In a global pandemic, you don’t have a job. You may not be sure when you can safely work without getting sick. You could bring home a deadly disease to kill your family, especially your elderly parents. Maybe you have a job and are not sure for how much longer, given the fickle state of the economy. Alternatively, you have a high-demand job. Perhaps due to the pandemic, you are finding it hard to cope. You have to make sure everything works well. Else if you screw up, you could get fired. All of this leads to severe stress. How do you stay focused in a stressful environment?
We can end up in a spiral with stress. These include anxiety about the pandemic, child care, when next we can see our families safely, whether or not the COVID vaccines will work for a long time, and my stress about wanting to travel. Working while teaching your children is stressful. They have partly virtual, partly in-person schools. What will be the impact on their overall performance over time? Then you may get stressed from being stressed. Now you have symptoms of unexplained illness, shoulder aches, headaches, and lack of sleep, which all send you further into a doldrum. How do you stay focused?
The first thing to do is to exercise. Any regular bodily movement will do. Go for walks, run, swim, cycle, go to the gym, and practice some form of exercise if you can’t get out, such as yoga, dance, or aerobics from YouTube or some other online exercise club. I have been doing yoga with Arianna Elizabeth on Youtube, plus the YMCA gym since I got vaccinated. Exercise promotes the release of endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals that can boost your mood and relieve the apathy and sadness associated with depression. It can boost your self-confidence as you accomplish each new exercise challenge. A routine will acclimatize your body such that you crave exercise.
“Eat! Don’t Go Hungry.”
Exercise will help you develop the subsequent thing stress may be zapping from you—your appetite. Exercise will make you crave selected food. Don’t succumb to the habit of eating junk food. Now that you are exercising, you will need quality food. Try complex carbohydrates and protein-rich foods that double as great mood and concentration enhancers. Feed your workout with high-energy foods and nutrients to fuel your physical routine.
A nutritious diet includes high-fiber vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products (or non-dairy if lactose intolerant, like 70 percent of people globally), and lean or plant proteins. Avoid foods high in refined sugar, carbohydrates, saturated fats, or salt. Pay even more attention if your family’s health history has food-lifestyle-type diseases. Consume moderate alcohol since too much can spiral you into depression. As one of my late uncles used to say, “Eat! Don’t go hungry!“
Bills Are Stressful. Ignore Them And Sleep…For Now
Good food and exercise should make you sleep well, which is the next thing you must do to reduce your stress and stay focused. CDC recommends seven or more hours per night for people 18-60. Ages 61 and over seem fine on 7-9 hours of sleep. You have to aid yourself in sleep, even if you are tired from exercise. That means no social media or web surfing immediately before bed. Set your phone’s notification to silent from close to bedtime to after you are awake. The anxiety the news will give you before is not worth it.
I personally never open snail mail just before bed, mainly bills. Bills are stressful to me, and so is junk mail designed to take your money. Also, avoid caffeine after midday. Wind down just before bed with an easy-to-read book you enjoy, a warm shower or bath, or some soothing music. I like the soothing organic soaps and bath bombs from Nodaj Touch. Otherwise, chat about your day with someone you may share your bed with.
Put Away Your Devices
During the day, call, email, text, write and send a special gift to family and friends. There does not need to be a reason other than to check in to determine their day, life, health, or whatever is happening. Your “checking in” on them also helps you relax as you can find people who can help you laugh or remember the more extensive world beyond your daily routine and problems. Some really positive family members or friends may make you smile or laugh. Stay in touch with them. Laughter is one of the primary stress relievers in the world. Listen to the Hidden Brain podcast on the importance of laughing if you don’t believe me. The more you laugh, the better you can cope with life. Also, take some time to be funny to others. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
Chill Out…Take It Easy
Finally, accomplish one task at a time, home or work. Clearly, multitasking is not working. This is really hard for me, so I must take my advice here. But I know I will feel more stressed if I attempt to complete too many tasks simultaneously and fail at some. If I worry about things I can’t control, then that becomes the stress I seem to want. Be realistic in your tasks and actually tick them off when completed so you can feel a sense of accomplishment, promoting even more feel-good brain chemicals.
Finally, take a break. It’s okay when not working or on weekends to do nothing. Read, watch a movie or series, chat, or eat with friends (if you are vaccinated and feel comfortable being out). Do something that relaxes you. For me, it’s writing, reading, gardening, and cooking. Find your niche and do it occasionally. Be aware when entering a stressful situation or spending too much time among naturally stressful people. Where feasible, avoid them. See more guidelines on mindfulness and meditation if that would also help you.