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Maintaining Your Sanity During Uncertain Rough Times


Maintaining Your sanity

It is already December and a new year is about to start. In ordinary times, this month is a festive season. A time for many happy occasions, gift exchange, more outings with family and friends especially those coming from abroad, and many other preparations. In ordinary times, this month is a time to experience some “eustress” (i.e. positive stress). In ordinary times, we had to make an effort to keep it all together and accommodate to more situational demands. We had to manage our time, expenditure, and resources during this very busy period.

Sadly, this December is not ordinary. We are witnessing a major crisis in Lebanon making it a time for great uncertainty. People are continuously on high alert to catch up with the day-to-day events. With eyes on the peoples’ revolution, the major political events, threats of dwindling resources and finances, inflation, the layoffs, the media’s focus on everything that could possibly be going wrong, etc.… Under these circumstances, how can you possibly make it through December with all that it requires? The ordinary eustress is changing to full blown psychological distress (at least for many who see it that way). People are oscillating between depressive and anxious states with increased vulnerability to the harmful consequences of excessive stress. So how can you maintain your sanity and cope with this extraordinary December and all its excessive demands?

The number one rule in stress management is to change or avoid any situation that stresses you out. If that’s not possible (like many external events occurring now), you can only change the way you’re reacting to the situation by either accepting it, or adapting to it. This, in turn, will require you to change your thoughts, and engage in different behaviors; thus, practicing resilience by regulating precipitating negative emotions that naturally surface during rough times. Maintaining psychological health requires an intention and active attempts to remain in charge. Doing nothing about it may lead one to lose grip. Here are few things to consider doing:

  1. Take care of yourself: Make sure you have the basics right: sleeping, eating, and staying hydrated. This, also, needs to be topped up with stress reduction activities like doing physical exercise, deep breathing, meditation, yoga, etc… Put yourself first before any other obligation; and “no!” that’s not being selfish. It’s just respecting yourself enough to give it what it deserves when it’s highly needed.
  2. Take breaks away from the “news” & social media: This relieves you from the pressure of continuously being bombarded with information that has potential to forecast gloom and doom of the current situation. Do a total digital detox for a whole day if you have to.
  3. Get busy working on a project: If your work is slow (or if you’re not employed to start with), have a “To Do Productivity List” of things you’ve procrastinated on doing before. Being productive will give you a great sense of achievement and is a good distraction away from the negative news. What’s even better is to focus on being useful by helping members in your community through their own difficulties. Resist the “freeze response” precipitating often from perceived stress.
  4. Take things a day at a time: Whenever you find yourself worrying about the future, STOP!! Be in charge of your thoughts. Worrying is an anxiety symptom. It doesn’t solve the problems you may face later. Work on finding solutions for the daily problems you may have in the “now”.
  5. Create good times to change your mood: Happiness is a temporary not eternal state. You have good reasons, now more than ever, to create moments throughout the day for such a boosting emotion. It could be by meeting with friends, doing fun activities, watching funny movies, or anything else that gives you pleasure. It creates a buffer for experienced stress.
  6. Listen to music: create two playlists to “mindfully” listen to depending on your mood: one relaxing music to listen to when you’re anxious; and another upbeat to listen to when you’re feeling low (dancing to this music amplifies the good psychological effects). Music is therapeutic as attested by scientific research.
  7. Unleash your creativity: One upside for moderate stress is that it boosts the brain’s creativity power. Think of ways to work around the current stressors. For instance, low finances can lead you to adopting new ways to economize (i.e. home baked items, handmade gifts, cheaper ways for entertainment, etc…).
  8. Cultivate gratitude and positivity: It is powerful to intensify practicing gratitude daily and focusing on the positives of negative situations as a way to adapt to things you can’t change.
  9. Be with supportive loving people: Reach out to people you love and vent out your concerns. Your support system is much needed in rough times. They need you too. Research repeatedly associates greater wellbeing with having a good social circle.
  10. Stay focused on balancing your days: Keep your internal thermostat in check socially and psychologically. Avoid extremes like “too much” of everything: isolation, excessive socializing, over/under working, over/under sleeping, over /under eating, etc…

These are but few guidelines to feel more in charge during this rough period in time when it’s supposed to be more festive. In fact, you can apply these throughout for better psychological health. When the going gets tougher, though, you need to be tougher in your attempts to remain in charge. And remember: “This too shall pass!”

Your Personal Coach

Dania

The Top 10 “Stress Busters”!


Stress….. Who hasn’t experienced it?  It’s the underlying fire-engine of much of our anxieties, depressed mood, and many physical ailments. We commonly use the term to imply negative psychological feelings or physical sensations. You’d say: “I am all stressed out!” to mean being off-balance or feeling unable to accommodate or cope well to your life circumstances. And you don’t have to get overwhelmed over one specific incident (e.g. loss of job, or a loved one) to feel the strain. The accumulation of daily stressors exerts its toll on our threshold of tolerance in general. This leads sometimes to “burn-out”. Stressors come in many forms like a hectic workload, difficulty in relationships, traffic jams, or endless multi-tasking of chores, to name a few. They compound to have negative effects on your health and performance with a drip, drip, drip effect that can push the best of us over the edge.

 No wonder we are advised repeatedly to blow off steam and engage in stress reduction activities. There are many ways to release all the stress pent up inside. Here are the top ten “stress busters” I often share with my clients. They’re more like armory techniques that you can use in combination, alternation, or adopt just few favorites. Stop and take stock as many as you can daily or over short time intervals:

  1. Deep breathing: One of the surest ways to decrease excessive physical and mental tension. Have a few minutes of focused attention on breathing slowly and deeply in and out (i.e. how you inhale and exhale). Breathe deeply at least 10 times while affirming to yourself that you are relaxing each time. One very deep breath can specifically help in situations that push you to a screaming-fit reactively. The old adage of counting to 10 as you deeply breathe relaxes you and can save you regrettable spontaneous reactions.
  2. Pray: If you’re the religious type, just pray. Praying is equivalent to drilling your psyche with hope. It shifts your attention to things getting better and away from feeling helpless. You can always decorate your thoughts with faith; it never goes out of fashion. Prayer is another form of positive affirmations that recruits the beyond immediate human power potentials.
  3. Listen to music, sing, & dance: Music is therapy, so it’s been said. Choose the type you like and indulge in listening for some time. In your mind dance your worries away. It really helps if you actually danced in front of the mirror especially if you chose to sing along as loud as you can. You’ll be laughing at how crazy you can get; and that’s far better than others judging you display any uncontrolled burst-outs.
  4. Exercise: Kick it off as a habit well ingrained in your system; and don’t give the often shared excuse that you need some company to do that. You can be the best company there is. You’ll get to resolve many mental issues during an hour of sustained physical activity. Moreover, your body releases the stress hormones necessary for your physical health topped by the “happy mood” neurotransmitters. That one hour could just be your “happiness” alternative medication.
  5. Connect with others: Resort to your social support system. Connect with friends, family, or anyone who is both a positive person and a good listener. It’s been said: “A problem shared is a problem halved”. Be careful not to drive close ones away by whining too much. Hire a life coach, or seek a psychotherapist if you have too much to say. At least they’re paid to support you until you clear things out in your mind.
  6. Manage your time: Much stress can be self-induced because of time mismanagement. Feelings of overwhelm can ensue when you’re in a race against time to have things done. Prioritize what you do. List your activities in terms of urgent and important (or valuable). Time wasted doing trivial things is time taken away from your life, so chose wisely. Work smarter, not harder. And if you write a “to do list”, use a pencil (not a pen) to remain flexible as you re-assess while you’re proceeding on it.
  7. Humor can heal: You know that smiling is good, but laughter is even better. Seek someone (a friend) who makes you laugh. He or she not available????  Get a funny movie and watch it. Want a quicker fix???? Stretch your lips in a wide smile and bite on a pencil for a while. This maneuver sends signals to your brain that you’re happy. Eventually you will be :).
  8. Back to nature: Going out in the sunshine or connecting with nature are enjoyable activities that provide you with energy, fresh air, and a global outlook at the world. It expands your focus to greater things in life. Just what you need to dissociate and look at the bigger picture. 
  9. Accept what you can’t change: you can get aggravated at your inability to change some things or people around you. Accept these, let go, and focus on what you have control over instead. Save your energy to what you can do for yourself and examine your alternatives. Fighting, resisting, and forcing things are energy zapping reactions.
  10. Day dream or plan a holiday: In your mind’s eye, day dream of what seems to be impossible. Guide yourself into a pleasant mental journey elsewhere. Think of the things you’d want to do, have, or be. This distraction can direct your attention on finding solutions instead of ruminating over suffering. It helps if you actually plan a vacation and be serious about its execution. The vacation can be a temporary escape to clear your body and mind, or to reward your self for milestones well accomplished.

The above are strategies to help you combat stressors, but listed on this page will do you no good if you don’t decide whole heartedly to adopt and commit to practicing your choice. There are more stress busters you can resort to, like: owning a pet, taking an aromatherapy bath, playing like a child (or with a child), learning to say “no”, etc…. The list of things that can work out well for you continues, so make sure to get some “ME” time every now and then. We need to keep those stress levels in check before they spiral out of proportion and necessitate more costly rectifications on all levels….

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