As we continue into 2021, the reality is dawning that the restrictions and isolation measures we experienced for most of last year haven’t magically disappeared – and neither has the pandemic. From lockdowns and bans on social gatherings to working from home and curfews…these all look to be a part of our reality for a while longer.
With no end in sight to the continued lockdowns, you may find your stress levels higher than ever, which can result in anxiety, insomnia, or even depression. While it’s a big challenge to maintain positivity in this environment, looking after your mental health should be a top priority, no matter what the future may bring. Here are five small ways you can start relieving stress in your life today:
- Communicate as best you can. For many of us it can be difficult to express how we’re feeling, even to those who are close to us. But sharing your worries can help put things in perspective and make you feel more supported, as well as cultivate more empathy from those around you. For example, you may be struggling with a workload that you normally may sail through – whether that’s because you’re feeling distracted, are battling ill health, or are having to homeschool and work at the same time. Communicating this to your boss or co-workers can be hugely helpful in minimising stress and pressure, both of which can negatively affect your work performance.
- Find joy in the small things. Continued lockdowns have made our world seem smaller, with restrictions on everything from travel to social gatherings. If you’re feeling tired of your same old routine, try and notice the small things in your day that give you a lift: that morning cup of coffee, the sunlight on the leaves outside your window, or your child’s giggle. Noticing small things that bring you gratitude can have a cumulative effect in making you feel calmer and more content, despite the less than ideal circumstances.
- Cut yourself some slack. If it all feels too much some days, that’s fine too. Let yourself have “off” days without being self-judgmental, and try and find support to help you through them. If you live alone or don’t have anyone you can talk to about your situation, there are support resources you can access that you may not realise you have. Fedhealth members, for example, get automatic access to their 24-hour nurse line offering stress management strategies, including counselling, advice and relaxation techniques.
- Change one small habit. If you find yourself slipping into anxiety, changing how you’re feeling can be an overwhelming task. Start by changing one small habit each week for the better. Maybe it’s waking up half an hour earlier to be better prepared for the day, or maybe it’s putting your phone away an hour earlier in the evenings so you can read a book or clear your mind. Small, consistent steps to a more positive daily routine can have a huge impact on improving your mental health.
- Exercise in a new way. We all know by now that exercise is great for relieving stress, but you may feel you’re in a rut doing the same 5km jog around your neighbourhood, or your same online gym routine. Try something lighthearted and fun that still gets you moving – how about hip hop dancing, or learning some kung fu moves from YouTube? It doesn’t matter what it is; as long as you’re moving your body, the stress hormones in your system will decrease.
The seemingly unending months of lockdown we’re facing in the wake of the pandemic are cultivating some serious resilience within us all. Despite that, don’t minimise the fact that these are highly unusual times, and stress is a normal reaction. Developing support strategies and taking small positive measures to help you cope can make a huge difference in your mindset as you face the new year ahead.