Practical Steps for Reducing the Stress of COVID-19

August 30, 2021 9:00 am Published by

This blog is the second of a two-part series written primarily for those who provide services to our senior adults (but is applicable to us all).

In last week’s blog we discussed that stress is the result when perceived demands are greater than perceived resources. This week we want to focus on ways to cope with and reduce stress.

Steps for reducing your stress

Incorporating this model of stress is vital for successfully coping with the daily demands in your life and how you lead others. This model provides four different ways to reduce the stress we experience in our lives:

1.Reduce perceived demands. Take all of those expectations of “the way things should be” when life was “normal” (pre-pandemic) and critically evaluate them. Are my expectations for myself and for others too high? Are they realistic and sustainable given our current circumstances?

2.Reduce actual demands. This may seem impossible, but it’s not. Yes, there are demands you have to meet (if you are going to continue to be a licensed provider of services). But there are also activities, habits and traditions that have developed over time (and are good things to do when you have the resources) that aren’t currently needed in order for you to survive the present ordeal we are going through. No, you don’t have to organize a field trip to the zoo or do the annual holiday pageant at the local theater. 

3.Increase perceived resources. Times and circumstances occur where we have access to resources, but we won’t allow ourselves to access them. The simplest example is asking for help. Sometimes we have more tasks to accomplish within a time period than we realistically have the time or energy to do so. One solution is to ask for some help from a colleague. But for some (including all groups – professionals, clinicians and frontline staff), asking for help is anathema – against a strong belief they hold that asking for help displays weakness on their part.  

But this limits accessing resources that are available.

4.Increase actual resources. Again, this may seem impossible – we all only have 24 hours in a day, and financial resources are limited. But there are ways we can create additional resources. We get more energy when we rest and sleep. Recreational activities are designed to help us re-energize – listening to or playing music, engaging in artistic and craft activities, playing games, socializing with friends, laughing and exercise – all are ways we can create more resources to cope with the demands in our lives.

When we combine some aspects from all four areas, the results can be significant. The stress we experience then is, at least, manageable. 

Learning from those who have gone before us

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first crisis to threaten the health and ongoing existence of societies and countries. Additionally, there are (unfortunately) numerous man-made disruptions that lasted for years which individuals and families had to struggle through in order to survive – the U.S. Civil War, the Thirty-Years’ War in Europe, and World War II. Fortunately, we can learn from those who survived these long-term tragedies.

Probably, the most poignant examples come from those who survived the Holocaust. They were victims of long-term social denigration and ostracization, economic discrimination, isolation, emotional trauma and physical torture – to the point that millions lost their lives. But some who survived the concentration camps shared how they survived, and the mental component was usually at the center of their strategies – maintaining hope, focusing on the “little things” that brought beauty into their lives and remembering those who were important to them. (A great example is the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.)

One lesson is this – while none of us are truly in control of the forces that shape our lives, we are in control of our daily choices and of how we choose to perceive the circumstances we find ourselves in. One hallmark characteristic of those who survive difficult times is gratitude – being thankful for what you have now and what you’ve been blessed to experience in your life. Being grateful helps us focus on the positive aspects of our lives rather than giving all of our time and emotional energy to negative circumstances over which we have no control.

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August 30, 2021 9:00 am

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