What to do with another month of staying home? You may have lost count of the days at this point. It is easy to get overwhelmed by this idea because navigating a pandemic is all new. We have never experienced anything like this in our lifetime, and we don't know what to do. You may be feeling the pressure of balancing multiple hats in one day and the stress of it all.
In Kim John Payne's book Simplicity Parenting, although focused on preserving childhood, Payne offers a helpful take on stress that accumulates. He calls the frequent pattern by which a threshold of pressure builds and doesn't dissipate, a cumulative stress reaction or CSR. He states, "that enough little pieces of stress with enough frequency can accumulate into a PTSD-type scenario," and focuses on simplifying children's daily life.
We are all currently feeling that threshold building daily. Overloaded with new tasks to balance, pivoting our work or daily routine and focus are all adding to the pressure. Mix in the media around the clock flashing words, pictures, and headlines that drum up panic and fear, and it is a recipe for emotional meltdowns. Payne believes the collection of these stresses challenges a child's resiliency. What about us adults feeling an accumulation of pressures beyond our typical daily life stress?
We tap out. We slide over on the continuum to the stressed side, and your reaction can look like a disorder. The point is not to turn your focus on diagnosing yourself, but rather to look at ways you can move toward the other end by reducing the stress and building resiliency.
Although Payne is referring to the stress response in children from pressures, it may also help us, adults, to implement simplification as a tool to shift us from reaction to responsive. If you have children, I recommend Payne's work, and you may apply everything here to your family as well. I also think we can parent ourselves, tap into that nurturing part within and take the steps to reduce the impact of the current pressures.
Here are five ways to respond to stress to help you build resiliency and move through this time.
1. Maintain a daily routine.
There is so much unknown in our world right now that having some predictability can help to reduce stress. You may have had to shift your daily routine since being home, but more likely than not, many of your daily habits can remain. Routines create certainty in your day, and if you have children, it will help to keep them from feeling overwhelmed too. For example, set yourself a bed and wake time that you can stick to most days of the week. You can think of it is a daily flow and how you move from one thing to the next.
2. Bake rituals into your day.
Although routines can help to create more certainty in your day, or that of children, baking in rituals highlight points in the day and give more meaning to the redundancy of repeated acts. You can think of routine as a result-driven process(masculine container) and a ritual as offering a more profound meaning or connection (feminine). By doing both, you create more balance. Having breakfast together in the morning, sipping on a cup of coffee while you read the paper, making your bed as an intention to set the day with motivation, meditating mid-day, dinner together with the table set a certain way or with prayer, are all examples of rituals. Think of other rituals from holidays and draw on these for ideas.
3. Get resourced.
You may be feeling overwhelmed with things changing each week and even daily. If you do not believe you have resources, you can feel paralyzed. Not knowing what to do or where to begin is not a pleasant feeling, it just adds to the already compounding stress of these times. Building your resources does not mean go out and buy up all the toilet paper and bottled water, which is an act of fear coming from a scarcity mindset. Identify the people you can lean on for support during this time. Cultivate a list of skills or gifts you have to move through these trying times. Consider sources outside of yourself, a book, a blog, or a therapist that can support you.
4. Practice healthy mindset exercises
You can choose to see the current situation as either something that is happening to you or something that is happening for you. Two different mindsets, right? The first one creates a sense of being powerless or keeps you in a victim state-of-mind. Whereas the latter opens you up to the opportunity for growth. Perhaps this is an opportunity for you to learn how to surrender, to be kind to yourself, or how to live more simply. Ask yourself the questions that focus on growth from the situation. You can also put your attention on what you want more of in your life vs. what you don't have. You will be more likely to stay motivated to move forward.
5. Simplify your day and environment.
Simplifying is a way to eliminate complications that could create stress in your life. Start by reducing the amount of stuff coming at you. Decrease the information coming in by setting boundaries around media and screens. Eliminate the clutter in your home, in your inbox, and your schedule and free up space to breathe. Remember that routine suggested earlier? Create a flow in your day or follow a simple rhythm of breathing. The exhale is that active time in the day, whereas the inhale would be more rest, reflection, or low impact activities. If you feel emotional and overwhelmed by it all, slow down and treat yourself as if you have a physical fever. Rest, eat healthy foods, and remove any stress. Finding balance will help you to feel more in your best self.