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5 Strategies to fight off stress, anxiety and growing irritation during the current Coronavirus pandemic

Stay calm and fight off stress, anxiety, and irritation during Coronavirus quarantine

Or… “how to not go off on the people you love and stay calm when you are in quarantine together”

Between the stress, anxiety and uncertainty the coronavirus (Covid-19) has brought to everyone’s life and the added strain of working from home, self-isolating or self-distancing, it can be a struggle to stay patient and calm with our loved ones at home. It’s easy to slide into a permanent state of irritation and moodiness, particularly when the days stretch on and on. Even with the best of intentions, quarantine doesn’t always bring out the best in us. Nerves can get frazzled and tempers can grow shorter, no matter what our normal temperament’s baseline is.

But even in a crisis, we have control over some things. Namely, we can control our emotional state and we can work to show up as the best “self”, “parent” or “spouse” we can. Here are my top 5 tips to show up as the “best you.”

First, the obvious: Make sure you feel good physically. 

Some basic self-care will go a long way to control your emotional state. Make sure you get an adequate amount of sleep (that’s not optional – there is no substitute for sleep), fuel your body a wide variety of nutrients-rich foods (code word for increase your intake of fruits and vegetables both in number and amount to ensure you get both the macros and micronutrients your body needs to feel its best) and get a minimum amount of exercise to keep your immune system humming normally (try to do an hour per day of moderate intensity exercise –it will boost your mood and your immune system).

Beyond the basics, here are some tips to help you keep your patience and wrangle in your temper in the days ahead.

 1- Stand at the gates of your mind

Know yourself and use the strategies that works for you.  For some people, reading about the coronavirus and Covid-19 brings them a sense of knowledge they find reassuring or comforting. Knowing is better than not knowing. But for others, consuming this information only adds to their anxiety and overwhelm. Be honest with yourself and determine how much information you need. One strategy is to limit yourself to this type of news to once a day in the morning for instance. 

Another very powerful strategy is to be very selective as to where you get your information from. Social media and traditional news channels are not always the most credible source. Get your information from the most direct, neutral sources you can. The World Health Organization, the CDC or Johns Hopkins can provide you the facts you need without editorializing or promoting a political agenda.

Ultimately, for most of us, no matter how much we might crave information, “standing at the gates of our mind” means periodically taking a break from the barrage of news so we can detach and recharge.

 2- Don’t reinvent the wheel

Although this crisis is unprecedented, this is not the first time you have experienced stress. Trying out new coping strategies in the midst of turmoil can be daunting, so double down on the strategies that have worked for you in the past. 

If you know going on a run or working out has a calming effect on you (and it’s feasible), fit in a few extra sessions throughout your week to burn off some of that excess nervous energy. If meditating has been effective in the past, be more diligent at fitting meditation and mindfulness sessions into your daily routine. Keep your CEO Morning Routine to stay focused on your business and finding opportunities.

For some, getting up before everyone else in the house and doing something for yourself to stay centered is a very effective strategy. Whether it’s making yourself a cup of coffee and getting a little bit of alone time to center yourself, getting some fresh air and sunlight before the busyness of the day starts, or spending that time journalling or writing down what your goals are for the day, taking a little time for yourself first thing in the morning can make a big difference in how you approach the rest of your day. 

 3- Use a pattern interrupt to stop yourself from losing it in the heat of the moment. 

When you feel the growing irritation and you feel yourself getting angry, use a pattern interrupt to delay your response to the person you want to address.

One of the most effective way to do that is to do a self check of your emotions. Are you actually angry about the situation? Is something your spouse or children doing truly driving you crazy because it’s going against one of your internal rules? Or are you displacing tension you feel about something else and placing it on this situation. Taking a minute to stop and do this self-checkin of your emotions, forces you to step back from your immediate response and analyze what is really going on. It might be that you are ytuly annoyed about what is going on, or you may find that frustration has been building up inside of you all day and it’s not at all about your loved ones’ behavior. Regardless, taking stock of where you are in your head, gives you a chance to delay your response so that when you do respond it is more intentional and less reactionary.

At times, interrupting the pattern might mean stopping yourself short by focusing on gratitude or using humor to relieve the tension.  It might not be your instinctive response, but just like a muscle, it’s a skill that can be learned and practiced until it can become your default response which will buy you time until you can think it through.

For instance, before you go off on your 10 year old for barging into your conference call, take a deep breath (from your belly) — and a few seconds– to direct your mind to notice what is good around you. Mentally list what you are grateful for in that moment. What is good about this? What is funny about this? Relax your face, breathe and reframe your thinking. 

If you can feel the anger, frustration or irritation still lying underneath the surface, start a conversation with someone about an unrelated topic, or make a phone call to someone who matters to you. By forcing your mind to change gears and your body to adopt a softer demeanor, you will give yourself a fighting chance to regain control and perspective about the situation. 

Delay your reaction and response to frustration. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Instead of giving your kids a Time Out, give yourself a Time Out to regain control when your patience runs thin. 

4- Take action

Part of the growing restlessness and irritability that comes with being under stress for prolonged periods of time is that our bodies are designed to respond to stress by producing chemicals to reduce pain and prompt action. It makes sense from an evolutionary background, faced with a bear, the rush of adrenaline to escape immediate danger is a good thing. But that same physical response doesn’t serve us very well when we are under chronic stress and perpetually stuck in close quarters with our loved ones. 

Instead of fighting the biological urge to do something and respond, go with it and take action. In the moment that might mean finding the most immediate solution and removing the current stressor like closing (and locking) the door so you can focus on your call and delay addressing your child. Or it can mean harnessing your emotions and frustration, and focusing them on something you have control over like making an action plan for your business, or starting on a home project. 

 5- Cultivate an attitude of compassion and gratitude 

If you do lose your cool, remember that compassion towards yourself is just as important as showing compassions to those around you. Recognize you let your emotions get the best of you, take responsibility for your words and actions, own the shame and guilt that comes with disappointing yourself and hurting the people you love, recommit to showing up better, and give yourself some grace. 

These are trying times and often it’s the little things that set us off. It’s the child who leaves the lights on, it’s the spouse that takes the last drop of coffee or the dog that barks during a conference call. Allow for some irritability and emotionalism both in yourself and those who share space with you. Recognize that everyone under your roof is adjusting to a new situation and it’s natural for your 5 year old to want you to play with him in the middle of the day for instance. Afterall, until recently, your being home meant you were “off” and available to read a book or play. Practicing compassion and empathy each day can help you keep in mind that your loved ones are doing what they’re doing because they are trying to meet their needs, and not intentionally trying to irritate you or stop you from doing what needs to be done. 

It’s easier to let things go with a few simple words, “please forgive me, I didn’t mean to…” accompanied by a short phrase of why you were stressed. Kids forgive and forget so easily, take it easy on yourself too.

Over the longer term, focusing on something other than your own life, whether it be volunteering or helping neighbors for instance, can also help you harness that excess tension and use it to make a difference for your community. 

Helping others can give you an outlet and be an effective antidote to the feelings of powerlessness or frustration you might experience in the face of this pandemic. It can provide you with a sense of higher purpose from which you can draw strength and perspective when the crisis drags on. And it can be a powerful  “compared to what” that keeps you centered on what matters. 

When anger and frustration strike, remember the effective strategies and coping tools you have used in the past. Bring them to life again, adjust where you need and add any new ones to fill in the gaps. 

5 Strategies To Deal With Holiday Stress

 

It’s starting already… there are Holiday decorations at the local stores!!! Fall is here and the change of seasons marks the beginning of a four month stretch of holidays and stress. Here are five solid tips on reducing your stress between Halloween and New Year’s.

 

1- Get Solid Sleep in Terms of Quantity & Quality

Your body needs proper sleep so that it can rejuvenate itself every night. Since a normal sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, keep your sleep in 90 minute intervals (6, 7.5 or 9 hours) so you can wake more refreshed every day.

Almost as important, give yourself a consistent bedtime. Your body has a natural rhythm. The more consistent you are at going to bed, the more rested you will be.

If falling asleep is an issue for you, there are other steps you can take to help. Beyond the obvious advice to avoid caffeine 4 to 6 hrs before bedtime, create a sleep routine for yourself, and give yourself some quiet time 20-30 minutes before bed. What you focus on during that time is what you will unconsciously think of all night. Similarly, don’t eat a large, heavy meal before bed and keep your bedroom relatively cool and well ventilated. On the nutrition side, you might want to try to have a light snack with protein (a glass of milk, sliced turkey on a rice cake) or a cup of chamomile tea to induce sleep.

 

2- Always take the healthiest eating choice

Stay away from telling yourself, “I can’t have that sweet,” it creates scarcity. An easier way to handle all of the treats, desserts, and drinks is to always take the healthiest choice. Instead of the double layer chocolate cake, take the chocolate chip cookie. Watch out for too much caffeine and sugars.

Keep your sanity and don’t diet during the holidays. Make it your goal to stay the same weight! There are so many treats, desserts, parties, and temptations. Eat and drink in moderation. Incidentally, there is a connection between overeating and being tired, so make sure you do get enough sleep, it’ll help you be in the frame of mind to make better choices.

 

3- Find a way to exercise, no excuses

Not only will it help you burn those extra calories you are bound to take in, but the body is made to move so we can feel better. Look for a way to physically move every day. You can find a 4-minute workout on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXy3NjHtBSc&NR=1 It will boost your metabolism and help you feel better. Remember, where there is a will, there is a way. If you don’t make time for your body, your body will make you make time for it, in the way of colds, flu, and no energy.

 

4- Give yourself a Time-Out

Take a yoga class, learn to meditate, or put on that relaxing music for 5 minutes. When things get too crazy give yourself a time-out. There are many ways to do it. For some, taking a breather could mean taking a 15 minute walk around the block, giving yourself permission to sit and watch a specific TV show, or sneaking in 5-minutes of quiet time in your car in the parking lot. For others, it could mean making the commitment to “unplug” from all electronics for a night each week.

 

5- Plan ahead but stay flexible

Schedule your sleep, exercise, and time-outs for the next four months in your calendar right now, and make the commitment to stick to them. But, when things start to go crazy-busy, stay flexible in prioritizing the day. Don’t just let the scheduled de- stress time disappear. Immediately reschedule it. Stay proactive and flexible.

If you start feeling overwhelmed, “brain dump” everything that you need to do on a piece of paper and put a “label” on each line item. Decide if it’s “important and urgent”, “important but not urgent”, “urgent but not important” or “not urgent and not important”.

Classifying your to-dos, will help you decide what needs to be tackled right away or left on the schedule, and what can be pushed back or eliminated entirely.

 

The whole period around the holidays can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be something you dread. Stress is best managed by being proactive. It’s often a response to overwhelm and a general sense of lack of control –too many things coming at you and too little time to complete them.

So choose to take back that control and manage the holiday stress by being proactive in your planning and setting yourself up with the coping skills you need to enjoy the holiday season.

 

For more tips and strategies about increasing your motivation and personal effectiveness, boosting your self-confidence and developing a clearer focus go to http://www.evolutionforsuccess.com. James Murphy is a personal development expert and executive coach. He can be reached directly at 919-745-7569.

As Featured On EzineArticles

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