A Survival Guide For Dealing With Stress
Let’s consider the state of the world we currently live in. Besides the usual stressors of daily living, whatever that looks like for you, we’ve dealt with a pandemic for two years, which resulted in a loss of work, supply chain issues, inflation, overworked employees, and health concerns. Now there’s war, and we’re seeing additional increases in costs and worry for loved ones. If you’re not directly affected by the Russian attack on Ukraine, you are most like indirectly affected, whether economically or mentally and emotionally.
Our time is not an easy place to be.
That’s not to say that other times were any easier, but we’re not living in those times. We’re living in this one, and it’s grueling. The additional burdens placed on us of figuring out what is best for our health and then watching a country decimate another one causes breakdowns among the most level-headed of us.
In the last two years, I’ve observed people being flat out ugly to each other, and it’s gotten worse in the last two months. Customers are rude to overworked cashiers; cashiers become snappish. People are quicker to judge others. Friends cut off friends for perceived slights. All any of this does is increase already high stress levels.
I want to tell everyone to be like Thumper. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” I’m afraid to do so. Many people are agitated, and saying something might result in violence towards my family or me.
Instead, I find ways to keep my stress at a manageable level.
1. Practice Self-Care
Start with your self-care to reduce stress and make room for caring for others. It’s difficult to be kind to strangers when your own stress levels are through the roof. I’m a firm believer in self-love being fundamental to making healthy and positive life-choices. This extends to how you treat others. If you’re new to creating a self-care routine or need to revamp your current routine, check out “Why You Should Prioritize Self-Care” and “Stress Coping Mechanisms.”
I journal almost every morning, even if it’s only for a few minutes. It’s not your typical “dear diary” entries, although you can certainly do that. Some days, I may write pages about the previous day’s events and my thoughts. Other days, I only write a few sentences and my to-do list. It doesn’t matter. It’s important to have a safe place to release those thoughts and feelings.
This one isn’t new for anyone, but it’s important to mention. Exercise will reduce stress. Physical movement gives stress hormones an outlet. Everyone has different physical abilities and time allowances, so definitely move your body in a way that works for you. Start slowly so you don’t give up after the first run or yoga class. Hundreds of free workout videos are available for all levels, or you can subscribe to a service. As Nike says, “Just do it.” As I like to say, “Any movement is better than no movement.”
Chat with your healthcare provider about what supplements your body might be missing. For example, I’m habitually low on Vitamin D and Iron, so my doctor recommended I take those. When I don’t, I feel tired, and my brain is sluggish. Then I get less done, so my stress goes up. Supplements can also help with your mood. Support your body, and your body will keep up with the pressures of the world.
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”
Thumper in Disney’s Bambi
5. Practice Kindness and Patience
Aware that almost everyone in the world is under tremendous stress, I try to be polite when I am out in it. Some days I’m grumpy, but I don’t take it out on the cashier. Say “please” and “thank you” when talking to someone—anyone! Offer to return someone’s cart, hold the door for the person behind you, and smile when you make eye contact. Of course, you can go above basic politeness and pay for someone’s coffee or donate to a local charity or a cause to help refugees. If you haven’t been out much in the last two years, start small. Being kind and patient goes double for your family. Usually, the people closest to us are the ones who endure our tempers.
6. Refrain from Judgment
That person driving slow in front of you may be a teenager who recently got their license or an old man taking his wife to the doctor. They aren’t being slow to piss you off. This falls under practicing kindness and patience but deserves its own recognition. We are all dealing with something almost daily. The same goes for the server at a restaurant, your friend, and the guy walking his dog. We are not here to judge each other; we are here to help each other. Have a conversation if there’s a miscommunication. Pick up the mess without making a big deal about it, and offer to help. We’ve all been there at some point. If you haven’t been there, you will. Trust me.
7. Limit Time on Social Media and News
I can’t emphasize this one enough. Even just ten years ago, the news didn’t come at us lightning fast. We are constantly being bombarded by headlines and opinions and advertisements. That perpetual noise increases mental health issues. Are there benefits? Sure! It’s great to catch up with friends and family from around the world and be aware of current events. However, taking a break or limiting time spent on social media and news sites is healthy.
It’s heartbreaking that I actually wrote a similar article approximately eighteen months ago. “Love One Another” is a lecture rather than a survival guide, but it’s still relevant. I would dare to say it’s even more relevant now than it was then, as the world contains more hate.
For the world’s sake, please be kind.