Handling the Stress of Uncertainty
Managing our stress is always a challenge, but it is especially difficult in the face of uncertainty. Not only does stress debilitate a person, leaving them susceptible to physical illness, but it has also been found to be positively related to the severity of chronic illness. So, while we await the results of an unprecedented election in the midst of the greatest public health crisis of our generation, we must not let stress overwhelm us. Now more than ever we need to face it head-on. Here are some tips to help you take control of your stress during this uncertain time:
- Try to reframe stressful situations in positive ways. If you are facing day after day of Zoom meetings, look at it as an opportunity to strengthen your virtual communication skills. If you’re glued to the news, pay attention to the smaller changes happening in your community. Look at the bigger picture and be curious about what new opportunities you can find as we move forward.
- Check-in on family, friends, and colleagues to offer your support. While we are all going through this uncertainty together make yourself useful by helping others. The election will drag on, so let’s concentrate on maintaining our relationships and remember we all have to live together no matter what the outcome is. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion, but at the same time don’t feel compelled to demonize people on the other side. A pluralism of opinions will ultimately make us stronger.
- Alternate between times of intense work and full relaxation. Switching between stress and rest is what gives you results and progress. Just like when you exercise in the gym, if your weights are too light you won’t build muscle. If they’re too heavy you won’t be able to lift them (or worse, you can hurt yourself!). Schedule time throughout the day to switch your activity or do nothing, even if it’s just 15-minute breaks.
Most importantly, don’t necessarily perceive stress to be your enemy. We’re talking about managing stress, not getting rid of it completely! Feeling stressed helps us build our resilience “muscles.” Instead of skipping the gym altogether, do a set of heavy exercises, and then take a rest to let your intellectual muscles recuperate. The challenge is to get back up and face the stressful situation again after that. By keeping a good balance you’ll stay strong and resilient through any challenge that comes your way.