It’s fair to say 2020 has been a little stressful. Depressing headlines coupled with employment shifts, economic uncertainty and the addition of factors like home schooling has certainly upped the ante in terms of anxiety and workload expectation.
And now of course that light at the end of the tunnel isn’t looking quite so bright and shiny courtesy of a Covid-19 resurgence in Victoria and NSW. So how can you manage the stress when there’s so much beyond your control?
As tempting as it is to constantly check in on the headlines, they’re probably doing you no favours in terms of quelling that knot in your stomach.
News by nature tends not to focus on the positive.
Headlines are designed to demand your attention, so often paint a picture of the worst-case scenario in a bid to lure you in.
Long before Covid-19, the American Psychological Association found more than half of Americans say the news causes them stress, and many report feeling anxiety, fatigue or sleep loss as a result.
Still, one in 10 adults checks the news every hour, and 20 per cent of Americans report “constantly” monitoring their social media feeds—which often exposes them to the latest news headlines, whether they like it or not, the survey found.
Further studies also indicate our brains are wired to ingest news, firing off a hit of dopamine every time we see an enticing headline, and that becomes a little addictive.
The bigger the headline, the bigger the hit and the more compelled you feel to go after it again.
While it may not be feasible to limit your news exposure entirely, you can limit the times you ingest news and the way you embrace it.
For example, checking the headlines just prior to bedtime might be a good one to avoid, or setting yourself specific times to access the news might be a better habit to embrace.
As health services have been stressing over recent times, exercise, relaxation, and a healthy diet are critical to mental health.
Our routines may have changed but now is the time to take a moment just to breathe, to be still and take care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Whether it’s meditation, yoga, a chat with friends, a gentle walk or a full-blown workout, self-care should be a priority.
And for those who maintain they’re too busy working hard, looking after families or caring for others, remember the ‘airline oxygen mask principal’: sometimes you need to look after yourself before you can take care of anyone else.
One of the biggest challenges at present is that much of what’s going on is beyond our individual control, and that’s an unfamiliar, uncomfortable position to be in.
Experts recommend acknowledging this fact, and instead turning your attention to the areas which you are in command of – like your attitude, home environment, social circle, routine etc.
Whether it’s simply chatting with friends, sharing your fears with a confidante or speaking to a professional, the very act of talking about the things that concern you can help you devise strategies to manage the anxiety.
Meanwhile now is the time to be assertive rather than passive about your feelings, sharing them openly and calmly before they manifest as major fears or anger.
This is also a timely opportunity to practice the art of saying “no”, ensuring you don’t take on more than you can handle, and you prioritise your own needs or those of your family as much as you consider others.
Yep there’s a bit of stress going round at the moment, and the reality is most of us are feeling it to some degree.
If you feel you need assistance or someone professional to talk to, the following services are available to assist:
BeyondBlue: 1300 22 4636
LifeLine: 13 11 14
MindSpot: 1800 61 44 34
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800