Who, me?! Stressed?!

Who knew life could change so much in just a few weeks? Wow! In the blink of an eye, I’m no longer stopping to pick up my daily Starbucks and saying hi to the regulars; my work day now revolves around shifts of screening patients and staff who want to come into our center; and get-togethers with my children are occurring on Zoom rather than in person. All of our routines – poof, out the window!
These days, for many of us, it’s learning how to work from home, figuring out who will take care of the kids during the day, wondering how to suddenly become a homeschool teacher, and worrying whether there will be a next paycheck, not to mention trying to keep from getting ill and becoming socially isolated when we need each other the most.  Yikes! Of course, we are stressed!!
But guess what, we don’t have to be victims.  You know that old saying, you may not have control over what happens to you, but you do have control over how you respond?  We choose how we respond. We can choose to respond in ways that add to the chaos, that exacerbate our stress, or we can take steps that help us to stay strong, grounded and resilient.
So how do we do that?  Well, that involves taking some time to shift our focus from what is happening in our “outer world” to focusing on what is happening in our “inner world.” Here are a few steps to start to make that shift.
1. Identify what you are feeling – be specific.  The term “feeling stressed” is really an umbrella term for a variety of feelings.  What exactly is it that you are feeling? Is it feeling overwhelmed, tired, disorganized, disconnected, unprepared, overstimulated, scared…?
Being able to name our feelings is powerful in two ways: (1) Believe it or not, just the act of naming our feelings reduces their intensity 1, which (2) gives us some mental bandwidth to make a choice about what we want to do about it 2.
2. Think about what specifically is causing you to feel this way.  If you are, say, overstimulated, is it because you are watching too much news and need to turn it off for a bit?  Or maybe you feel overwhelmed having to learn new technologies for work or just to be able to say hi to a loved one.  If you are tired, is it because you are not getting enough or have interrupted sleep?
If you are feeling disconnected, is it because you are used to being in the office and now you are working from home and feeling isolated?  I have noticed this week that I am feeling overstimulated and realize that it is because I now have my work email on my phone in addition to my personal email, and I am checking it constantly for updates.
3. Once we have identified what we are feeling and what is the source of those feelings, we can choose to do something about it.  We don’t have to be held hostage to our feelings. If you are feeling overstimulated, decide what will help you to feel calmer.  Is it turning off the TV and going for a walk outside? Is it spending some time alone reading a book, exercising or doing a meditation?  Is it taking a bath in glorious solitude? I am working to limit how often I look at my work emails, and it is helping.
If you are feeling disconnected or isolated, what will help you to lessen that?  Is it Face Timing with your best friend or coworkers you miss? Can you set up a standing virtual lunch meeting?
If you are afraid, what steps can you take to feel less afraid?  Get more information? Talk with a trusted mentor? Work to organize a plan of action?
I was listening to a podcast last week, and the guest said something to the effect, when the brain feels uncertain, do something certain.   It is important to DO SOMETHING.
Beware of the “Yes, But…” syndrome!
It is not a real syndrome, but it is something that many of us struggle with. Sometimes we already know what is causing our stress and what would help alleviate it, but we will not give ourselves permission to actually do it. We think things like, “Yes, I feel overstimulated and know I would feel better if I could just spend a little time alone, but my family needs me,” or “…I have to put in all these hours at work.”
Breaking news, the world will not end if you take some time to take care of yourself.  Those around you may actually thank you because you are more pleasant to be around😊
If you have children or staff who work for you, this is additionally important as you are setting an example of how to do this.  Especially our children…we show them by our actions how to handle things. We want them to know that it is okay for them to take care of their own well-being.
Lastly, I think we all need to cut ourselves some slack.  We are doing the best we can under trying times, and it is okay to feel whatever we are feeling.  So be kind to yourself (and those around you). You deserve it!
1 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070622090727.htm

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Kathleen Pickrel

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