How to care for your health & wellbeing in stressful times
Everyone experiences stress from time to time. With the world responding to the evolving COVID-19 situation, many of us are adjusting to new working situations, and it is more important than ever to learn how to manage your stress effectively. In the end, this will enable you to tackle new challenges, be happier, healthier, and more productive.
When it comes to managing stress, a key thing to remember is to check in regularly with yourself by taking care of your mind and body. Whether it’s by making sure you get in those 30 mins of exercise once a day, making healthy food choices, or keeping a journal – taking a moment to reflect on how you are feeling is foundational when it comes to tackling stress.
The Talent Development team provides employees with expert advice on making the most of the newfound home office situation. In this article you will find a number of our different tips to manage stress, and care for your physical and mental wellbeing. Not one person is the same, and that also goes for how you approach these exercises. Take some time to try out what works for you.
Mindfulness & Meditation
The mind we have in our private lives is the mind we take into the workplace and vice versa. Nowadays, those two states are often closer together than ever. Scientific studies increasingly demonstrate the benefits of practicing meditation and mindfulness to care for our minds and manage stress.
What is meditation?
Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, or even a better person. It’s about getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well. Learning to meditate is like learning any other skill. It takes consistent practice to get comfortable. Think of it like this: we go to the gym to get stronger physically. We practice meditation to become stronger mentally, and perform at our best. Read about why Bill Gates is into meditation.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to be present, to rest in the here and now, to be fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the current moment. This might sound simple, but it’s amazing how many distractions we are faced with at any given moment. Watch this TED Talk on the transformative power of mindfulness.
Checking in with your mind
So how can we practice mindfulness and meditation? In situations that are uncertain and evolving such as the current one, it’s understandable to feel stressed, anxious, or upset. Allow yourself time to notice and express what you’re feeling. This could be by writing it down in a journal, talking to others, doing something creative, or practicing mindfulness and meditation. If you’re new to these exercises, there are many apps and online courses that can help you with getting started, such as Headspace and Calm.
Once you have identified these feelings, remember that they are normal, and that you are not alone in feeling this way – we are all living through this situation together. Try to focus on the present as much as possible, one day at a time.
Managing your stress levels
In times of stress, a general feeling of helplessness and loss of control may arise. But there are things you can learn in order to help you better manage your stress. First of all, try to prevent situations that you know cause stress. If they cannot be prevented, try to reflect on what causes the stress and what you can do to improve your mood and reaction to it. Journaling your reflections is a powerful tool for raising personal awareness.
Look at the situation rationally. The coronavirus may be contagious, but panic is far more contagious. Do not let collective fear guide you. Focus on facts and appeal to your rational mind. Finding credible sources you can trust is important to avoid the fear and panic that can be caused by misinformation.
It’s okay to take a break – from responsibilities, from work, or from the news. It’s important to stay informed but it is totally fine to take a step back when you need to. If you do notice that you are getting caught up in negative thought patterns, acknowledge what you are feeling. A good way of working through these feelings can be to focus on your breathing, as this can help calm your mind and slow your thoughts.
Accept the things you cannot change. Changing a difficult situation is not always possible. If this is the case, recognize and accept things as they are and concentrate on things you do have control over.
Know your limitations and do not take on too much. We cause ourselves a great deal of stress because we want people to like us and do not want to let people down. Learn to be assertive so that you can say “no” without upsetting or offending. In the long run, this will benefit yourself and others around you.
Talk to someone. We can have a tendency to isolate ourselves when we feel overwhelmed. Isolation can be negative and further adversely affect our psychological health. Taking time to connect and socialize with others can help. Friends can ease troubles and help us see things in a different way – even over a phone or video call!
Taking care of your body
Exercise is essential, not only in order to be fit but also to maintain mental wellbeing. Take 30 minutes out of each day to move your body. Start with something manageable that you can stick to and build on. This could be as simple as going for a daily walk, a short run, or do some stretching exercises. When being at home for a prolonged time, why not try something new, like bodyweight exercises or living room yoga?
Sleep well. While it might seem like obvious advice, the importance of sleep cannot be emphasized enough. Our body needs sleep in order to renew its resources and function properly, both physically and mentally. Moreover, sleep regulates the production of various hormones and chemicals in the brain, so our mood and emotional state are directly affected by the lack of it.
Eat your broccoli. While you don’t necessarily have to eat broccoli, you should be aware of the foods you consume and ensure you are getting a well-balanced diet. A healthy diet will take into account not only the quality of the food but also the quantity (don’t overeat or snack too much). Eat as many vegetables and fruits as you can, include nuts and lentils into your diet, and try to avoid excessive consumption of caffeine and processed foods.