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4 Timely Tips to Cope With Stress During a Pandemic and Beyond

Have you ever been told to "stop stressing out" or "stop worrying about it" even when you weren't stressing or worrying?

By: Sylvia Slezak | Jun 2020

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Stressed mother juggling daily tasks Stressed mother juggling daily tasks photo by csp_HighwayStarz

We've all had to deal with stressors at some point during our lifetime, and more than likely will have even more as we continue on with life. However, we are living in unprecedented times such as never before and are having to cope with such stressors as possibly never before. History does not indicate that there was such a global shut-down of countries all within a three-month's time. It has never been like this before.

Since the pandemic, we are faced with new stressors that require us to cope with many unprecedented changes. Our coping now involves adjusting to or tolerating negative events that seem to be happening daily, if not hourly. The normal life as we knew it prior to the pandemic is no longer similar to our current realities and can easily be perceived as stressful. Either way, all changes require some sort of adaptation, be it negative or positive.

Change requires us to adjust and to adapt, thus causing us stress. When we experience too many changes within a brief time period, it often creates a perception that we are not in control of important events.

Coping requires the mobilization of greater effort and the use of greater energy than is required by the daily routines of life as we knew it pre-COVID-19, and are now having to adjust to unusual demands, or stressors.

That being the case, what are we to do while our lives are turned upside-down by the pandemic? We should not panic but remain calm. That is if we were calm to begin with. If not, we should pause, take a break from all the stress-inducing elements, and take on the state of calmness.

There is no "one size fits all" solution to managing stress. Not one single method can work for everyone or fit every situation. Is there something we can do to protect ourselves against stress and be able to successfully cope with our situation? Possibly the most important strategy would be to maintain emotionally-supportive relationships with others. Receiving emotional support can buffer us against the negative impact of stress. We suggest you experiment with different techniques and strategies, focusing on what makes you feel calm and in control without the use of unhealthy crutches.

Here is our list of ways to cope with stressors, not only during a pandemic, but beyond:

Tip #1: Engage in stress-reducing activities

  • Get plenty of rest and quality sleep so that your body can recover from stressful events. With less than seven to eight hours of sleep, your body will not tolerate stress as well as it could. If stress keeps you up at night, address the cause and add extra meditation into your day to make up for lost sleep.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals to nourish your body to be able to cope better with stress. Eat more organic fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods and sugar, and drink more water.
  • Limit alcohol and stimulants. Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine may temporarily relieve stress but have negative health impacts and can make stress worse in the long run.
  • Exercise regularly and be physically active. Your body can fight stress better when it's fit. It will also clear your thoughts and let you deal with your problems more calmly by reducing some of the emotional intensity that you're feeling. A simple daily 20-minute walk can make a noticable difference. Moving your body on a regular basis balances the nervous system and increases blood circulation, helping to flush out stress hormones.
  • Rest and relax during the day with short breaks.
  • Go on trips or take a vacation away from home and work. Getting away from it all can reset your stress tolerance. Your mental and emotional outlook will increase, and you will become a happier, more productive person when you return. Try to leave your mobile devices, including your phone, at home.
  • Engage in fun or pleasurable activities daily, such as hobbies or interests. Perhaps gardening, reading, listening to music or some other creative pursuit. Engage in activities that bring you pleasure and joy which in turn, according to research, has been shown to reduce stress by almost half.
  • Practice relaxation exercises such as meditation, yoga, prayer, or progressive muscle relaxation. Such techniques activate a state of restfulness that counterbalances your body’s fight-or-flight hormones.
  • Spend enough time with those you enjoy. Relaxing and laughing with others is an excellent stress reliever.
  • Build and maintain relationships.

Tip #2: Identify the causes of your stress

  • Analyze how you currently cope with stress.
  • Identify unhealthy habits or coping mechanisms such as smoking, excessive drinking, ingesting stimulants, using pills or drugs to relax, vegetating for hours in front of the TV or computer, overeating or undereating, over-sleeping, procrastinating, withdrawing socially, or taking your stress out on others.

Tip #3: Adjust your attitude

  • Keep a positive attitude through your thoughts and words.
  • Create a gratitude list that shows the things you are thankful for.
  • Avoid self-defeating negative thoughts.
  • Allow yourself to stress out for only a short period of time in a day instead of all day long.
  • Set yourself realistic and practical goals.
  • Intentionally reset life's challenges by asking yourself what opportunities they might present.

Tip #4: Control and manage your situation

  • Take control of your environment even if it means avoiding trigger areas like the news media, social media, headlines, traffic route, shopping, etc.
  • Avoid people who stress you out and crutches that won't solve your problems but will create new ones.
  • Learn to say "no" and stand by it.
  • Know your limits and stick to them ‒ take on only what you know you will be able to handle.
  • Find a solution that will satisfy you and not someone else.
  • Change your reaction.
  • Accept that there are situations and events you cannot control.
  • Take responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining your stress.
  • Challenge yourself by setting goals.
  • Continue learning to arm yourself with knowledge.
  • Seek professional help if negative thoughts overwhelm your ability to make positive changes.

The pandemic has changed many aspects of how we now live and cope with uncontrollable change. It helps to know that there are steps we can take starting today to cope with new stressors as we find our new normal. For when you seek counseling or have health concerns, contact a professional featured on CityOf.com in your city.

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