Updated: May 31
MANAGING STRESS IN UNCERTAIN TIMES
The last few weeks have undoubtedly been a huge challenge, with the effects of coronavirus being felt by everyone. The rolling updates that we receive through the news and social media to keep us informed and safe for some will be reassuring, but for many the uncertainties associated with this disease will create heightened feelings of stress, which can lead to sleepless nights, poor concentration and an impaired ability to do things we usually do well.
FOUR SIMPLE STRATEGIES TO COPE WITH STRESS
When we are uncertain and things feel out of our control, one of the most effective ways we can manage stress is to focus on the things that are in our control. Here are four simple strategies you can use to bring your stress levels down and look after your mental health and wellbeing during this challenging time:
1. TAKE A BREAK FROM THE NEWS AND SOCIAL MEDIA
It’s almost impossible to avoid the rolling updates on the coronavirus during times like this, but if you notice this is having a negative impact on you, stop and take a break! Whilst self-isolation and social distancing are necessary for us to stay safe and well, the government has also highlighted in their communication the importance of daily exercise for our mental health and wellbeing and suggest that we engage in one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household. Daily exercise is the perfect time for us to decompress from the news and social media.
"Daily exercise is the perfect time for us to decompress from the news and social media"
2. PLAN AND NURTURE NEW DAILY ROUTINES
The coronavirus has disrupted all our lives and our routines, whilst we would like to go back to ‘business as usual’, the reality is we need to design and nurture new daily routines. Even those who are accustomed to remote working have had to find new ways of working as we have had home schooling and sharing the home office with our partners thrown into the remote working mix. However, through planning and nurturing a new daily routine we can begin to eliminate stress in our lives as the act of ‘doing’ gives us back a sense of control and helps us relax instead of fretting about what needs to get done. Here’s some way you can get started:
Create a schedule: Setting times to eat, rest, exercise, work and connect virtually with others can also help keep our immune systems high to fight this virus and other health issues.
Set daily goals: Pick at least one thing every day to intentionally focus on getting better at.
Reflect daily: At the end of your day, ask yourself one or more of these questions:
Did I do my best to set clear goals today? Did I do my best to make progress for achieving my goals? Did I do my best to be productive today? Did I do my best to appreciate the good things (big or small) in my life today?
3. CHALLENGE NEGATIVE THINKING
In uncertain times it is natural to have many ‘what if?’ questions in our minds. In the absence of all the facts, our mind will often fill in the blanks with worst case scenarios, which can leave us feeling unproductive, stressed out and anxious. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to shift your thinking to more productive thinking:
What aspects of my current situation do I believe are within my control?
Am I overestimating the likelihood of the worst-case scenario?
What strategies have helped me cope with challenging situations in the past that will serve me well right now?
What one helpful and productive action can I take now
"In the absence of all the facts, our mind will often fill in the blanks"
4. JUST BREATHE
Controlled breathing does more for our mental health and wellbeing than most people realise. By introducing a few controlled breathing exercises to your day, you’ll be able to reduce stress, improve your focus, and even lower your blood pressure. Here is one simple controlled breathing exercise that can produce feelings of calmness in these uncertain times.
Box Breathing: Sit in an upright, seated position. Draw your shoulders back over your hips to align the spine. Gently tilt the crown of the head up and back and draw the chin down slightly to lengthen the back of the neck. Inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4, exhale through your nose for a count of 4, wait at the very end of the exhale for a count of 4, and repeat as many times as you like. Notice how good this feels.
SUMMARY Managing stress in these uncertain times is a big challenge, but it is definitely possible. Following the coping strategies outlined above are just some of the great ways you can bring your stress levels down and consequently help promote good mental health and wellbeing.
Do you have a great strategy to help manage stress in uncertain times? Be proactive with your stress, you will experience it, it's natural, so have a plan in place to counteract it rather than have to react to it all the time.
Darren Whysall | Executive Coach and Coach Supervisor | Barclays UK
REFERENCES Brule, Dan. (2017). Just Breathe: Mastering Breathwork for Success in Life, Love, Business, and Beyond. Enliven. New York
Covey, Stephen. (1999). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Simon & Schuster