We all have challenges with stress, to varying degrees. Though many of us work long hours, they are still able to be effective at work and be present at home with their families. By “present” I mean not just physically there, but also mentally and emotionally engaged. But there are many who have challenges with managing stress and become overwhelmed, turn to alcohol, isolate, get angry easily, become depressed or severely anxious. Having balance in our lives can help.
What Do I Mean By Achieving Balance?
If we have balance in our lives, we are more likely to better manage our emotions. This is especially true during a crisis, such as now with COVID-19. Achieving balance in this climate is finding a middle ground that we are comfortable with that gives us the information we need while keeping our emotions managed.
It is understandable for all of us to be glued to a computer screen, smart phone, or television getting updates on every- thing from social distancing to school closures. The government rolling out changes slowly has the benefit of allowing us time to adjust to the new restrictions. However, it also has the disadvantage of causing uncertainty of “what’ll be next” and the anxiety that accompanies “fear of the unknown.” These can lead our mind to move in the direction of “worst case scenario.”
Sadly this can also lead to significant mental health pressures. Instead of going down the rabbit hole, it is possible to develop a healthy alternative structure in managing how to have a balanced view of the world around us.
A Specific Example of Achieving Balance
At the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, many people I have spoken with were checking the news all day long, reading multiple articles from many news sources, watching long press conferences, and more. Their stress level increased every day and it took some time to dees- calate themselves before getting back to what they were doing before checking in. They knew there was something wrong and had to change their behavior. But, to be a responsible family member, friend, and professional, they still needed to be updated on changes in the situation. You can develop and put in place an alternative plan. This may not work for everyone, but illustrates the concept of achieving balance.
Check the news once in the morning and once in the evening. When checking, limit your intake to reading one article and a number of headlines of the main themes of the day. Unless necessary or if you feel it would provide you or the person you are speaking with support, limit how much you initiate conversations with others about COVID-19. With this structure, your stress level can be reduced as you are protecting your mind from the constant bombardment of tragic news. This can lead you to be more likely to be present at home and effective in your practice.
Managing Expectations: A Transferable Skill
Managing expectations is one of the most important life skills. This is espe- cially true during this time of COVID-19 when stress and anxiety are elevated. It is a transferable skill throughout all areas of our lives.
In general, when we are emotional and try to communicate, the content of what we are saying to the other person can sometimes be lost because of the emotional tone we are using. If we do not consider and anticipate what will happen, we will likely be surprised. This can increase stress and anxiety.
We can take the time to think things through when we are calm and develop the best way to present our concerns prior to the conversation. Then anticipate the response and prepare for what we will say. The more we manage our expectations, the better we can have these difficult discussions, convey our thoughts rationally, and have better outcomes. We need to do our best to be governed by our “rational mind,” instead of our “emotional mind.” Even when dealing with a difficult or toxic coworker which brings negative emotions to the surface of our mind and usually can possibly impair our judgement and cause us to be less effective, we can think rationally and be successful in the encounter.
These skills are transferable in that they can apply to other areas of our lives. One example is when we need to have a difficult discussion with our significant other or friend.
Do the best you can to practice self care and wellness. This includes achieving balance and managing your expectations. Take the time to evaluate what is causing stress and anxiety, think critically about possible solutions, implement the solutions, and if necessary modify them over time. It is possible to maintain good mental health and wellness even in the face of a crisis. You can do it.