Stress. What Can We Do About It?

Do you remember the memes about this being THE year for seeing clearly . . . a not so subtle play on the idea of 20/20 vision?

While many of us have been following stay-at-home edicts from our state and local leaders in the face of this pandemic, this is a perfect time to consider what we’re actually seeing.

Are you seeing your dreams disintegrate along with your job? Are you finding yourself frustrated—at your wit’s end, staying home, working from home, 24/7 time with your spouse and your kids? Are you climbing the walls yet?

The truth of this and every experience is what we make of it. The one thing we have control over is our ability to be in acceptance and make the best of challenging situations. For many of us, spending more time with our children has been a real blessing; for others, it’s been a real test of our patience! (Or both!)

The lockdown—if we’re willing to accept or simply be ok with what is— is helping us discover what is most essential and meaningful in our life.

One option we have is to see the pandemic as an invitation to recognize what was working and what wasn’t—both in our individual lives and our world. Around the planet, wildlife has been returning to places no longer polluted by human activity; people are out walking instead of driving, spending more time in nature and having that longed-for time to relax.

While we can find positive things as a result of this pandemic, there is also a multitude of painful aspects. Families have lost loved ones. Many businesses have closed and may never reopen. Domestic violence has increased because of anxiety about the future. People’s lives have been impacted in unimaginable ways.

It is safe to say that right now, stress is through the roof for many people.

By now, we all know the timeline of the pandemic and the worldwide impact it has had, economically, environmentally and emotionally.

One of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic has been the requirement that we self-isolate. As social beings, isolation—even if we’re told to stay home to protect everyone’s health—is not normal. For many, isolation is seen as punishment. Am I the only one who remembers how it felt to be told to ‘go to my room’ or sit in the corner? At a time when we need to be with others; when we are afraid and need human connection, isolation can feel like a cruel and unfeeling response.

On the other hand, self-isolation can be seen as a time for reflection; a time to get in touch with our ‘inner life’. A time to consider how or what we might change in our lives going forward. For others, this has also been a time to tackle their to-do list; to organize their cupboards, files and garages; a time to purge and clear out ‘stuff’ that’s been literally or figuratively weighing them down.

Now, more than two months in to the world-wide shutdown, states and countries are beginning to reopen. People are now experiencing a different kind of stress; wondering if we’re really ‘in the clear’ as we begin to come together again.

While many are anxious to return to ‘normal’, or discover the ‘new normal’, others – perhaps the silent majority — are concerned that we might be moving too fast. COVID-19 is still out there. It hasn’t been eradicated. There isn’t a vaccine and likely won’t be for a year or even two. And yet, life must go on. Economies around the world are almost in shambles and the promise of recovery fragile.

So what are we to do? How do we deal with the uncertainty of these times in which we are living? Do we continue wearing masks and limiting social contact? Do retail stores and restaurants open but at half capacity? When will be out of the woods? Will we ever be? While some people say that love isn’t for the faint of heart, I would append that notion and add life. Neither love nor life are for the faint of heart — ever, but especially now.

So what can we do? Most importantly, we need to reduce our stress levels. If there’s anything experts agree on, it’s that prolonged stress takes a toll not only on our emotional body, but on the immune system that keeps the physical body healthy and capable of fighting off illness; which is exactly what we need it to do now!

The next logical question then, is what is the best way to reduce stress? We could take a pill, say Prozac, Zoloft, Diazepam or one of the many anxiety-reducing drugs available on the market. But there are other, healthier ways to reduce stress and anxiety.

Short Term Strategies

The following list takes into account restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19

  1. Exercise: Walking, bike riding, and running all serve to reduce stress hormones like cortisol and are activities we can do even in the time of COVID-19 by maintaining physical distance from others.
  2. Stop what you’re doing and enjoy a cup of peppermint tea. The key here is to stop and for just a moment, change your energy with a warming cuppa.
  3. Breathe. Stop as soon as you notice that you’re becoming stressed or anxious; notice tension in your neck and shoulders and take several deep breaths. Place a hand on your lower abdomen to ensure that you are breathing from your lower abdomen.
  4. Place a drop or two of essential oils on your wrist. Some of the best for calming are Lavender, Rose, Vetiver, Chamomile, Orange or Orange Blossom.
  5. Write out your feelings. Taking a moment to write down how you’re feeling creates a sense of control and objectivity. After writing down your feelings, you can also take a moment to write down some things you’re grateful for. When you do this, you might notice how your energy shifts to more positive and relaxed feelings.

Long-Term Strategies

In my work as a Holistic Health & Wellness Coach, I share two long-term stress-reducing methods with my clients. For deep-seated stress and anxiety borne of one or more traumatic childhood experiences (ACES-Adverse Childhood Experiences), as well as those suffered by adults (think wartime trauma, horrific accidents, domestic violence, etc.), EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) aka Tapping is powerfully effective for permanent resolution of even the worst traumas.

EFT works at the energetic level of the body and repairs the disruption at the physical/ energetic level. (EFT is often referred to as emotional acupuncture but without needles). Releasing the negative emotions created by the trauma allows the energy system that flows through the body to return to balance, restoring the relaxed pre-trauma state of being.

For day to day stress and anxiety — mostly created by situations in which we find ourselves as adolescents or adults — situations having to do with school, work, relationships and/or pandemics, Mindfulness Meditation creates a level of awareness that allows people to witness distracting or negative thoughts and emotions about the past or the future, and from that objective perspective, shift their attention to the Present
moment where peace and calm are always available.

Both modalities, once learned and practiced, are user friendly. In the case of EFT, once the effects of deep trauma have been resolved through working with a trained practitioner, the client can use Tapping on their own to deal with day-to-day stressors.

Since Mindfulness, when practiced diligently, offers practitioners a greater awareness of their current thoughts and feelings, they gain the ability to choose to either witness them and lovingly return to the generous present moment or use Tapping on them, thus clearing the way for the present moment to be more fully and joyfully experienced.

For further information about EFT sessions or Mindfulness Meditation classes, feel free to contact the author at: [email protected] or 336-688-8159. Namaste.

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