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Eight strategies to manage stress and emotions

During these challenging times, we are all seeking ways to manage stress and emotions.

Here are eight strategies from Dr. Gary Morse, Places for People Vice President of Research and Development, that have been adapted from prior work on staff burnout prevention and wellness projects that may be useful for staying healthy during this challenging time:

  • Awareness. Be aware not only of the environmental situation around (e.g., presence of people coughing), but also of your own inner feelings, which may include at times feelings of stress or anxiety.
  • Acceptance. Although it can be challenging to do so, our well-being improves when we are not only aware of but also accept the current realities. Acceptance includes the current state of the pandemic and its social repercussions and also of our current emotional states, such as perhaps feeling anxious or stressed. Sometimes simple phrases can help us with acceptance, such as “It is what it is,” and also, for some, spiritual perspectives are calming, such “Turning it over to a higher power,” or “Let go and let God.” Also, we can better accept the current realities when we remember that many things are transitory: this pandemic, and any negative emotions, will pass and improve with time.
  • Control. Although we cannot control some things, we do feel better when we have control over those matters we can affect. To this extent, we can exert control by practicing good healthy habits (e.g., hand washing, social distancing) and also by practicing stress management coping skills, such as the ones in this list.
  • Limit exposure. We can also improve our emotional state by controlling what we watch. In particular, it is helpful to be informed about the current health and social conditions, but there is so much media coverage, we can also get overwhelmed by watching news reports. Stay informed but limit your exposure.
  • Rest and relaxation. Now is a time when we may need more rest and relaxation. R&R self-care includes things like getting enough sleep, having “down time,” eating well, exercise (okay, the gym may be closed, but there are still things you can do at home on your own or through the internet or to DVDs). We can also practice stress managing coping skills, like deep breathing, mindfulness, and meditation. Staff also need to be careful not to over-work during an extended crisis; schedule time off with your supervisor as needed.
  • Connection. While we want to practice social distancing to reduce the chance of infection, we want to make sure we are staying connected for social support. In addition to making time for household members, now is a good time to reach out to friends and family through electronic means, such as telephones, email, Skype, etc. Remember that social support is not only important for our own emotional and physical well-being but also good for other people as well. Practicing compassion and kindness toward others is also beneficial, both for other people and for your own well-being. In addition to natural social support, use the support of your supervisors and EAP and mental health professionals as needed.
  • Joy and fun. Although some of our normal options are now closed (e.g. restaurants, theaters, concerts) it is especially important to proactively and mindfully look for opportunities for fun and joy. While certain enjoyable activities are currently not possible, think about simple, everyday pleasures and fun activities that you can still enjoy (e.g., from playing with your pet dog to board games with household members to listening to music to watching an internet or TV movie to preparing a favorite meal at home, to walking or hiking in nature).
  • Gratitude. It is easy to fall into a negative mood during stressful times and to focus on what is wrong instead of what is right. Our happiness and well-being are enhanced when we consciously remind ourselves and take a moment to consider or even write down three things for which we are grateful. These can range from large matters, like having a job, to specific, everyday events, like seeing salmon-colored clouds at sunset or witnessing the laughter of your child.