A special guest blog post from The Kee Institute in West Bloomfield focusing on mental health, stress awareness, and management.
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Stress Levels Are At Record Highs
If you’re currently feeling stressed, know that it’s normal and you are not alone. Stress and worry during the Coronavirus have increased in most adults by 30%, and there is still so much uncertainty in the world. When will things ever feel normal again? Will I have to go back into an office? When will it be safe to fly? The more unanswered questions we have, the more stressed we become. So what is stress anyway?
What Is Stress?
When we were hunter-gatherers, stress was our brain’s natural defense mechanism in response to danger. It would flood the body with hormones that prepare us to flee or fight whatever the threat might be. Today, while we’re less likely to run into a bear, a job interview, multiple work deadlines, or even driving in traffic can still trigger our brain with a fight or flight response.
What Are The Symptoms of Stress?
It can be challenging to manage stress as it doesn’t always manifest itself in the most obvious ways. Here are some of the more commonly associated behaviors and physical effects of stress:
● Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
● Jaw clenching
● Trouble staying on task
● Lack of motivation
● Moodiness and irritability
● Low energy
● Aches, pains, and headaches
Impulsive Stress Behaviors
● Binge eating or skipping meals
● Compulsive online shopping
● Excessive drinking
● Shutting yourself off from friends and family
● A decline in self-care and personal hygiene
You might spend every Monday feeling exhausted and moody, thinking that it’s just a “classic case of the Mondays,” without even realizing that you’re feeling stressed. A new week can be overwhelming, and Monday mornings will often greet us with a not-so-pleasant inbox. Your brain can perceive Monday as a threat because of how you’ve felt on Mondays in the past. So much so that you might start feeling anxious and restless on Sunday night.
How You Can Manage Your Stress:
While it’s nearly impossible to prevent altogether, there are some simple methods you can try next time you’re feeling stressed.
Schedule Time For Yourself
Life can be chaotic sometimes, and stress management isn’t always top of mind. We often forget to schedule a time to check in with ourselves with so much on our daily calendar. Put some relaxing “me time” on your calendar once a day. Whether that’s listening to a podcast, reading a book, taking a bath, a quick walk, or cooking yourself a nice meal, try to spend 15-30 minutes each day enjoying something that makes you happy and put the to-do lists out of mind. Make time for yourself and fit it into your schedule so, at the end of the day, you took that time to relax and breathe.
Move Your Body
One of the most effective ways to calm your mind is to move your body. If you’re mindlessly scrolling through your phone or struggling to get out of bed, your mind has plenty of time to run through your mental checklist of to-dos and other life triggers. When you exercise, your mind must focus on the movement, mainly so you don’t trip over your own feet. It’s difficult for your mind to wander when following a workout video, listening to a podcast on a walk, or playing a sport with friends.
Not only is exercise a great distraction, but it can increase the production of the brain’s feel-good chemical called endorphins, which can naturally improve your mood. You don’t need to go wild and take up CrossFit to feel the benefits. A simple 15-minute walk with a friend can make a world of difference.
Be Kind To Yourself
Be kind to yourself. It might feel like it’s easier said than done but try your best to listen to your inner cheerleader and ignore your inner critic. The time you spend telling yourself that you can’t complete your tasks in time, that you won’t answer the interview questions right, that there’s no way you’ll make your flight will never positively impact the outcome. While stress is normal, you’ll have difficulty remembering a situation when worrying about something repeatedly made the outcome any different.
It’s important to note that your feelings are valid no matter what is stressing you out. You, along with your fellow humans, have just endured one of the most challenging years in the last century. Identifying stress is the first step to effective management. While these tips are helpful, it is always beneficial to seek professional help before your stress levels get out of control.