I’m not sure how your work week has been, but I’m stressed! And I can pinpoint the most recent events transpired in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, have a great deal to do with my stress today. I guess it might be easy for some to say, “Don’t worry about things that don’t concern you”. But how can I turn a blind eye to news that is thrown in my face every single day? And the stressing news is coming at us from all angles – TV, social media, newspapers and magazines, friends and coworkers creating conversations “Did you hear about…” and as much as I’d like to walk away from all the negativity, I simply can’t ignore it.
The American Psychological Association (APA) released a report in the beginning of this year called Stress in America: Coping with Change and found “more than half of Americans (57 percent) say the current political climate is a very or somewhat significant source of stress, and nearly half (49 percent) say the same about the outcome of the election.” Even our country’s leaders can relate: “a majority of Republicans (59 percent) said the future of the nation was a significant source of stress for them, compared with 76 percent of Democrats.” But before I turn this blog into a kindness-imploring political piece, let me get back to the fact that I’m stressed; We’re stressed…
So, how do I cope with stress? What do I have to do to make it easier to simultaneously absorb the news and take care of my mental and physical well-being?
I can tell you that this year for me, there has not been a greater distraction from stress than exercise. And right now, personally, the reduction of stress is far more beneficial than the physical body improvement factor! For my one-hour of exercise, I am able to concentrate on the motivating music, my form and breathing, and nothing else. I’m completely mindful and present. It’s such a freeing feeling. The release of endorphins – our brain’s happy, euphoric-causing chemical – is a terrific plus, too. If 1 hour is too much time to commit, the APA says “even a 20-minute walk, run, swim or dance session in the midst of a stressful time can give an immediate effect that can last for several hours.”
When I was a younger woman going through the midst of a breakup, or um, breakups, there was nothing I wanted to do more than sleep through the heartache. But sleep can do more than help you momentarily forget your woes. Naps, no longer than 20 minutes, are advisable, but may not always be realistic. However, making sure you get a good night’s rest can better prepare you to get through tomorrow’s challenges. Turn-off the television at a designated time. Shut down your computer. Make it a point to sleep in your bed – don’t fall asleep on the couch. And don’t go to bed only to stare at your phone – you’ll only run in to news you’ll want (or may not want) to read more about. Prioritize sleep. Prioritize you.
Take advantage of your Social Networks
Call your girlfriends. Call the guys. Plan a casual night out. Or plan an effortless night-in playing board games. Maybe call your mother (unless she causes you more stress, maybe limit that conversation to a couple minutes). Have lunch with your coworkers instead of spending it working in your office. Confide in your partner. It’s important to find someone who you know will listen to you and whom you feel comfortable. Talking and sharing is a great way to alleviate stress and create bigger bonds.
Pursue a Passion
I’m not a writer, but in recent years found I have great enthusiasm talking and learning about wellness and sustainability efforts. I guess this became pretty evident as friends and family started approaching me to ask “What do you know about [insert environmental, health, social impact, etc. concern here].” So, when this opportunity to write for the eco-conscious Sotela came up, I jumped on it. I thought, “Here’s a great chance to put some of my thoughts and knowledge out there”. Through the process, I met the founder of Sotela, Hanna. We instantly clicked and found we share a lot of the same interests and world views. So, in addition to making a new friend and having someone to talk to about the latest and greatest earth-friendly trend, I’m doing something that fulfills me in a way my regular 9-5 cannot.
Not sure what your passion is? No worries. As long as you are open to learning or doing something outside your comfort zone, I’m sure you’ll find an activity that will bring a little more happiness. Maybe try journaling – turn it into a blog. Volunteer. Take a leadership position in your church or community organization. Train for a marathon. Organize a canned food or clothing drive. Join a book club. Take a cooking class. Travel. Whatever gives you the greatest joy – and the least amount of stress and anxiety – should be something you consider permanently integrating in to your life.