I’m going to be honest; I have two small children, a busy lifestyle and pets. I’m used to dealing with stressful situations in my personal life, and business life and I know how to handle it. Or so I thought.
This year, COVID-19 has amplified stress levels across the board. My clients have mentioned it, people I talk to have mentioned it. Every single household has been impacted by changes in circumstances, imposed social restrictions and the inability for any of us to plan for the future is compounding the issue.
Beyond Blue reports that 3 million Australians are currently living with anxiety or depression. And a recent study published by the Medical Journal of Australia showed mental health problems were at least twice as widespread now than during non-pandemic circumstances. This is a big concern for society and one we need to keep a handle on.
Recently I have spent extra time with my clients exploring their past experiences and unravelling stressors as I’ve seen the impact of the build-up of anxious thoughts and patterns. This has helped me too, as I remind myself, we are not the patterns of our past. We can create a more positive future.
But how do we tangibly manage our stress and anxiety levels where everywhere we turn the whole world seems to be caught up in it?
Here are three tips that I share with my clients (and have helped me) to sensibly ‘calm the farm’ and regain some composure when feeling on the edge:
As soon as you feel the signs creeping in – call it out for what it is. Openly challenge each symptom you are experiencing. This is also known as a pattern interrupt. The more awareness you have, the more laser focus you direct at the feeling – the more distance you can put between you and the symptoms, so the intensity fades into nothing.
Shift out of your head and focus on the real world. This ‘3-2-1 method’ helps to explore what is right here, right now:
- Look for 3 specific things you can see around you. Examine every minute detail closely
- Listen out for 2 distinct sounds you can hear. Try and break down the tones and pay attention to the reverberations and direction
- Feel 1 thing with your hands or your body. Hold something in your hands or feel the chair beneath you.
Repeat as necessary and change up what you see/hear/feel each time.
Get it out
As the anxious thoughts and worries pop into your head, take a quick note on paper or on your phone, then continue with your day. There will always be time to think about it later, so feel free to put it out of your head at that moment in time. If you do review what was written, set a dedicated time limit for the exercise. You might be surprised as they will read differently, and you might even view them with an open mind and a broader more gentle perspective.
Awareness is a great tool, however it does need to be practiced regularly for greatest impact.
The more you train your awareness muscle, the more you can recognise your triggers and do something about it – just in time. Before that overwhelm sets in and you turn to run, observe what is happening physically and know it is temporary, and you will start moving through it quicker and easier than ever.
There are many other methods to improve your mental health so start weaving them into your days. Talk things through with a friend or someone you trust. Incorporate mindfulness techniques at the beginning, and end of the day and remember to exercise regularly & practice self-care.
If you still feel like you’re not coping, it’s important to seek professional advice from your GP or trained professional.
These times are stressful times for everyone. Show kindness and compassion to yourself first as well as to those around you.