We find ourselves in un-precedented times. With a global pandemic, complex and stressful politics, the usual anxiety filled work and family life – all with the holidays approaching, many will find themselves extremely anxious and stressed.
This blog will attempt to provide some common stressors and suggestions for what has worked for others. This is not an attempt to tell you “just think happy and you will be happy”. However; there are things that we can do to change our view of life. For the most part, we cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it.
- Clear the noise – Small problems can become large problems in our minds. We have constant sources of information vying for our attention: news, work, family, friends and our health. Many have found meditation for 10 to 20 minutes a day to be a very powerful way to clear the noise. There are meditation apps such as Headspace that provide guided meditation for basics or specific challenges such as anxiety, grief, isolation, etc. Meditation is the #1 habit successful people have in common.
- Tame Mr. Grinch – Many of us are our own worst critics. We may be performing at a superhuman level and still the critic inside our head tells us otherwise. New parents are especially vulnerable to worrying about each and every action they make. Some have found that asking yourself “would anyone else I care about say this about me”? Chances are very high that you are far too difficult on yourself. Checking your reality from loved ones viewpoints may be helpful.
- We are all Impostors at some point – At any given point, you may find yourself wondering if everyone sees that you are an impostor. You may be working with high achievers or are new to an industry or role in life. Many will worry if everyone can see that you are “just an impostor”. To help with this, we can take on a growth mindset. Evolution requires that we adapt and grow. It’s part of our DNA for survival. Looking at growth opportunities as a positive may help you to accept that you are learning and will fail as you grow. If possible, get help from a mentor in your new area of growth. Have them provide honest and open feedback. Like the Mr. Grinch above, it is very likely that you are making great progress, but are too tough on yourself.
- Holiday Frenzy – A quick trip to Home Depot makes it clear that everyone is decorating this year! Many cultural traditions also involve gift giving and this can be stressful with pandemic restrictions. With everything else we have to deal with, holiday shopping, cooking and parties (virtual only please) make this time of the year stressful. Many have found solace in getting back to the spirit of the season. This is a time of year for being with those who mean the most to you. Unfortunately, that may mean Zoom get togethers, but keeping with the spirit of the season and keeping everything simple may make it easier to get through the holidays.
- Lots of Reasons to Worry – We have no shortage of bad news every day. We are programmed for fight or flight and bad news stresses our bodies out. Constant focus on bad news fills our bodies with chemicals that are not healthy and can cause long term issues. There are many ways to help clear our minds:
- Exercise – Chances are you are sitting all day. Push your body. The brain will release chemicals that can help to counter the ones created through stress.
- Challenge your brain – Find a distraction that occupies your brain. There are many types of puzzles like jigsaw, sudoku, word finds, brain teasers, crosswords, etc. that can help to clear your mind. The brain loves to be challenged and will put worry on the back burner if it’s challenged enough. Make sure the puzzles are fun for you and not stressful, though!
- Be thankful – When you find yourself overwhelmed, take a few minutes to think of three specific events you are thankful for today. It might be that the sun is out or the dog is finally quiet or your colleague sent you a positive note. Find specific events that you are thankful for as often as possible. This may help to counter the negative thoughts in your mind.
- Turn off the news – During the U.S. revolutionary war, updates on what was happening may have been a week or even a month after the fact. We’ve entered a constant update cycle and it’s not healthy. Go for a walk and keep your phone home. Take a social media vacation for a weekend a month. The news will be there when you get back and it may have even fought its way through a negative to positive cycle.
- Take time for you – If you are stressed, angry or anxious, you will affect others in your life. While you may feel guilty about being selfish for a few minutes or hours, it can be very beneficial to everyone you interact with. Take time for you and only you. This will help to stop the anxiety loop that you may be causing with your family or colleagues.
- Redefine work meeting times – Start meetings at 5 minutes after and end them 5 minutes early. The clock is an arbitrary way of breaking out the day. Endless zoom sessions are exhausting and inefficient. We need time between meetings to recover and attend to basic life tasks. We are more creative and productive when rested, even if it’s only for ten minutes. Just try it. At the least, your colleagues will appreciate the effort.
- Remember Pollyanna – If you haven’t read or watched Pollyanna, her advice was to always try to see the positive in life. The global pandemic is simply terrible with loss of lives, jobs and family time for some. I’m not asking you to forget that, but maybe you’ve had far more time with your children, you don’t have the hour-long commute or wasted time getting to and from work. Try to balance the good with the bad and look for the good in people and events.