Managing Stress and Anxiety in a Changing World
Times are changing. For many of us, it’s a cliché that’s never been more appropriate or significant than it is today. If you’re someone who lives with stress or anxiety, you’re likely feeling those even more deeply these days, given all of the uncertainty going on. From health risks to social isolation, to job losses, changing routines, and even derailed travel plans – the world as we know it is changing quite rapidly, and it can be difficult to manage stress and anxiety during these changes. We’ve put together a guide with five helpful techniques for managing stress and anxiety in a changing world, to help you take care of yourself and others in these unprecedented times.
1. Remember that everyone copes differently
Right now, even those who don’t suffer from ongoing stress and anxiety are beginning to experience these feelings more frequently. A lack of certainty about our lives, whether it be a minor change in routine or a more serious threat to health, can make anyone feel uneasy and can trigger anxiety. For those of us who are used to living with stress and anxiety, particularly chronic and severe anxiety, tried and tested ways of coping may seem inadequate in our rapidly changing circumstances. It’s important to remember that everybody copes differently, and not to compare yourself with others. If you’re supporting someone who is experiencing stress and anxiety, try to be patient and understanding when reactions such as anger, frustration or fear arise. Likewise, if you’re finding that your normal coping techniques aren’t working quite as well, be kind and patient with yourself. These are unprecedented times, and almost everyone you know is learning to deal with a change in circumstances, just as you are. A little kindness (even with yourself) can go a long way.
2. Limit alcohol and caffeine
One of the major shakeups to our lives in recent times has been social isolation. Spending more time at home, especially when alone, can sometimes mean developing new, unhealthy habits. Even as restrictions ease and we are able to meet again with friends and family, these habits can become so ingrained that we have trouble adjusting back to our pre-isolation routines and behaviours. In particular, the consumption of alcohol and caffeine can enhance stress and anxiety. So, while it’s tempting to grab a drink to calm the nerves or relax at the end of the day, or to make an extra few cups of coffee during the day, these habits can aggravate anxiety and even trigger panic attacks. Try to limit these things, and any other food or drinks which you find can lead to increased stress and anxiety.
3. Keep a journal to identify new stressors
As the world around us changes, many of us might be experiencing new stressors and triggers for our anxiety. Seemingly harmless things which once would not have warranted a stress reaction (such as watching the news, or hearing that a loved one has been unwell with cold or flu) can suddenly result in feelings of stress, anxiety and even panic attacks. The trickiest part of coming to terms with and managing stress and anxiety is understanding what triggers these feelings. Keeping a journal is a fantastic way to monitor your emotions and can be a great tool for coping with anxiety. Particularly now, in our changing world, a journal can be a useful tool for discovering new triggers for your stress or anxiety, and for identifying your reactions to these feelings. Each evening, try keeping a record of how you have been feeling that day, perhaps taking note of what you ate and drank, and whether feelings of stress or anxiety arose that day. For tips on how to keep a journal, and for help understanding what you’ve recorded and how those things are affecting you, consider speaking with a counsellor or psychologist.
4. Bring in the experts
Many people think that seeing a counsellor or psychologist is only relevant for those with serious mental health concerns. Whilst ongoing stress and anxiety can indeed be serious concerns, seeing a therapist isn’t something you should put off until you feel you simply can’t cope anymore. In fact, many people regularly see a counsellor or psychologist for help with everyday things that we all experience! From life coaching, to improving self-esteem, to weight loss and fitness, to overcoming phobias, there are many, many ways in which a therapist can help you. If you’re feeling increased stress and anxiety lately, speaking with an expert can make a world of difference. Your therapist can help you to understand what you’re feeling and why, and help you to develop strategies to overcome these feelings. They can assist you with keeping a journal, for example, or may even use some specialised therapies such as hypnotherapy, EFT (emotional freedom techniques), NLP (neuro linguistic programming), and more.
5. Eat, sweat, sleep, repeat
For many, one of the most powerful tools for managing stress and anxiety – especially as our circumstances change – is to create a routine. Of course, creating the right kind of routine, which supports not only your mental health but also your physical health, is key. Eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep are three of the most important factors for your mental health, as your physical wellbeing can play a huge role in how you feel on the inside. Create a healthy eating, exercising and sleeping routine which takes into account any change in circumstances you’ve experienced (for example, a new job might mean having to adjust your sleeping times), and keep an eye on how the new routine affects the way you feel. Use your journal to assist you and be sure to share your findings with your therapist. Keep in mind that there can be some trial and error in creating any new routine and that you might need to make adjustments until it feels right for you.
The world is changing in some scary ways at the moment, and all of us have experienced an upheaval to our lives in one way or another. It’s no wonder that many of us are experiencing greater levels of stress and anxiety! These tips can help you to create new, healthy ways to manage these feelings and continue to thrive, despite the changing world around you. Reach out to Integrated Health Specialists today, where we can support you to manage your stress and anxiety, and get back to living the life you love.