Top 5 Tips for Dealing with Pandemic Stress
I’ve hit a wall.
Today I woke up, read the news (never a stellar choice for setting a positive mental state first thing in the morning), and I realized that I. Am. Over. It.
I don’t have to tell you why. I can list many reasons, data points, and circumstances. That would not be helpful, for either of us. I’m sure you have your own list as well. And so instead, I’ll be straightforward: I declare a breakdown.
In coaching terminology, a breakdown is when you experience a misalignment your in thoughts or actions connected with your higher level commitments. In my case, some of my higher level commitments include a strong mental, physical, and emotional well-being; deeply connected and expressive relationships; and joy.
The only way past a breakdown is by creating a powerful shift in being that allows for new possibilities and actions, also known as a breakthrough. Feel free to take a moment to sing along to the old Doors song in your mind (“...break on through, to the other side…”). So as to “break through” the 2020-shaped wall, here are my:
I sometimes have clients who express being afraid of allowing their feelings. They are worried that if they let themselves be with difficult emotions, that they get stuck there. I get that fear. And, what we know is that feelings that are ignored don’t actually go away; instead, they tend to hang around and metastasize. So, scary as it may be, I recommend addressing what’s there. If you are new to feeling your feelings, I recommend enlisting the support of a therapist, coach, or other safe and trusted person, so that you can have some guidance and not have to do it alone.
Over the last several months, we have collectively been living in a prolonged, low-grade trauma state (or high grade for those directly and deeply impacted by the pandemic). This has our nervous systems in consistent hyper-arousal. I noticed a week or so ago that my reaction of picking up my phone each time I saw a new alert was mirroring my already fatigued nervous system, so I decided to turn off my notifications. Since then, I’ve noticed my body and mind feeling more focused and at ease, providing a balance for the constant hyper-arousal.
If possible (and I realize it may not be possible for everyone, such as front line workers), put some parameters around triggering media, news, conversations, and other content that you expose yourself to. Don’t get me wrong: I am NOT advocating that you go hide under a rock and totally check out. What I AM saying is to know and honor your well-being threshold for the amount and type of content you take in.
When we are highly stressed, our bodies are programmed to go into fight, flight, or freeze mode. All of these states of being have both mental and physical characteristics associated with them: fighting (obvi), running away (literally or figuratively), or feeling paralyzed. All of these states also require physicality to fully process them. How you move your body is up to you. Honor the type and intensity of movement that supports you best in any given situation.
We’re eight months into a pandemic, and countless other complex social, political, and global issues (there’s that list I said I wasn’t going to make). Of course this is hard. Of course you’re experiencing thoughts, feelings, and emotions that challenge you. This is a time to give yourself grace, and take massively good care of yourself. Not that you need anyone to give you permission (you don’t), but just in case it helps: I invite you to be extra gentle and kind to yourself today.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful. Please share your own, if you’d like. And if no one has told you yet today, thanks for being here.
p.s. Here’s a playlist I made for my yoga classes this summer, that feels gently hopeful and optimistic to me. Enjoy.