|A stressful event feels like it’s 100% responsible for the stress we feel. However, research suggests that the event itself is responsible for about 20% of the stress we feel. The other 80% of our stress response is driven by how we are responding to the stress. This second layer is sometimes called “the pain of the pain.”
These are stressful times, it’s therefore important to figure out what we are individually doing to increase our stress.
Consider how you are multiplying the stress effect for yourself. Do you tend to brood? Are you flooding yourself with scary news? Are you thinking catastrophically? Are you struggling to maintain your usual self-care activities like exercise, getting outside and eating well?
When there are so many unknowns, keeping as many of your cornerstone practices and routines in place as is practical/possible can reinforce your sense of control and stability. In addition, here are five other steps to help you skillfully deal with stress:
If you are feeling overwhelmed, remember the Employee Assistance Program is available for all employees. Call them at 1.800.769.9819
- Express what’s going on. Identifying what is really making you most afraid can prevent the fear from running rampant. Conveying what you are feeling in words or art also releases tension and helps to move that stressful energy out. This is a good time for the therapeutic magic of mandalas. Click here for instructions.
- Make a list. Examine your specific stressors and write them down. Look at them from different angles. Ask yourself if you can absolutely know what you are thinking is true. Most of what we are afraid of is about what might happen, and so knowing what is absolutely true right now is an important distinction to make. If something difficult does happen to be true, then ask yourself what would help right now given circumstances being what they are. Don’t underestimate how something simple can make something a little more manageable.
- Projecting into the future causes anxiety. Bring yourself back to the present by noticing what’s going on right now, at this very moment, not what your mind is telling you. Ask yourself what am I seeing? What am I hearing? What are my hands feeling?
- Breathe through waves of anxiety. This puts you in control of your anxiety rather than the anxiety being in charge of you. De-escalate yourself by breathing in through your nose to the slow count of four and out through pursed lips to a really slow count of 6, pushing the breath out in a way that creates a sense of pressure on your chest. This pressure puts the brakes on your stress response by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
It’s especially important to maintain appropriate social distancing while breathing in this way for our own safety and others.
- Go easy with yourself. Sometimes we wish we could feel differently than we do, but there are no right or wrong ways to feel. Be honest with yourself about how you feel, knowing it’s okay to feel however you do, then make a deliberate choice to do what needs to be done based on your best judgment.
Take good care out there.