In a recent article from Psychology Today, four means of coping with stress during the COVID pandemic were highlighted. Many, perhaps most of us, have been practicing those suggestions but it may be helpful to be reminded of them.
a. Recognize your stress.
b. Manage what you can; release what you cannot.
c. Know your limits.
d. Practice self care.
Some things to know or recall about stress:
It is a natural part of life in response to an external pressure.
When the body is under duress, (potentially harmful) stress hormones are released causing a fight or flight response.
Your stress is calling for you to take action.
You may not recognize some of the symptoms as being stress related but many of the people I have talked with are experiencing some of those symptoms.
- Sadness, confusion, irritability, anger, restlessness, uneasiness, suicidal thoughts.
- Reduced concentration, efficiency, and productivity.
- Social withdrawal and isolation.
- Interpersonal problems such as lying, defensiveness, communication concerns.
- Reduction in energy.
- Sleep problems (insomnia, nightmares).
If you are unaware of or don’t acknowledge your stress, it can become harder to manage. If a person manages to sweep the stress under the rug, they may be surprised when it gets ahead of them and becomes overwhelming.
We are learning more each day about the virus but there is still a great deal of unreliable information circulating and it is important to learn and do what is recommended by reliable sources such as the World Health Organization or the Center for Disease Control. But, dwelling on hourly virus updates is likely to raise your stress level and activate your alarm system which calls you to action. With stress and anxiety some individuals may feel they have more control by worrying and over compensating. Ignoring or misinterpreting their symptoms may cause other people to make poor decisions about their choices or actions out of a need to take control through action.
Learn what your limits are by paying closer attention to your threshold of tolerance which may change over time. It is helpful to observe a pattern to your responses. In other words, be aware of what raises your stress level and set some limits so that you can prevent over extending yourself. Of course your limits will vary according to your basic personality and other stressors in your life. But, setting boundaries will help to reduce the amount of stress you will allow into your life.
Practice self care by knowing your limitations. Be patient with yourself. Watch for a pattern that will give you a clue to your tolerance levels. Evaluate your activities and decide what is really important and try to focus your efforts and energies in areas where you know you will make a difference. Remember to take time to breathe. Yes it is automatic, but so often people tend to hold their breath and/or breathe shallowly without realizing it. Taking time to inhale slowly, deeply and often not only gets your mind off the stressor temporarily, it physiologically alters the stress reaction itself.
This pandemic will not be forever though our stress levels often try to tell us otherwise. Not only is it important to be patient with ourselves but with others as well. “We are all in the same storm but we are not all in the same boats.”*
Based on an Article in Psychology Today, March 16, 2020 and general clinical practices.
*Quote by Dr. Bonnie Henry, Canadian Health Official (from The Week Magazine)