With all of the very recent and rapid changes that have occurred many people have experienced an increase in stress and anxiety. Many of us had to make quick changes to plans and were forced to adjust to situations that are were far from stress free.
We know that stress and anxiety impacts our health and wellness in the long term. It leaves us feeling reactive, uneasy and can result in issues with sleep, focus, and our mental health just to name a few.
So, what can we do about this stress and anxiety?
It’s okay to not be okay
Anxiety and stress is a normal response when situations occur that cause unforeseen shifts and changes in our life. Everyone will be impacted and respond differently, and some people may have a harder time coping than others.
Though it is much easier said than done we have to accept that things will happen in life that are outside of our control. Consciously acknowledging this can make it easier and more effective when implementing new tools and lifestyle techniques.
When we are okay with being not being okay it also makes it easier for us to connect with those around us who are also feeling the same. Sharing concerns and being able to discuss things with our friends, family and loved ones allows us to feel supported, which is crucial when it comes to coping with stress and anxiety.
Focus on your health basics
Don’t forget about the basics of sleep, movement and nutrition. These few things often fall to side when life gets busy and overwhelming. But we all know how important these basics are when it comes to our overall health, wellness and resilience.
Start in with small steps, do not further stress yourself out by trying to change and start everything in one day. If you know that regular exercise and movement is what makes you feel good, start there – start by bringing in an achievable amount of movement each day. For some that may be only 5-10 minutes – and that is okay! Others might start with cooking a healthy meal, meditation, reading, or going to bed earlier. The first step will be different for everyone but it is important to make each step attainable and not overwhelming.
Many people find it challenging to sleep in times of anxiety and stress. Implementing a calming bedtime routine and good sleep hygiene is a good first step to address this. Good sleep hygiene includes: no electronics before bed, a dark & quiet room (use an eye mask and ear plugs if needed), avoiding stimulants (like caffeine and sugar) to close to bedtime, and having a consistent bed time. A bedtime routine needs to be consistent and the same each night, it is a nudge to your system that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep. If you need more support when it comes to sleep and you are experiencing issues with falling and/or staying asleep I encourage you to reach out to a health care provider to determine what other treatments may help you.
Routine & Structure
In a time where it feels like everything is out of our control it is important to realize that there is always something you can control.
If your daily schedule has been thrown for a loop try creating a new routine. Keeping up with some sort of routine and structure to life helps to cope. Even if the routine looks different than our ideal, it helpful to have an idea of what we want to do each day. Remember to include self-care activities such as movement, healthy meals, and connection with others.
When our routines are shifted we need to remember to keep in place the tools that we have already implemented that help us. Continue to engage in activities that were a part of your routine that supported you (like medications, supplements and habits such as meditation & journaling).
Meditation & Mindfulness
The benefits of meditation & mindfulness when it comes to stress and anxiety are well known and have been well researched. The challenge comes because people feel like they don’t have time or they have tried it and think they “failed”.
Whenever trying some thing new we need to keep our expectations realistic. You not expect to go out for your first run and successfully run a marathon – so why do we expect this from our brains? Start small and use the tools available. There are many apps and resources that will help guide you through.
When nothing seems to help
Stress and anxiety can be a struggle for anyone, and there are a variety of tools that can be used to help support you. And sometimes there can be other issues preventing you from coping and managing as you usually would (such as nutritional deficiencies and hormone imbalance). If you are having troubles coping and/or feel like something else is wrong I encourage you to reach out for support.
Dr. Brittany Schamerhorn, ND
Balance Medical Center