Whether you’ve been working long hours at home, looking for a new job, homeschooling or worrying about your loved ones (or all of the above), it’s understandable that you’ve been feeling stressed out and vulnerable these days.
For the time being, this is our new normal — but that doesn’t mean you have to feel so taxed all the time. The good news is there are steps you can take to cope as you adjust to the new realities. Here are a few tips to help you manage stress and avoid burnout.
RESIST THE URGE TO ‘POWER THROUGH IT’
Have you ever told yourself to “just get through this one more thing” before you let yourself relax? Forcing yourself to power through a particular task when what you really need is a break can actually leave you feeling more burned out.
"For me, endurance is about thinking if we just get our head down, we'll get through it, while ignoring the feelings we are experiencing — resilience is something different," says Natalie Hall, CEO and founder of Elevate Her, an executive coaching service. "It is about acknowledging the feelings, feeling them and creating tools to help you move through it."
That includes scheduling breaks as well as more intentional self-care as a reminder to check in with yourself, rather than simply moving through your days with blinders on.
"We are not robots," says business consulting and empowerment training expert Chanelle Washington. "Sleep or take an aromatherapy bath with essential oils like lavender or geranium. Zone out with a good Netflix series or documentary. Go for a run." Writing in a journal or practicing gratitude can help, too.
RECOGNIZE WHEN NEGATIVITY IS CREEPING IN
How you talk to yourself and about yourself matters. Negative thinking can trigger a downward spiral and support an unhelpful narrative — one that may not even be true.
"Think about whether you are letting your thoughts run on autopilot," Hall says. "In times of stress, we often switch off and just let our thoughts do their own thing. Thought awareness, however, is about being in-tune with the internal narrative that is happening, recognizing it and pressing pause.”
She suggests asking yourself the following questions to separate fact from fiction: What am I saying to myself today? Is this really a true thought? Is this a kind thought? What evidence do I have to prove or disprove this thought? “Remember your thoughts are just thoughts, and not facts,” Hall adds.
It may also help to remind yourself that you've successfully handled challenges before. "Identify your strengths and how you overcame adversity in the past," Macdougall suggests. "Once you see your strengths, you may be able to apply the same or similar strategies to your current situation."
TAKE IT ONE STEP AT A TIME
When you're feeling stuck in any situation, taking the next step — no matter how small it may be — can help things feel less overwhelming and build up your ability to bounce back.
"The reality is that once you have taken one small action, it is easier to take the next one," says occupational therapist Laura Macdougall.
Identify what's making you feel paralyzed and then consider what the worst-case scenario might be if you fail. If you find yourself struggling with how to do this, Macdougall also suggests consulting a therapist to help you talk through it, which could give you the necessary emotional support to move forward.
SEEK OUT MEANINGFUL SUPPORT
Resist the need to be "strong" and go it alone, Washington says. She emphasizes that it’s important to reach out for support from someone who shares your values or experiences: “Vulnerability is necessary to get a breakthrough sometimes."
Macdougall adds that fostering a social community outside of your workplace — such as with a book club or your place of worship — can be a great source of resilience.
"Invest in your place of effortless belonging — if you don’t have one, start to move toward the action of cultivating one," she says. "If you already have one, think about what you can do to strengthen it even more."