While the weather may not be able to make up its mind, Spring is here and just like that 2021 is a quarter of the way over and that’s no April Fools’ Day joke! Perhaps it’s our live pandemic lifestyles but while time seems to be going slower than ever, it’s also going by fast! Meanwhile, more and more people around the globe are dealing with the emotional impacts of this challenging time. From those who are desperate to see loved ones, others who have lost their jobs and all of us who grieve over the hundreds of thousands of lives lost. It may come as no surprise that we are struggling at times to stay upbeat, motivated, and looking for the positive. That’s why we are officially encouraging you to observe National Stress Awareness month with us.
According to https://www.kff.org a nonprofit organization focusing on national health issues, as well as the U.S. role in global health policy, reports of anxiety and depression disorder are up from 2019 where one in ten adults suffered, to new data from July 2020 showing four in ten adults being impacted. They share in their report that, “many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus. As the pandemic wears on, ongoing and necessary public health measures expose many people to experiencing situations linked to poor mental health outcomes, such as isolation and job loss.” This data is just a small look at the larger picture of stress washing over our country.
While “stress” to some, might not be stress to another, one of the biggest factors is recognizing and validating stress. Stress is real, it can work its way into every area of one’s life, be it professional or personal. When someone shares they are stressed, it’s not for us to debate. We need to hear this and validate it. When someone shares, they are “stressed,” be very careful not to downplay this. As other studies show, most Americans will try to hide their stress until it may be out of control. As leaders, coworkers, partners, family and friends, we aren’t qualified to evaluate if someone else is stressed, but we are more than capable of saying, “I hear what you are saying. I hear you telling me you are stressed.” Next steps can often be listening to what they must share is “stressing them.” Don’t always assume you can tell what is stressful to someone, for example, you can’t assume one meal is spicy for one person, but not the other. Same for stress – everyone has their own limits and breaking points. Together we can help each other stay healthier and away from rock bottoms.
What does one do when they are stressed? Well, for most, this can be best sorted with a professional like a psychotherapist who can truly hear and even diagnose if you are truly experiencing stress. For those who know that they are in a time of temporary stress, we have some tips!
Journal: Yes, write it down. Writing down your thoughts, feelings, worries and really anything has great therapeutic value. Sometimes just getting the pen to paper can be the release you so need.
Laugh: Laughing and finding joy are not only sometimes a great distraction but can also give you a shot of dopamine and endorphins you may be missing right now. Laughing doesn’t mean you aren’t taking your problems seriously, but a good laugh might even lead to a much-needed cry. A good laugh might help you to focus better. A good laugh might even be what you and a coworker, partner or friend need to break the ice after so much serious business this past year.
Make Healthful Choices. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Stressing about keeping your job in a pandemic may have you choosing work instead of sleep. Loneliness may have you skipping meals or choosing foods that lack basic nutrition. Being at home all day may even have you out of a routine of brushing your teeth or changing your bed sheets. Make a list of all the little healthful choices you know you should be making. Start with one.
Take A Break: Walk away from that desk. Go sit in your car alone. Find an empty room at work. Wherever you go, go there, and breathe. Take a moment. If you can, get outside and walk for a few minutes. Go for a drive with the windows down. When stress has you drowning, be your own lifesaver and take a break. That break may be what you need to not say something you regret, it may be the break that helps you to finally finish that project or that break may be what you need to hear your kids tell you the same story one more time. Take a break, breathe.
Stress is cumulative. It can start small and manageable, but in a world and life where we can only control how we respond to stress, we need to be proactive. Only you can truly know how stressed or even how un-stressed you are. Make it a part of your daily life to assess, address and manage your stress. IF you need support, there are so many tools to help you! There are people in our area, there are professionals via telehealth and a whole internet full of options that may be just what you need to manage your stress. But only if you are aware of it. April is Stress Awareness month! Now’s the time. Check in with yourself, check in with others, talk about it. While none of us want to be “stressed,” it’s a part of life that binds us in times like this. Help yourself out, help each other out. Starting today, starting now, check in with yourself, check in with each other.
Ask yourself will this matter in five minutes? Will this matter in five days? Will this matter in five weeks or five years? If so, it matters. Take a breath, assess, address, and combat the stress!
Director of The Wellness Center