Managing Stress in a World Turned Upside Down
A few days ago, I chanced upon William Butler Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming,” and realised it was an uncanny reflection of the current situation we’re in. “Turning and turning in the widening gyre. The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” The Covid-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down. With the U.S. unemployment rate at 13.3 per cent in May and the possibility of a second wave, it’s impossible not to feel stressed out when there is no end in sight. Carrying stress around can weaken our immune systems, causing a depletion in energy and disrupted sleep, which can lead to long-term health consequences. Want to be more resilient? Here are six ways to cope with stress and emerge stronger after the storm.
Take a Break From the News
When our social media feeds are constantly filled with grim news about the coronavirus, this information overload can have a deleterious effect on our emotions and mood. To detach ourselves from this stream of pessimism, learn to reject all the negative chatter from online forums and news sources, and focus on the positives like the possibility of having a vaccine soon. If any social media accounts trigger an adverse reaction in you, consider unfollowing them for peace of mind. While it’s important to be kept abreast of the latest number of positive Covid-19 cases, it is unnecessary to keep refreshing the Ministry of Health’s Facebook page every few minutes.
Set the Right Intentions
Adopting a mindfulness practice as part of your daily routine will help to calm your mind, so you see things as they are, rather than inflating the severity of the situation. Start by taking long deep breaths for ten minutes every morning. As we inhale and exhale, our suffocating thoughts will slowly dissipate. Never underestimate the power of setting your intentions to harness what you want for yourself. Visualise your ideal day; from the moment you wake up till you go to sleep and hold a clear picture of your desired outcome in your mind. According to the Law of Attraction, the stronger the emotions you feel during the visualisation exercise, the faster your desires will manifest in real life.
Learn How to Self-Regulate
Emotional self-regulation, which refers to the ability to control our emotional reactions, is vital for our well-being. When we are able to face external threats with patience and composure, we see a shift in our surroundings. Don’t be quick to react and take the time to put things into perspective. Having a mantra to recite like the Persian adage “this too shall pass” also reminds us that our circumstances are never permanent, which contributes to a positive mindset. Remember the times when you were dealt with a hard blow and thought you could not survive, but eventually rose like a phoenix from the ashes? If that isn’t enough, here is a quote by Dr. Robert Schuller: “Tough times never last but tough people do.”
Every dark cloud has a silver lining. There are always things in life to be thankful for, no matter how awful the situation may be. Spend each day listing five things that you feel grateful for and over time, it will be easier to find positive things to chronicle. It can be simple things like hugging your golden retriever, savouring a freshly brewed cup of coffee, admiring the homegrown flowers that are blooming in your backyard, baking pillowy-soft milk bread. When we find more things to be appreciative of, our problems suddenly don’t seem so big anymore.
Focus on What You Can Control
While the world around you may be careening out of control, you can choose not to feel powerless by focusing on everything that you have autonomy over. You may not know when you are allowed to reopen for business, but you can increase your visibility by boosting your social media presence. Do not neglect your physical and mental health— they are both paramount in helping you to maintain fulfilling relationships and a greater sense of meaning in life. Therefore, make sure you eat healthy, get enough sleep and schedule in an hour of exercise each day. Initiate new projects at work to grow a different skillset or start your own little home-based gardening enterprise. As long as you are willing to try, you can steer yourself in the right direction.
Pen Down Your Feelings
Writing is the most cathartic form of emotional expression that can help you work through your problems or anxieties. Each time you feel a sense of disquietude, take out your journal and start jotting those unsettling thoughts down. You can also spend an additional five minutes writing about things that make you happy. Research has shown that writing has a therapeutic effect on the mind and emotions. And journalling about joyful and upbeat things like your hobbies can put you in a feel-good state to increase confidence.
In the words of Japanese philosopher Miyamoto Musashi, “there is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.” So even as problems continue to compound and the odds are stacked against you, it’s up to you to decide if your mind is a powerful tool or a harmful weapon.