So much is out of our control right now, it’s important to focus on what we can control
Heart-wrenching, anxiety-provoking, stress-inducing, hope-stealing, hope-restoring.
If you’re like me, you are twisting through a wrenching spiral of emotions as you listen to the news or read the steady stream of social media posts about the war in Ukraine.
After two years of pandemic-induced stress, this unprecedented European invasion in our post-World War II era, is plunging us back into feelings of desperation and loss of control.
This past week, as I delivered several presentations in support of International Women’s Day celebrating women and our male allies, we also recognised how women bore a disproportionate amount of the burden during Covid lockdown and how we are again struggling to cope.
Research, of course, clearly shows that distress and unhappiness reduce productivity. The Kansas Journal of Medicine recently published a report that places psychological well-being as the number one indicator of “self-assured employee productivity” even above job satisfaction, title or position. The same study also revealed there was no substantial difference in levels of workplace productivity reduction when measuring between men and women suffering from high levels of stress.
Therefore, I believe it’s essential that together we refresh ourselves as best we can amidst this marathon of uncertainty, strife and turmoil.
I will provide a variety of ideas to help each of us attempt to reduce our stress, regain our happiness and increase our productivity – at work and at home – which may be synonymous depending on where you work.
Although we’re personally powerless to stop the terror in Ukraine, we can still make a difference.
If you can possibly afford it, I recommend donating to UNICEF, the Irish Red Cross or one of the many other worthy charities making urgent appeals for humanitarian donations. Go to their webpage and click the button on the landing page. It’s that simple. You don’t have to pledge a monthly amount, or a large donation either. You can make a simple, one-time contribution of any amount.
Turning your attention to help being provided can also help restore your hope in humanity.
The images are gripping, and, like me, you probably feel that it’s your compassionate, human duty to pay close attention to what is going on. But your heart, soul and sanity can only take so much so try and reduce the amount of time you spend watching, listening and reading about the crisis.
For instance, for the first few days at the gym this past week, I listened to podcasts about Ukraine. However, when I realised I was leaving the gym feeling completely deflated at the end of a workout when I normally would feel a sense of accomplishment, I substituted positivity podcasts for my regular diet of current events.
Speaking of the gym, you all already know that a great way to support your mental health is with physical activity.
The research shows that you don’t have to be active for hours and hours. Even a short walk of only ten minutes can increase the flow of oxygen to your brain which will help clear your mind and give you a greater sense of focus and calm. So, take a walk. Go for a run. Hit the weights. Play a competitive sport. It doesn’t matter what you do, but please, get out there and move.
One of the best ways I have found to reduce stress is to get those negative thoughts out of my mind and put them in writing. Psychologists advise putting pen to paper as a proven method for lessening distress and improving well-being. Try to avoid “catostrophising” or imagining worst-case scenarios. The act of writing can help lessen the impact of scattered thoughts by creating an actual sentence upon which you can better examine or interrogate its veracity.
For example, can you challenge the depressing thought? How might you reduce its impact?
The last thing many of us want to do when we’re feeling isolated and alone is to reach out to someone else. We often secretly hope someone will magically contact us instead. But don’t wait. Take the first step and let someone you know you’re feeling down. Talking about your feelings and even sharing a laugh with a friend, trusted colleague or family member can be a mood shifter.
Next time an overwhelming negative thought floats into your brain, try disrupting it with a round of block-breathing. Inhale through your nose for a count of four and then exhale slowly through your mouth for another count of four. Do this four times and while you are breathing, don’t close your eyes.
Notice the colours of your immediate environment. If you’re inside, try to gaze at a warm light source. If you’re outside, try looking at the sky. If you’re driving, keep your eyes on the road!
So much is out of our control right now, it’s important to focus on what we can control.
The sense of guilt or unfairness about being safe while others are in extreme danger can be traumatic in and of itself.
Take care of yourself, please.