5 Tips to keep your stress levels down and tend to your mental health.
I was finding that my emotions and mood would shift throughout the day. You might be experiencing this emotional roller coaster as well. Some days I would wake with hope and be calm throughout the day as I kept busy. Then at night, my husband and I would watch the news since we have been mindful of limiting that information around the children. That is when I would feel that peak rising within.
I would find myself either having trouble sleeping, unable to stay asleep throughout the night or waking very early, and feeling exhausted.
Exhaustion and high levels of stress is not a good formula for staying mindful in your relationships, nor is it healthy for your overall wellness. It certainly does not help you navigate working and educating your kids if you are like me and have children that are all learning from home now.
I am happy to report that I have been sleeping a whole lot better these days. My stress level is down. I feel more open and relaxed than I have since all of this started with the Coronavirus Pandemic.
I am positive that my cortisol levels are down and that I am moving through this in a much more grounded way. To read more about cortisol, its impact on your health, and ways to keep it at healthy levels, check out this article here.
So, how am I staying in this more peaceful state?
Today I want to share with you all the things that I have done or doing to help. These are my top tips to keep your stress levels down and tend to your mental health:
#1 Decrease the amount of news and social media related to the Coronavirus.
I have wanted to stay informed, which is what led me to watch the news after the kids were asleep, but I knew it was creating a stress response in me. Instead, I turned to the facts only, so I feel informed and not reactive. My body instantly released tension. Of course, it is hard to determine where to get reliable information these days, therefore I suggest limiting the amount of information coming at you.
So, while attempting to stay informed, focus on the facts, minimize the amount of news you watch and continue to take measures to stay healthy.
Oh...and stay home! There is so much healing that can unfold at home if we stay there long enough to meet ourselves more fully. Indeed step out for some fresh air each day while minding your distance from others.
#2 Practice clear boundaries and self-care.
Simply, boundaries are the invisible lines we create that separate us from others. You clarify these lines for yourself and speak them to others, so they know where you begin and end. It is knowing who the problem belongs to and not taking on other people's stuff. You can establish clearer boundaries with some basic practices like...
Be a listener and also ask to be heard.
You can be witness to other's experiences and hold space to hear their experience, but in no way do you have to feel what they are feeling nor jump in and rescue. Simply be an ear or space holder for the other person to feel all the feels.
I teach my clients this same healthy boundary practice as an act of self-love and compassion, and it is critical during this time of global panic. If you are highly sensitive and tend to feel or take on other's feelings, then you want to be extra careful about protecting yourself.
Check-in with your feelings and address whatever need is not being met.
It is important to consciously move through the day being aware of feelings that come up and the need behind them. Then attend to your needs often so you are well taken care of and can be a source of support for others. Always put your oxygen mask on first before you assist others. You are not useful to anyone if you can't breathe.
So when that voice shows up and tells you that you are selfish and you start to feel guilty, say 'thank you for protecting me. I appreciate you. I am good, and I know I need to keep myself healthy to help others." You do not have to sacrifice your needs for the sake of the relationship, that is not a healthy boundary.
Separate your feelings from those of others.
As a separate being, you have different feelings than others around you. Granted, we are all feeling these same feelings. Some more than others. Probably at different times and varying intensity. We are absolutely in this together. With that said, we can all feel independently without losing connection to others.
When someone shares what they are feeling or complains about something, remind yourself that this is about them, this is their feeling, not yours. You can feel calm and your partner or friend can feel a deep pit in their stomach. It is ok. This practice also helps you to hold the space for their feelings to be shared and not bring your own feelings or reactions into it. You are separate.
#3 Talk about all your feelings.
I was watching a video that one of the kindergarten teachers at my children's school made for her students. She was reading the children's book, "We're Going on a Bear Hunt." When the family is out hunting a bear and comes to an obstacle on their journey, they say, "We can't go over it, We can't go under it. Oh no! We've got to go through it!"
We can try to go around, over or under the emotions, even throw a cover over it, hoping it will just go away, but that does not solve the issue. It just sits there and takes up emotional space whether we overtly acknowledge it or not. So, you go through it. Feel all the feels. Allow yourself to flow through it, and receive the message it has for you. Ask about it. What message does it have for you?
#4 Reach out and connect.
If you are home with your family, reach out to your spouse or partner. Brene Brown, a researcher on shame and vulnerability, talks about the courage to be vulnerable and that there is no courage without fear. She says that 100% we will fail at times, that it is part of life, but we need to find the courage to keep at it.
So, keep making attempts to connect. Don't take your partners defensive/guarded reactions, or anyone's for that matter, personally. Everyone is feeling threatened right now and at some level, in fight or flight response.
Keep your focus on increasing emotional safety and intimacy. Talk more and go deeper. You can check out Brene Browns Netflix special "The Call to Courage," here, and watch together. Brene shares what it means to have the courage to show up in your relationship. Make an effort to talk about it after and how you can each show up more for each other.
Oh, and remember that article above on cortisol levels? Exercise is recommended to bring cortisol levels to a healthy level, so definitely get that walk or workout in as much as possible. And... if you and your partner are actively having sex, have more sex.
If you are not having sex with your partner or spouse, or maybe you are not currently in a relationship, focus on the emotional intimacy with others and remember, you can always have sex with yourself. The key here is to not focus on what you don't have but what you do, and building an emotional connection is a great place to start.
You can also focus on connecting with others over audio/video platforms. Whether you are living with others or alone, reach out to friends and support persons (therapist, coach, doctor, energy healer, etc.) and virtually connect.
If you have a history of mental health such as depression, or anxiety disorders, seek out the support of a mental health professional to guide you through all of it. Tele-health has been on the rise and utilized more today. So, your therapist or any therapist is probably set up today to meet the social distancing needs of our current situation.
Line up those you can talk feelings with and allow yourself to go through them all. Make an effort. Challenge yourself to go deeper, and very importantly, create safe spaces for yourself and others.
#5 Focus on the potential.
You probably have heard the saying, "what you focus on will flourish." If you focus on the threat and dangers, you will only fall into a state of helplessness. You will catch yourself going there. These are the key words--catch yourself. When you notice this happening, as I said above, move through it, you don't want to bypass any of the feelings. You can also practice seeing the silver lining in all things, especially this one.
Shift your focus to the potential or opportunity this has for you and all of us.
I see the potential for simplicity.
My heart swells when I envision the deepening of my connection with my family and friends and my kids getting to be kids.
I want to dance when I imagine all of us shedding our protective layers and building trust among each other, where we are healing our deep wounds and choosing faith over fear.
I feel full when I imagine mother earth healing. A world where we appreciate and honor all that is abundant from Her, and we take care of Her.
For now, I want to keep things simple. The idea of less is more feels potent right now. I hope that we all make the best of our current crisis and allow ourselves to shed all that no longer serves us, take the time to see ourselves, our partners, our children, etc., and reconnect to our true selves. We are all feeling vulnerable, so protect yourself with healthy boundaries and create safe spaces for you and those around you to open up more fully.