Holidays are stressful. This pandemic is stressful. Life is stressful.
Stress is a common reaction to uncertainty and conflict and can happen to all of us. It affects our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. So, it is no wonder that the events of 2020 have helped create a high level of stress on individuals and families. Trying to get through our normal daily stressors is difficult enough, but when you add in the pandemic and shaky economy, compounded with the holiday season, it shouldn’t be surprising that we are seeing an increase in emotional and mental instability, physical illness, and in extreme circumstances collapse or burnout.
Recognizing the warning signs of stress in yourself and others
Stress can create many adverse behaviors, thoughts, and symptoms. Some of the areas to be aware of in yourself are:
- Energy levels – do you feel exhausted all of the time? Is it difficult for you to get out of bed? Do you lack motivation that you used to have? Are you procrastinating? Are you isolating yourself?
- Physical Symptoms – are you experiencing nausea, difficulty eating, tense muscles, headaches, difficulty thinking, getting sick often, and/or insomnia?
- Sleep Routine – do you have difficulty getting to sleep? Do you wake up frequently throughout the night? Are you self-medicating to try to help with sleep?
- Thoughts – are you able to turn off your mind? Do you have racing thoughts? Can you be present with family and friends?
- Mood – do you experience low moods often? Do you have trouble getting out of bed? Are your thoughts racing constantly?
The symptoms of stress can be very noticeable to those around you. It is important for others to be aware of changes in mood and behavior with those we love and have relationships with. Here are some signs to look out for in others:
- Are they avoiding connecting with you and others?
- Do they make suicidal comments or suggest wanting to end things?
- Do they express a lot of worries?
- Has their temperament/mood changed?
- Are there physical changes in their appearance?
- Have they started to use poor choices in coping mechanisms or self-medicating?
Practical Ideas to Help Relieve Stress
If stress is not taken managed, and relieved then it can have detrimental effects of a person’s life and ability to function. Here are some practical ways to help relieve stress:
- Stay connected – continue to reach out and talk to family, friends, and coworkers. Often times the person experiencing stress feels alone and thinks they can handle it by themselves. Talking to others and connecting can help those feelings dissipate, create a sense of common humanity, provide you support, and help you feel heard.
- Practice self-care – self-care can look different for each person. Here are some ideas for self-care that can be helpful; participating in a hobby, going for regular massages, having a nightly bath, exercising, going for a walk, reading, meditating, or just being able to sit still in silence.
- Get outside – being outside can help provide a breath of fresh air and help us use our senses. Notice what is around you, listen to the sounds, feel the fresh air, and smell the scents around. Using the five senses helps to regulate the body and brain, and creates present awareness.
- Reach out for help – ask those around you or the people you work with for help, identify and vocalize your boundaries, say no when you need to, and identify areas that you can let go.
Outside resources are available for long term support. Here is a list of some Calgary-based resources that are available for support and can help you reduce your stress and create long lasting positive change:
- Distress Center 24/7 Hotline: (403) 266-4357
- Access Mental Health (403) 943-1500
- Sliding scale Psychology Practices: Calgary Counseling Center or Catholic Family Services