Mental health is indeed a state of mind and nothing presents greater day-to-day impact on one’s state of mind than stress. Stress can be both healthy and unhealthy, driving you to complete tasks or face challenges on one hand while stirring up mind-numbing fear and anxiety on the other.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month which gives us a cue for this topic in general and more explicitly how to manage or reduce unhealthy stress in trying times such as those we are experiencing now.
Among the typical producers of this kind of stress when you are separated and isolated from people and previous life events are:
- Anxiety and worry … not knowing what lies ahead or what dangers lurk outside your door
- Constant exposure to bad news… feeling overwhelmed by disease and death that engender fear and mistrust of all outsiders
- Unaccustomed loneliness … a stressor when by yourself or with immediate family members for most of every day
- Loss of income, investments or retirement savings… dreading what might befall you if circumstances continue to worsen, perhaps radically changing the course of your life
- Concerns about the negative impact on your health and that of your family… ensuring that exercise, healthy meals and restful sleep are included in your daily regimen
- Assuming roles usually provided by others… teaching school lessons or learning incentives when children can no longer go to school or rely on remote learning with your supervision
Those are just a few of the stressors typically being experienced by those sheltering or severely restricted in exposure to the outside world. There are fundamental steps you can take to help manage stress for you and those sheltering with you.
For starters, it will get confusing and frustrating if you allow your circumstances to control you. Consider some of the following stress-reducers:
- Get organized: Get everyone on a schedule so they know what to expect at a given time or given day. That includes meals and bedtime, but even Zoom sessions with friends and family. That puts you in control and makes life seem almost normal again.
- Keep up with the news and stay informed, but a constant diet of bad news from the television or computer from dawn to dusk can be draining. Children are particularly affected, and it will heighten everyone’s anxiety.
- Schedule times to listen to music or watch movies and television programs that help everyone forget the dangers around them.
- If possible, everyone should have his or her own personal time and space if living accommodations allow.
- Find something you can all do together that everyone enjoys, whether sing-alongs, family games, putting on plays or working together in lawn or garden.
- Address issues among family members, no matter how petty they seem at the time, before they fester and get out of control.
If you can no longer do the normal things that were once a part of your life, make the life you have seem normal.