According to a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, stress is at an all-time high among working adults as a result of COVID-19.
From Science Daily: “As the global pandemic continues and parents juggle child care, work and schooling demands, the mental health toll on parents is growing, warns APA. At the same time, the proportion of Americans saying that the economy or work is a significant source of stress in their life has risen significantly.
“For many parents, it can feel overwhelming to face competing demands at home and work along with possible financial challenges during this unprecedented crisis,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer. “Children are keen observers and often notice and react to stress or anxiety in their parents, caregivers, peers and community. Parents should prioritize their self-care and try their best to model healthy ways of coping with stress and anxiety.”
It’s normal to feel stressed in these unprecedented times.
What’s important is to develop effective strategies for managing your stress so that you can maintain your mental health and continue having productive days both in your personal and professional life.
Here are 4 healthy coping strategies for destressing:
Take a Personal Day
It’s essential to our mental health to take regular breaks from work now and then, hence the importance of a personal day. In fact, many companies these days offer unlimited vacation or a set number of personal or mental health days, as they recognize how essential it is for their employees’ wellbeing to recharge.
Not only does taking a step back help rejuvenate your mind and body, but with your focus off of a problem, your brain tends to continue turning it over in the background, which almost always leads to new innovations and creative solutions. You’ve no doubt heard of people who say their best ideas come to them in the shower or on a run or while they’re shopping for groceries.
That said, make it a point to take a personal day every once in a while for the sake of your health. Just because much of the global workforce is now working from home doesn’t mean that vacation days are off the table. If anything, they’re more important than ever, given just how much working adults are juggling at home as a result of COVID-19.
Get 7-8 Hours of Sleep
We’ve all been guilty of not getting enough sleep at some point or another. There are those who somehow get by on just 4 or 5 hours of sleep each night—but the question can be asked as to whether or not they’re giving their bodies the restoration it needs to function at its highest potential.
This is something Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, learned firsthand. One day in 2007, Huffington was at home checking emails when she passed out, collapsing from exhaustion. She woke up in a pool of her own blood with a broken cheekbone. This experience led her to eventually write the book The Sleep Revolution, where she shows how neglecting sleep compromises our health and undermines our work life.
The fact of the matter is that sleep plays a vital role in our wellness. Not only can it affect weight gain, heart disease, and even cancer, but it can impact our moods, hence the expression ‘waking up on the wrong side of the bed.’ When you get enough sleep each night, however, you’re better able to take on the stressors that are sure to surface throughout the day.
Set up a sleep routine that works for you so that you can begin unwinding at the same time each night, and ensure that you get your 7-8 hours so that you feel refreshed and energized each morning.
Disconnect from the Web
Smartphones and other technological devices have completely revolutionized the way we show up in the world. Whether you’re at the grocery store, a restaurant, or waiting in line at the bank, you’re sure to see a sea of heads staring down at a digital screen. If it’s not our phones, it’s our computers and TVs at home, constantly warring for our attention.
Interestingly enough, not only does this addiction to technology negatively impact our ability to sleep (the light from our devices throw off our body’s biological clock, which is why you might’ve had trouble sleeping at times after spending so much time scrolling through your social media feeds), but so much nonstop interaction can also lower our moods, making it harder to effectively deal with stress.
For instance, reading a friend’s stress-filled status update on social media can heighten your own stress, as can constantly comparing your job/possessions/family life/home/travel plans with those of your connections. For this reason, it’s well worth it to unplug from technology for a few hours each day. This break from the constant barrage of updates allows your mind to breathe, be present, and enjoy the life that’s right in front of you.
Connect with Loved Ones
One of the best ways to stay mentally fit in the midst of stress is to connect with loved ones.
Studies have repeatedly shown that individuals with strong friendships increase their odds of survival over a certain time period by an impressive fifty percent! Those are the same survival odds for those who quit smoking and nearly two times as beneficial as exercising’s effect on longevity.
The reasons for this positive impact on our health are many. For one, having strong friendships means that in times of stress, you have others to lean on for support, others you can depend on in your times of need. You also might’ve noticed in the past how simply venting to a friend about a stressful situation immediately made you feel slightly better.
Friends can also encourage healthy behavior (better eating habits, trips to the gym, more positive thinking).
Lastly, friendships simply add more meaning to our lives and help us to derive more fulfillment and joy from our experiences.
That said, make it a point to spend more time with loved ones, and if you’re somewhat short on positive relationships in your life, attending local activities, classes, or events that you enjoy are all great ways to find like-minded people you can network with. Obviously, with the ongoing pandemic, these options may not pursuable yet, but there are still ways to build a social support network even while practicing social distancing.
Leaving stress unchecked affects the quality of your work, the state of your mind, and the way you show up in the world.
It’s time to make wellness a priority in our lives, and using the four strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to being your most productive and powerful self.