It’s interesting how much the meaning of the word stress has changed over the past year.
In 2019, stress was rampant because everyone was putting too much on their plate and making their lives super complicated. People were committing to too many things, which meant they had way too much scheduled on their calendars (even double or triple booking themselves!). People were zipping here, there and everywhere, chasing more, more, more! For example, people were focused on activities such as:
- increasing their wealth by working a ton of hours
- traveling to & from work, picking up the kids from school and chauffeuring them to soccer, music lessons, etc.
- shopping at the mall, grocery store, etc.
- planning special birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc. gatherings.
If we’re honest, we were going all the time and when we weren’t, we tried to squeeze in all the other aspects of life (e.g., connecting with friend and family, exercise, laundry, paying bills, planning vacations).
In 2020, our worlds were turned upside down with COVID-19 and it is still unsettling. We became hyperaware of our health and the health of our loved ones. We no longer had jam-packed calendars that required us to be on the go 100% of the time.
Now, we’re working and gathering with friends & family remotely from home. Many of our children are doing some form of remote schooling. We now have time to do things, such as have dinner with our immediate family, clean out that closet we’ve meant to do forever and spend time outside with our pets.
Life became simpler! However, this BIG shift in our lives, brought a different type of stress. We were worried and stressed about such things as, how to:
- stay healthy
- help our extended family and friends – even though we couldn’t be with them physically
- effectively protect ourselves & loved ones from COVID-19
- make sure the most important aspects of our life are not negatively impacted by the pandemic (e.g., well-adjusted cheerful children, solid happy relationships with our significant others, successful careers, thriving local community)
It’s interesting to see some of the general causes of stress in 2019 vs. 2020/2021. In 2019, the stress seemed like it was prompted by the chaotic lives we were living, trying to jam more into our already over full lives, as we continued to strive for more. In 2020/2021, the stress seems to be coming from the intense uncertainty that hangs like a cloud over the simpler way many of us are now living.
Even though I imagine many people would disagree, stress, no matter where it comes from cannot be sustained for great lengths of time, without some repercussions. I know this first hand. When I finally left Corporate America, after years and years of intense stress, I ended up with sciatica so debilitating that I could barely move. I firmly believe this was my body’s way of letting me know it had held off the impact of the stress for way too long and now it needed concentrated attention. The pain and recovery I felt, is definitely not a situation I want to repeat!
So, what can you do to reduce your stress in today’s crazy times? Here are three simple, uncommon stress relievers:
Spend time playing or being with your pet
Did you know your pet is one of your biggest cheerleaders? He or she only wants to help you be the best version of yourself! Sometimes you may think they cause you more stress and that’s really because they’re trying to get you to pay attention to what they are trying to teach you! As a Soul Level Animal Communicator®, it is heart-warming to hear the simple ways the animals are here to support and teach their owners what’s most important in life (e.g., unconditional love, patience, boundaries)! Spending a little time each day, sitting with your pet or playing with him/her can bring your stress level down. Believe it or not, doing this for a short 5 minutes, once or twice a day can have big impact!
Spend time in nature (even on really cold days)
Being out in nature has an almost magical way of reducing your stress. Taking a short, brisk walk can really clear your head and start to put things in perspective! Even standing outside your door and taking 3 to 5 deep breaths can reduce your stress. When you’re outside, notice all the sights, sounds, smells, etc. Paying close attention to these senses can also help to shift your focus, which can play a big role in stress reduction!
Block time during the week in your schedule for fun
If you’re like most people right now, you are craving fun. However, our definition of fun may have recently shifted (like most things!). What is something fun you like to do and don’t usually give yourself permission to do? Perhaps it is to:
- call a good friend and have a fun gab session,
- have 15-minutes to read a book
- go through an online course to learn to play an instrument or speak a new language
- play a game with your family.
Once you figure out something fun you want to do, block at least one chunk of time on your calendar per week for this fun thing! A couple things will happen when you do this. First, you now have something fun to look forward to each week. The second thing is you will actually be doing something you enjoy. As you focus on the fun, your stress will reduce automatically!
Stress will always be part of our lives. Some stress can be good stress and help keep us motivated and moving forward. It’s when the stress gets out of control that we feel either like we’re a hamster on a wheel that just keeps going and going all the time, or it can stop us in our tracks completely, so we don’t feel we can move another step.
Being aware of how stress affects you and what works best to reduce your stress will keep you healthy, productive and enjoying your life! That’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it?!