Life is rough. Now, more so than ever. From sickness and injustice to finances and families. It’s absolutely overwhelming! Our sense of time is out of whack too! Blursday blends into Caturday with barely any distinction. Do Monday’s even really exist?
First and foremost I want you to know…
you are not alone!!!
Second, if you are overwhelmed RIGHT NOW you can text HOME to 741741 (US and Canada) to connect 24/7 to a Crisis Counselor for FREE.
Absolutely everyone is going through at least something. Most are having to deal with more than one worry. 1 in 4 adults were dealing with some mental disorder to begin with, before the insanity even began. Know this also, just because someone may have it worse than you does not mean your troubles aren’t worth concern. You. Are. VALID.
What is this stress? Where is it coming from? What can you do about it? Hang on to your hats because we’ll cover all this and more.
What is stress?
To begin, stress is defined as the body’s physical or mental reaction to any change, demand, or threat. Crucial to note though, what is majorly stressful for one person may only be a minor stress for another. Making phone calls can freak out one person while it’s no big deal to someone else. Not all stress is created equal either. The stress of trying to win an intense game of chess is nowhere near as harsh as losing a loved one. However, that doesn’t make it any less important. Those “minor” stressors can add up quickly and be just as debilitating if not addressed.
Where is stress coming from?
Short answer: EVERYWHERE!!
Longer answer: Concerns regarding the virus, racial injustices, politics, infighting within families, lack of sleep, underlying health issues being exasperated, weight gain (or loss), financial instability, job losses, and more! There are just so many things causing us stress right now.
I was given permission to share this personal story of one individual’s journey through quarantine up to the day of posting this blog.
“March 13, 2020, I went home from work knowing my company would be closed for at least couple weeks. Little did I know, that Friday the 13th would be the last normal day I would have for months. Schools around me had started shutting down a couple days prior, I was happy I was going to be able spend time with the kids. I was also pretty darn excited about catching up on some books I’ve been wanting to read but hadn’t had the time. It was going to be great!
First two weeks, pretty smooth sailing. I found new shows to stream. Got a handful of books under my belt. Hung out with kids, partner, and pets. It felt okay, even if I had to stay indoors. See, I’m immuno-compromised, so my other half took over the going to get groceries and run errands. I wasn’t leaving the yard. The schools started assigning busy work for the kids, but nothing was going to be graded. It was a bit overwhelming but mostly manageable. Next, my huggy self started getting touch starved. My family is wonderful, but could only do so much, and try to help they certainly did. I decided now would be a good time to use up some of my collected postcards, writing and reaching out to friends, some of which I don’t speak to as often as I’d like.
Then, cabin fever started setting in. I was anxious constantly (coming from someone with anxiety and depression before this all started.) Three meals a day were no longer a thing. Time felt meaningless. There were days when I realized that it was 9pm and had yet to eat anything that day. I also found myself awake till the wee hours and not being able to make up the sleep lost. I was constantly on the edge of exhaustion and wanting to cry. Reaching out to a couple friends helped. Video chatting was better than nothing and helped alleviate some of the loneliness and desperation. Work figured out a way for us to telework which was both a relief and a source of anxiety in and of itself. Hooray for getting back to doing what I love! The scary part was how difficult I was finding it to concentrate at home.
By the end of April, I was spiraling pretty badly. I started falling behind on my work assignments. I no longer had the energy to pick up a book to read. My eyes started glazing over trying to read anything longer than a few sentences. Me? Not being able to focus to read? Unimaginable!! I sometimes paced around into a frenzied panic attack, not know what to do with myself. I increased the frequency of which I was seeing my therapist, from every 2-3 weeks (the past 9mo or so) to every week. Life felt… paralyzing. What am I doing? Does anything matter? Anything outside of our house didn’t feel real. The house/yard was my zoo cage and I the listless animal. Postcards finally finished though!
May has arrived and there’s no clear end in sight. Will I be home forever? Will I mentally survive without interacting with people outside my home? I was skeptical and pretty despondent. My therapist telling me that I wasn’t alone in how I was feeling and my friends reaching out seemed to be the only uplifting things. My partner and I were getting into petty fights with each other. Kids’ schoolwork started getting confusing, trying to organize what is graded and what wasn’t. Adorable pet antics shifted into annoying. Even the smallest bits of work became ominous in my brain. I fell further behind in my assignments but kept in touch with supervisors.
A breakthrough begins. My therapist asked where I felt the calmest. Giving it a bit of thought, I realized that was anytime I was near moving water & definitely outside. There’s a line from the movie Happy Feet on replay in my head, “Try the water Dave, it’s really real.” So we brainstormed ways to get me outside more as well as ways to bring the outside in. It took three weeks of cajoling from both my partner and therapist to get me to finally put up a hammock outside for myself. The day I put it up I spent 6+ hours in it reading, something I hadn’t been able to do in nearly a month. It was exquisite. Inside, the answer was water fountains. I created a small space just for me with a fountain, a candle, a plant, and incense. It was a miracle! Between the two, I could finally breathe.
Life doesn’t feel quite as chaotic anymore, but it doesn’t last. Now, I needed to face the fear of going back to work and being around the general populace again. Grocery stores are nerve wracking! The amount of people either not wearing a mask, not wearing it properly, and/or not maintaining distance terrifies me! The protests have also begun. Afraid to participate due to health, I found other ways to help but it never felt like enough. News is nigh unbearable. I had to learn what my “full” point was and shut it off or walk away when reaching there. My small space or hammock is now the recharge place. Focusing there can recenter my calamitous thoughts.
It’s gratifying to be back at work. Thankfully it’s happening in stages, only a few people at a time. Tight mask and distance requirements. Wonderful! Maybe by July I’ll be brave enough to venture out further. It’s hard to fathom what this new normal might eventually entail. We’re all just taking it one day at a time. I hope that my story may help someone else see that it’s possible to make it through. You’re not alone.”
Anyone else’s eyes watering up? *sniff* No? Just me? *Blows nose, wipes eyes, and coughs* Ahem. Moving on…
What can you do about stress?
Step one is acknowledging where your own stress is coming from. What exactly is worrying you this moment? Don’t think about last week or next month. Right this moment. Start with now. Second is to find someone to talk to about it. Do you have a friend you can confide in? A trusted family member? A mental health professional? A close religious figure? Talking relieves some of the built up pressure. You don’t have to flood just one person either, you can talk to separate people about separate issues if you like. Options baby!
Another step is learning some coping mechanisms. Here are a few examples I’ve found. If you’re having body confidence issues that are preventing you from getting in the shower, turn the lights off when you shower. Need to eat but it’s too much work to make a sandwich, just eat the meat and cheese straight from the bag. If doing dishes is overwhelming, get yourself disposable cutlery and plates/bowls. Cleaning the whole house too much to handle? Do one step and take a break, you earned it! Doing 20% of something is better than 0% by far.
A helpful tip is to do at least something small for yourself each day. Reading makes you happy? Spend at least 30 minutes doing that. Exercising, (hey! it makes some people happy!) same deal. A hot bath, go for it! Video games, game on! A little bit of happy can go a really long way. If you love sleep, take a small nap if possible. There’s tons of ways to give yourself a chance to recharge a bit. Find what works for you.
Remember: self care isn’t selfish. Breathe and take life one step at a time. I believe in you. A lighthearted meme to finish. Further resources at the bottom of the page.
Here’s a 30-second video of a Buddha fountain with calming instrumental music in the background. Enjoy!
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