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Most of us have experienced higher levels of stress than ever before. Many don’t understand whether the levels of stress experienced are normal and we question whether all stress is bad or if we should learn to live with it. Educating yourself about various mental health topics like stress, burnout and anxiety will help you approach your life with a clear mind.

One thing COVID has brought us is an abundance of stress. We’ve all been feeling under pressure as we’ve adapted to new lifestyles, new routines and plenty of change. At its most basic level, stress is a response to change – and that change can be positive or negative.

Some stress can be a good thing. When you walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, for example, you “stress” your leg muscles – and when they recover, they will be a little stronger.

Within a normal range, struggling and successfully learning how to cope helps us get a little stronger. It makes us more resilient. In fact, humans don’t tend to do very well in stress-free environments. We get bored. We don’t develop or get stronger. Of course, the opposite is also true too. More stress doesn’t necessarily make you stronger. Too much stress for too long and things start to fall apart.

Know your warning signs  

Reactions to stressors will vary by personal factors (e.g., levels of resiliency, supports or your general worry style), by time and duration of the stressor and by many other factors. Most people are familiar with feeling the physical symptoms of stress, but stress can also be experienced in the following ways: 

Cognitive (thinking)
  • Trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Constant worrying
  • Difficulty in making decisions
Emotional
  • Anxiety, irritability or depression
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Inability to relax or restlessness
Physical symptoms
  • Muscle tension, pain or aches
  • Easily fatigued, low energy
  • Agitation
Behavioural
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Difficulty completing tasks

Reference: www.camh.ca -Mental Illness & Addiction -Stress

Recognize what your normal is when it comes to stress so you don’t reach the burnout phase. Learning to manage stress is key to preventing us from experiencing major impairment.  

ENGLISH MHW BUBBLE-6

When you manage your stress levels, use the 3 Rs of Stress Management

There are no real secrets when it comes to dealing with stress. In fact, maintaining a commitment to mental fitness is much like one to better physical fitness. Here are some tips you can use to manage your stress, but remember that different tools work for different people:

  • Make a long-term, value-based commitment to your mental health.
    No one can do it for you, and you’re worth it.
  • Set reasonable and reachable goals.
    Fifty years of stress management research tells us that building resiliency is a long-term project. You get there slowly by building one coping skill and one good habit at a time.
  • Make a social commitment.
    Declare your commitment to wellness. Let people know that you’re working on mental fitness and why – and see if you can help them feel a little better too.
  • Build your toolbox of stress management skills and mix it up.
    It’s okay to cycle through techniques – maybe that’s relaxation, mindfulness, gratitude or any other exercise – to keep it fresh. Build this toolkit and learn how to use each tool for various stressors.

How do we build resiliency?  

Find time to reflect on how you have responded to the challenges of COVID-19 at home, at work, in your relationships, with your self-care and physical health. 

  • Are you better at acknowledging your feelings? 
  • Are you adapting more than you believed you could? 
  • Can you connect to others in new ways? 
  • Have you reset expectations for yourself or others? 
  • Have you experienced moments of humour and positivity? 

Plan ahead for good mental health

  • Know your warning signs
  • Identify high-risk situations
  • Prepare your action plan
  • Take action 

Remember, good mental fitness is like good physical fitness: You can’t possibly do it all at once. Pick one stress management skill to work on, such as meditating once a day or finding time to read a book, and try it for a while. Take the time to set reasonable and reachable goals and work towards them in small steps. You might be surprised how far you can go.

Other resources

Words of Wisdom

HubSpot Video