It was about this time last year that I wrote a post about finding joy in the little things, even with all the chaos going on. Even though I knew the pandemic was nowhere near over at that time, if you had asked me if we would still be pretty deep in it a year later, I would have said an emphatic “NO.” Well, the jokes on me and everyone else, I suppose. While there have been significant improvements, from lower hospitalizations to the development and availability of vaccines, the world is still very different from pre-Covid days!
So what has the last year taught us? Certainly that we can survive tough things! The last year has been quite stressful for most people, and the stress has not been equally spread. Those who have lost a loved one or been on the front lines have been pushed to their limits. I listened to a podcast on single motherhood over the last year and realized again how challenging it is for those moms! The rest of us have had smaller hardships, but we all have faced adversity. Yet, we persevere!
One of the companies for whom I do health coaching asked for a stress relief program for its employees. As a coach, I talk three times with employees who opt-in over the 6 week period. I have continued to hear lots of different stressors from folks over the last year while working as a health coach, and this program has focused on bouncing back from those challenges. Their is no perfect way to stop feeling overwhelmed, and different techniques work better for different personalities. However, here are some strategies to try:
Get Outside: Although a lot of the country is getting snow on this April 16, we ARE in spring and the weather is improving and the days are longer. I have 2 dogs who count on our morning walk, so even if I am not in the mood, I don’t have much choice now. Even on the bad weather days, when we outside for a 5 or 10 minute walk in the morning, it is a fresh start to the day that sets me up for a more productive day. Furthermore, getting outside in the morning and receiving natural light, allows us to work with our natural circadian rhythm. This, in turn, helps us fall asleep at night, the next tip.
Sleep: This is often easier said than done, and deserves its own post, but this study shows enough high quality sleep makes a HUGE difference in our stress and anxiety levels. Going to bed about the same time every night, as well as getting up at about the same time can help. Try taking a break from screens in the 30 – 60 minutes before bed. If you are having trouble sleeping as well as feeling stressed, make sure you try to address the sleep.
Gratitude: When we struggle with a continuous challenge, as most of us have this past year, it can be hard to think of the good things in our lives. But, the flip side is that most of us can think of at least one positive thing happening, and focusing on that helps us deal with the hard parts. I have a daily to-do list planner that has a spot to put one thing I am grateful for at the top. Sometimes it is as basic as “the sun is shining today.”
Deep Breathing: I think we all know that taking even one deep breath can be calming, but, when we reach the tipping point of stress, anger, or anxiety, we forget to try it. If we start doing some deep breathing at other times of day, the calming effect can last through the stressful moments. In addition, it helps us remember the technique in the heat of the moment. It can be as simple as taking 3 – 5 deep breaths, but as you start using it more, using different techniques such as the 4-7-8 method is a way to escalate the practice.
Puzzles & other games: Sometimes doing something that allows us to leave the clutter of own thoughts can really work. I talked with a client this week who said that taking 10 – 20 minutes to work on a jigsaw puzzle allowed her to escape the thoughts in her head. I imagine artists get the same effect from their artistic work. Crossword puzzles, sudoku, or even coloring books can all work. Perhaps finding something that allows us to stop the chatter in our brain is the ultimate head game!
Meditation: Everyone I know who has a regular meditation practice says it is so helpful, and research backs that up. I have had a hard time incorporating it, but it is a goal. Many people find praying or chanting to have the same calming effects.
This list is just a start on the many things we can try to help us recharge for today, tomorrow, and next week. No matter what the future brings, we know it will include challenges. Feeling able to tackle each day is being resilient. Nevertheless, I truly hope that by April 2022, we are not talking about the coronavirus daily!