2020 has been a year unlike any most of us can relate to happening before in recent years. Covid19 has greatly changed both our personal and work lives. It has made us take extra precautions for our health and personally we may have seen loved ones and friends become affected from the disease.
Additionally as individuals who are working in an emergency response profession (police, firefighters, dispatch, nonprofits and emergency management) we are also seeing a higher incidence rate of natural disasters affecting communities and individuals who are already struggling.
As individuals who work in career fields helping others we are natural caregivers. We want to help others when they need someone. We are working long hours, holidays and weekends and some weeks we see our coworkers more than we see our own family and friends. Some weeks we may be going on autopilot with little sleep.
Some effects of dealing with stress long term stress is:
- Weight loss or gain
- Constant anger or irritability
- Constant worrying or obsessive thinking
- Loss of interest in activities
- Inability to concentrate
- Regular or severe headaches
- Excessive alcohol or drug abuse
All of this can lead to us becoming burned out or depressed. It is important to know what steps you can start to do today to help reduce your chance of becoming burned out and depressed.
8 ways to help with your stress
Exercise can help with reducing stress and anxiety. American Heart Association recommends 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week. Over a week it amounts to about 20 minus a day. Important part of exercise is finding something you enjoy. Even a few minutes a day can slowly add up. A few ways to add a few more minutes in your day are taking the stairs instead of elevators and parking further away from stores in parking lots.
Few examples of moderate exercises are:
- Go for a daily walk or run
- Aerobic exercise
2. Rebalance work and home
When we are stressed one of the first things we can do is look at our schedule for work and home. Are there some things in our personal life we can ask for help? Are there some things we say no to if our schedule is too packed or rescheduled to another time?
3. Set realistic goals and expectations
What are your goals for your career and personal life? Look at what your responsibilities are and amount of time you are able to dedicate onwards that goal.
An example would be going back to college for your bachelor or master’s degree. If you are currently working full time a suggestion would be starting with 1 or 2 classes.
4. Limit alcohol and stimulants
Drink alcohol in moderation especially at times when you are stressed. A good rule is one to two drinks a day or no more than seven a week.
Sleep can be hard when we are stressed. For some people when we lay down to go to sleep it may be the first quiet moment of the day. Doctors recommend we try to get on average 6-8 hours of sleep each night.
Few suggesions for better sleep:
- Limit television and social media 1-2 hours before going to bed
- Have a night routine to unwind from day
- Drink tea or hot chocolate (non caffeinated drink)
- Lower bedroom temperature to 60 – 67 (Fahrenheit degree)
- Read a book 30 minutes before bed
- Journal thoughts or 5 things you are grateful for each day
- List out 3 priorities for next day
6. Spend time with family and friends
Now with Covid19 many of us are now feeling a little more isolated. However with some planning and few precautions we can still plan a lot of fun things with family and friends.
Some ideas are:
- Weekly phone or skype call
- Game night ( have gatherings under 12 people)
- Walk at a local park
- Send a handwritten card letting someone know you are thinking of them
- Read a book together and do a virtual or in person chat about the book
7. Go on vacation and take some time off from work
A break away from work may be the best thing we can do for ourselves. It can help lower our stress and give us the needed time to relax.
8. Talk to a medical counselor
It is important to remind ourselves it is ok to ask for help. Sometimes we need extra help we can’t do for ourselves. A medical counselor can help you figure out triggers for your stress and help develop a plan. Additionally, they can prescribe antidepressants
A good reminder for ourselves is we are not superhuman. It is important for us to make ourselves a priority and learn ways we can help ourselves deal with our stress in a positive and healthy way. It is ok to set boundaries and ask others for help when needed.
Please share a few ways you deal with your stress.