Stress occurs for all of us in life, relationships and work.
There is no time we feel the immediate impact of stress stronger than during times of uncertainty. When unexpected challenges and changes arise, the pressure of it all can send us into a mental and physical burnout.
Granted, stress is unavoidable. It’s not something we can expect to go away. It is something we have to learn to live with in life.
When we don’t know how to handle stress and anxiety, its effects can be detrimental. It can hinder our performance, relationships, mental and physical health, and considerably drain our enthusiasm for our work.
Sometimes the effects of anxiety and stress can be subtle, but you can learn to gauge when it begins to impact you negatively.
Here are subtle signs of stress to look out for:
- Your memory feels off.
- You’re more irritable than usual.
- Your body is beginning to give you subtle hints.
- You feel chronically tired.
- You struggle with sleeping.
- You lose interest in your passions.
- You can’t get a handle on erratic thought patterns.
- You’ve lost a sense of joy for what you do and for life as a whole.
Stress is good for us. We are supposed to have some pressure in our life. In Kelly McGonigal’s book “The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good For You and How to Get Good at It,” she explores why stress is essential to our livelihood and explains how it must be managed. McGonigal, a researcher and psychologist, wrote, “Stress happens when something you care about is at stake. It’s not a sign to run away – it’s a sign to step forward.”
So, how can we learn to combat the stresses of uncertainty and unexpected challenges?
Here are seven ways you can begin to combat stress no matter what comes your way:
- Manage your time well. It is easy to allow unexpected events to throw us off track. But the moment we let our schedules slip and lose a handle on our day, we quickly add to our anxiety. Manage your time accordingly so you have space to breathe during these times of stress.
- Unplug from social media and the news. During unexpected events, we can be drawn to check our phones and to continue to scroll through social media. But if there is ever a time your brain needs a break from your phone, it is during the onset of stress.
- Establish boundaries. Setting limits shouldn’t only apply to work, but to our families and relationships as well. Create boundaries even in your job so that you can guard these different areas of your life.
- Delegate well. You don’t have to continue doing it all. Relieve a little pressure by delegating a bit more to others during this time.
- Learn how to control your reactions and thoughts. Our thoughts are often the aggravators of our stress. When we are aware of our habits of worry or fear, we only feed the anxiety that exists. By gauging our thought patterns, we can prepare to manage stress before it leads to burnout.
- Continue to have fun. Even during times as difficult as quarantining during COVID-19, we all still need to find ways to enjoy life. Often, we work so hard to resolve the issue at hand that we forget to give ourselves a break. It’s not only okay to have fun during these times, it’s essential for your mental state.
- Gauge when you’re coming to a breaking point. Find ways to keep tabs on your mental, physical and emotional state. Check for the warning signs to keep your stress in check before it gets the best of you.
You may be thinking, “well, life is always stressful,” which can be true. But there is stress we can manage, and then there is stress we can let get out of hand.
By learning how stress affects us and paying closer attention to it, we can begin to have more control over it.