Managing stress has become even more important over the last few weeks. While managing “ordinary” stress, the kind we experience every day when things don’t go according to our plan is something we each cope with, managing the extraordinary stress of the past few weeks requires an even more robust response.
Even if the country re-opens quickly, there is still the lingering impact of the past few weeks and months. Jobs will come back slowly, but bills will keep coming in at the same pace. Some schools have closed for the rest of the year, so parents that rely on school for childcare will face additional worry if they are asked to return to work and there is no available childcare. Friends and loved ones have been ill and you may have lost a loved one. And, the grim reality is that while we may return to some level of “normal,” COVID-19 is not going away any time soon, and we now understand that something unexpected can upend our lives in ways we could only have imagined last year.
April is Stress Awareness Month. And while you may feel very aware of stress right now, the focus of the month is to help people find resources that will help them deal with the stress. And we want to help.
We all know why managing stress is important. Left untended, we can find ourselves physically ill and mentally exhausted. And stress can be sneaky - you may not realize the harm until things reach a tipping point. In this uncertain time, it's more important than ever to find healthy ways to manage stress. This moment will pass and we want to come out of it resilient and ready to rebound.
We don’t want managing stress to become one more thing on the list of stressful things you have to think about. We’d like to help you find a way to build resilience and positivity, so you are better prepared every day to manage the stress of life and the unexpected. While there are hundreds of ideas out there, here at Gratitude we believe that focusing on what we have, not what is missing, is one of the best ways to combat stress. And yes, it is possible to find gratitude in the middle of a pandemic.
If you search “practicing gratitude to deal with stress” you will get literally thousands of articles on the subject. (Don’t stress – we’re including a list of the best at the end of this article – all you have to do is click!) There is evidence that a gratitude practice can improve your sleep, reduce physical symptoms, like headache and stomach problems, and benefit patients recovering from heart attacks. We also know it can improve your relationships and help you feel less alone.
And, folks that have a regular gratitude practice definitely feel the benefits.
No one is suggesting you ignore your very legitimate feelings of fear and anxiety – that would be unrealistic and damaging. You won’t feel happy every day and there will be days when the scary feels very real and you might struggle to find things to be grateful for. Nor are we suggesting that you spend all your time playing the “it could be worse” game. Nothing is more devastating than having someone (your “good friend” or even your mother!) come along and say “it could be worse.” Because sometimes, maybe it really can’t be worse. Those feelings are valid and you are entitled to have them.
We are suggesting that finding a way to re-frame the negative can be a form of gratitude. You may start very small “Today, I was able to make the bed” or even “Today, I got out of bed.” That’s ok – there are days like that. But seeing the positive thing you did and acknowledging your win is a step in the right direction.
Over the next four weeks, we want to provide some helpful advice and support. We will be offering resources and ideas, plus we hope a few comments and photos that will bring a smile to your face.
Katie Pembleton, a therapist and coach, is one of the experts that will be sharing her expertise on managing stress. Katie helps people increase awareness to fully realize their potential and create alternative futures. To learn more about Katie check out Common Thread.
April 6 – Exercise. Does it stress you out even thinking about exercise? Don’t let it. Just a few minutes per day can make a difference in your state of mind and your fitness level!
April 13 – Meditation. It’s more than incense and sitting on a cushion. Resources, ideas and affirmations that can get you started on this practice.
April 20 – Music. Listening to and playing music (even air guitar) can be one way to manage stress and lift your mood. And it is sure to help you find something to be grateful for – even if that something is that a particular song is over!
April 27 – Laughter – the best medicine. Being able to laugh each day, and to laugh at ourselves, can provide a much-needed stress relief moment. Those cat videos you are secretly watching on Facebook and YouTube serve a purpose!
This week, we invite you to deal with stress by spending just a few moments contemplating the good things that are present in your life. Washing your hands? That’s a good time to spend a few seconds finding the positive – you live in a place where there is clean water at the turn of a tap, you are taking a positive step to keep yourself and your family healthy, the lather feels smooth and the bubbles are fun, the soap smells nice.
We’re looking forward to the next four weeks and hope you are, too. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Sign up here to make sure you get the information delivered straight to your inbox, then follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@gratitudesoapery) to share your comments, or cruise over to our website and leave us a message.
While you are waiting for the next article in the series, check out these helpful articles: