3 Important Tips for Handling Stress Better

man on lake dock
Image by Patrizia08 at Pixabay

You’ve heard this countless times, in one form or another….

“Change is inevitable.
 “The only thing constant in life is change.”

But if “change” is such a fact of life, why do most of us resist it like the plague? Especially when life itself is really just a long series of transitions – aka “change?”

I remember as a kid, I couldn’t wait to be a teenager and drive a car. Then, I couldn’t wait to be out of high school and go to college. You probably have your own, “I can wait to be” things you looked forward to.

Other than these naturally-getting-older type changes, most of the changes we experience in life are from external events. And usually unexpected. Like this Coronavirus Pandemic we’re in.

No matter what kind of external event it is – positive (like a wedding or new baby) or negative (like a divorce or death of a loved one) – they all cause “stress.” Stress is simply our body (and mind) trying to regain a sense of balance or homeostasis. Or, as we frequently hear these days, trying to get back to “normal.”

The thing is, getting back in balance, or “back to normal” is a process that takes time. It generally happens in three phases: letting go, transition, and beginning anew.

The transition phase is often the hardest because when in transition, you find yourself in what William Bridges calls “the confusing nowhere of in-betweenness.”  A physical, mental, emotional place between letting go of the old, and the uncertainty of what is yet to come. (i.e., How long will this coronavirus go on? When will they figure out a vaccine? How much longer will we have to wear these masks?)

That’s where we all are now with the COVID-19 – 3-6 months into it (depending on where you start counting.) And it can be frustrating, annoying, and sometimes, just plain sucky!

So, when you feel your stress mounting, try these tips to make this prolonged time of uncertainty easier to handle:

Be patient.

With every external change that happens, there’s an internal transition as well. As you know, the external world of our lives can change in a moment’s notice. But our inner world requires more time to reorient to the change.  You can’t rush the internal process, just like you can’t rush the chrysalis stage that creates the butterfly. It takes time to internally adjust to the external changes of our life.

Don’t rush to act just to be doing something.

We’re not used to just sitting and waiting. And when everything feels as though it’s in a continuous upheaval, there can be a temptation to jump into action and ‘fix’ things or act as if things are “back to normal” before it’s completely safe. I believe this is part of what’s happening with the spring breakers flooding the beaches. And now with summer and all the rallies and business openings. And potentially with the upcoming 4th of July holiday.

Typically, this phase of the change process is a time of inertia, a time to slow down, reflect, and adjust so we can be ready for the next chapter of our lives – like the field that’s been planted but isn’t yet showing signs of growth.

Give yourself time to reflect. Keep a journal to write out your thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Practice mindfulness and allow your thoughts and emotions to come up without judgment. Breathe. Allow those internal seeds of change time to sprout.

Take care of yourself – physically and mentally.

Any change can bring up heightened anxiety and feelings of uncertainty. Take care of yourself during this time. Attend to the basics – eat healthy food, get plenty of sleep, exercise safely. And, most important, do things you enjoy doing that make you feel good. Read an inspirational book, take up a hobby, reconnect with an old friend.  And please! Keep wearing your mask and continue social distancing when you go outside. Keep washing your hands. Stay informed and follow the safety guidelines of the CDC and WHO experts.

“Change is inevitable, but personal growth is a choice.” – Bob Proctor

And remember, we’re all in this together. Everyone has been knocked out of balance in some way by COVID-19. Let’s help each other.

Be sure to watch your inbox for information on the new program I’m creating for this “in-between time.” Like-minded people coming together to learn, to grow, and to support each other.

“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” – Deepak Chopra

What changes will this phase bring for you?

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