Take control of stress

Navigate the remainder of 2020 with more balance and peace.

I do not know anyone who has not struggled in some way, at some point this year.  While life is always moving fast, and changes are inevitable, 2020 has clearly presented us all with unprecedented change, and stress.  The moments and events that resulted in stress or challenges for each of us may not be exactly the same, but the impact to us all is amazingly similar.  Stress and worry are negative emotions that are permeating so many of our lives right now.

The impact of extended and severe stress can have significant physical and emotional implications.  We can struggle to be the best version of ourselves because we do not feel well, and daily life can begin to feel overwhelming.  But let’s take a breath, and recognize we may have more control over stress than we think. With some focused effort we can regain control and move towards becoming the best version of ourselves once again.

Stress is often associated solely with an emotional state or how we are feeling emotionally…

“I’m so stressed.”

“I can’t think well right now because I’m feeling stressed.”

While this is one way stress can impact us, it can also have a physical effect.  When we experience a stressful situation our bodies can go into a “fight or flight” mode.  We are wired this way to help ensure survival.  Stressful situations can require heightened action, and our bodies react accordingly.  This can be a positive change for the short term, it can allow us to perform at optimal levels mentally and/or physically to achieve success or survival.  Increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol are released within our body.

The adrenaline increases our heart rate, and cortisol curbs non-essential (for the short term) functions such as our immune and digestive systems. This allows our reactions to become quicker and our physical performance to be enhanced.  Imagine driving on the highway and a car swerves in front of you, you must react quickly for survival and your body reacts accordingly to give you the best chance of doing so.  In the short term, when optimal performance is needed, stress can impact us positively.  However, we are not made to sustain long term levels of stress. The impacts to our body and emotions can have lasting effects.

If stress continues unmanaged for long periods, the increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol can leave us feeling unwell, physically and mentally.  Remember, cortisol is curbing some body functions such as our immune system and digestive system.  Maybe it makes sense now why we get sick more easily or have an upset stomach or headaches.  The adrenaline is coursing through our bodies at unusually high levels.  Maybe that could explain our difficulty sleeping, or our inability to relax, or think clearly.  Managing stress is essential to ensure we can feel our best, and be our best.

It’s been a tough year. We can choose to continue feeling overwhelmed, worried, and unwell, or we can take control of what we can, and navigate much more effectively through all the challenges.  We can find more balance and peace in our daily lives.  Stress will not disappear, challenges will not magically go away, but we can show up as the best version of ourselves to face it all, and feel a lot better doing so.

Tips for managing stress

  • Make a list of things you are worried about.  Break those items into two columns:
    1. Things I can control    2. Things I cannot control.

Spend your time and energy on column 1 items.  When we focus on things that are worrying us that we have no control over, the stress cycle can continue and grow.  Focusing on things we can control and impact is productive and proactive.

Example:  I am worried about if my son’s school will re-open or not.  I cannot control that.  If I ruminate on that concern, my time and energy is not being spent in an area that will have any positive results.  Conversely, something I can control on that topic is planning and arranging for options if his school does not open.  I am putting my time and energy in a proactive place, and solving for something I can impact.

  • Tune into your thoughts.  If you are having negative or worrisome thoughts, you will often feel it in your body and emotions.  Change your thoughts and you can change your stress level.

Example: I have been searching for a job for months and have not found one yet. I could be thinking “it’s hopeless, I am never going to get a job”. That thought could be raising my stress level.  My muscles are tense, I am not sleeping well, and I am really irritable, none of which is normal for me. This can impact how effectively I am managing my job search and I show up in interviews. If I can identify that this thought is in my mind, I can choose to reframe it.  “It is tough to get a job right now, but I have a solid background and a lot of marketable skills.  What else can I do to improve my chances of finding a job?  What options do I have that I might not have considered yet?” Shifting your thoughts can shift your mood and focus.

  • Spend time with people who remain positive (proactive) and forward focused
  • Do not get buried in news and social media posts that result in negative thoughts and energy. We need to stay informed, but we do not need to be attached to the 24/7 news and opinion cycle if it is resulting in added stress, concern or frustration
  • Be grateful.  Write down things you are grateful for. These can be very simple things.
    “I am grateful for this day.”
    “I am grateful for my dog who greets me with unconditional love.”
    “I am grateful for my morning cup of coffee.” An attitude of gratitude can be life changing.
  • Focus on helping/serving others
  • Exercise – even a quick walk outside can have significant benefits
  • Eat well. Focus on a healthy/balanced diet.
  • Be attentive to your sleep schedule and routine
  • Keep your sense of humor
  • Spiritual focus (whatever this means for you) – mediate, pray, read, whatever brings you peace and balance
  • Show yourself some grace. We will all stumble, the important part is what we do next. Keep moving forward and do not stay focused on the stumble.
  • Ask for help when you need it

If you want tomorrow to feel different than today, challenge yourself to commit to one or two things that could change how you feel and how you approach things.  It is very easy to justify why we don’t make any changes:

“There is no way I can find more time for sleep.”
“I only wish I could get out for a 10 minute walk.”
“As if my own thoughts are causing some of my stress.”

At the end of the day this about the choices we make and priorities we focus on.  If we do not make any changes, it is guaranteed nothing will change.

Linda Lafortune

Linda Lafortune

Linda is the Director of Learning & Client Support at CUInsight.  She has an extensive background in the credit union industry having worked in both large and small credit unions, in ... Web: https://www.cuinsight.com Details