Solutions to STRESS as we learn to live with COVID

A doctor friend of mine recently texted me saying: “It is the best of times and it is the worst of times”, drawing from Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities written in 1859.  

Mr. Dickens could easily have been speaking about today. Both are true in the ‘learning to live with COVID’ times that we are now in. Some people I know are reinventing themselves and adapting to the new situation. Although they may not be happy about what is happening in the world – they are totally engaged in what they are doing and  full of purpose. As a result, they are feeling motivated and alive. On the other end of the spectrum, others are more burdened by so many things, and struggling with uncertainty and fear. Hopelessness is creeping in, settling into the cracks in foundations that were not apparent until now.  

Before COVID, stress and lifestyle disease were regarded as the epidemics of our time by the WHO. The additional stresses caused by COVID are making both worse. As a consequence, people talk more openly about stress these days.  This is the first step in solving it, but also can generate more anxiety if you feed or focus on it rather than address it.  . 

If you look on the internet, there are many different definitions of stress.  

 There are many acronyms too.   

  • Someone Trying to Repair Every Situation Solo
  • Still Trying to Run the Entire Solar System

And here is one I have come up with:

Still Taking Responsibility for Everything Senselessly and Stupidly 

We all have different tendencies regarding stress. We have different negative thoughts or patterns of thinking or less than healthy habits that we gravitate towards when triggered.  A certain amount of stress is of course healthy and part of life.  

It is not possible to grow without it. But when we have too much, we become burdened and overwhelmed. It leeches our vitality and leaves us both emotionally and physically drained. The mental symptoms of too much stress are: 

  • Depression and or general unhappiness.
  • Moodiness, irritability and or anger
  • Anxiety and agitation.
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed: For many, COVID has increased workload and the volume of responsibilities. We can be a bit like wifi.  When too many appliances are trying to plug into a wifi system, the system collapses for everyone.  Equally, when we are trying to integrate too much change or do too much, we shut down too.  
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Other mental and emotional health problems 

Stress also comes from:

S: Sadness about what is going on or what has happened 

T: Trauma or Tension – Feeling wounded or burdened by what has happened or what is happening 

R: Regret– If only feelings about yourself or the world.  

E: Ego – When people are stressed they can sometimes be more self-absorbed and their reactions are all about them. Their world becomes very small, frustrating and stressful.  The opposite is humility. One definition of humility that I love is: ‘not thinking less of yourself but thinking less about yourself’.   

S: Second Guessing – Replaying scenarios in your mind and overthinking about stuff you have no control over. 

S: Shoulds – when we focus on how things should be rather than how they are, we’re generating a lot of stress for ourselves.   

If you are struggling with stress, strengthen these areas instead. 

Solutions to stress: 

S: Solve your problems. Look at what is weighing you down and focus on solutions. Writing a list of things to address over the coming days or weeks can put any situation into perspective. Take action daily towards where you want to go.  

T: Talk to people that can help you if you are struggling, but choose them carefully. It’s okay to take some space from taxing people when you have less energy to spare.

R: Respond meaningfully to situations. Check your reactions.  Are they helping you? Will this make you feel better in the short or long term? Choose responses that improve your position (often this comes in the form of a hard choice you feel grateful for down the line). 

E: Enthusiasm – Be enthusiastic about what is happening in front of you.  Engage. Find an activity you can be enthusiastic about, that will brighten your day or week to think on.  Have a coffee with your neighbour? Walk the dog? A little motivation and reward for the hard work of facing stress head-on can help.  

S:  Show Up.  Bring your full self to situations. Participate.  Engage.  

S:  Say Yes to life 

And If you like, why not come up with your own acronym for what solves your stresses?