing stress effects long-term.
Targeted Activities for Reducing Pandemic Stress
In addition to the foundational strategies to build resilience to stress, several targeted techniques also exist. Adding these to your routine can also help you further in reducing stress in a healthier manner.
Meditation and Mindfulness – These stress-relieving activities are beneficial in a number of ways. They improve mental, emotional, and physical health and can also be used to enhance spirituality. In terms of reducing stress, meditation and mindfulness are naturally relaxing and promote being present in the moment. Daily meditation and mindfulness practices can be powerful in this regard.
Gratitude and Positivity –A positive perspective and attitude of thankfulness reducing stress by shifting focus away from the negative. In the process, we worry less, become less anxiety, and feel less stressed. Research on gratitude and positivity practices have shown individuals are not only healthier but live longer lives. Incorporating this into a daily ritual is great in dealing with pandemic stress.
Emotional Inventories – As mentioned, we tend to suppress stress and anxiety emotions because they are naturally uncomfortable. However, in exploring our feelings and expressing them, we can better deal with these emotions consciously. This is much more effective in reducing stress than ignoring them altogether. Thus, taking an emotional inventory on a regular basis is encouraged.
Logical Problem Solving – In an effort to reduce our tendency to be emotionally reactive, logical problem-solving is another good technique. After an emotional inventory, list all the issues causing you stress. Then, identify a few steps you can take in reducing stress that make sense. The exercise will immediately relieve some tension. And it will also provide a more rational direction to potentially help your situation.
Healthy Distractions – No one wants to deal with pandemic stress every hour out of every day. Therefore, adopting some healthy distractions can help you lead a more balanced life. Music therapy has been shown to be one type of healthy distraction. Others may involve nature hikes, art projects, or giving back to your community. These types of distractions are not only healthy but can also provide a better perspective.
Turning a Challenge into a Bold Opportunity
Dealing with chronic stress is no picnic. The pandemic stress we are experiencing came out of nowhere with little warning. And the changes COVID-19 has brought to us have been tremendous. But every challenge invites opportunity, and reducing stress in a healthy way reflects this well. By adopting healthy ways to manage your stress and anxiety, you’ll be stronger in the future. And this will enable you to continue in your pursuits of your boldest life possible.
For more on taking on challenges, check out Ed Kopko’s PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success.