Right now, we are dealing with a seemingly endless pile of stressors: A global pandemic, financial crisis, and the eruption of outrage towards deep-rooted institutional racism, which has compounded us with complex emotions and hit our physical, emotional, and mental health.
While there’s much work to do on a larger scale, take a moment this week to tend to your mental health so that you have the energy to do the important work of repairing our world. Here are six stress management tips from meQuilibrium Chief Medical Officer Dr. Adam Perlman and Chief Science Officer Dr. Andrew Shatté, for immediate stress management.
1. Know the Signs
Rising anger, sadness, or anxiety, difficulty focusing and concentrating, problems sleeping, and increased irritability and fatigue are all signs that your mental health might need attention. When you know what to look for you can take steps to ease these symptoms before they derail you.
Practice observing your thoughts to become aware of the ongoing ticker tape of thoughts rolling through your head. Note which thoughts are serving you and which are draining your energy. Try not to judge whatever comes up—troubling thoughts and emotions are natural. Just simply notice and acknowledge, giving each thought space to be heard and felt.
2. Access Your EAP
Take a look at the benefits available through your Human Resources Department and the Employee Assistance Program before things feel hard and hopeless, says Dr. Perlman. Most offer a variety of confidential care options that you can access for free. Start by taking a look at the website and reading up on relevant information and then access what you need.
3. Get Grounded
Tuning into what’s tangible in the present moment can keep our emotions from taking control, says Melody Wilding, a licensed social worker. Start by clenching and releasing your fists, says Wilding, or consciously relax your hips into the corners of your chair, or try other mindfulness-based practices like breathing deeply with attention on each breath.
4. Take a Break
Take regular breaks throughout the day to disconnect and relax, even just for a moment. Do a three-minute mindfulness practice at your desk, go for a walk on your lunch hour, or call a friend or family member. A short guided imagery exercise can also help you ease and unload feelings of anxiety and depression, Dr. Perlman says, and diffuse the stress that can chip away at our mental health.
5. Eat, Sleep, Repeat
Physical stress can intensify mental strain and disrupt sleep. So when you’re feeling under pressure, make sure you eat nutritious meals, stick to a sleep routine, and drink plenty of water. Even mild dehydration can cause fatigue, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and mood fluctuations.
6. Talk to Someone
When mental health issues are making it hard for you to get the job done and connect with the people and things you care about, says Dr. Shatté, it’s a good time to reach out for help, starting with your EAP representatives. You can also check in with your doctor and a mental health therapist to get support and tools that can help you manage the day-to-day.
The stress we are feeling is a normal reaction and is warranted. The key, Dr. Shatté says, is to recognize the symptoms and triggers that impact you and then find a few approaches that can help you manage.