2020 hasn’t been our year—how do we manage stress and anxiety?

Stress and anxietyThe words of the Rembrandts— “When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month or even your year”—have never felt more relevant. These difficult and uncertain times have led to unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety. But there are things we can do to manage this extra stress and anxiety so that it doesn’t impact our overall wellbeing.

Whether it is the COVID-19 pandemic, recent social unrest, or a potential recession, 2020 has given us many additional stressors. You may have increased concerns for your own health and safety and that of your loved ones. You may be experiencing social isolation, uncertainty, financial strain, grief over the loss of familiar activities, or additional childcare responsibilities.

These extra worries are leading to unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety.  According to a poll done by the Kaiser Foundation, 45% of adults said that the pandemic has affected their mental health and 19% said it had a major impact. If you are feeling anxious, worried, or extra stressed right now, you are not alone.

So, what can we do to manage our stress and anxiety during these difficult times?

  • Give yourself a break. Try practicing mindfulness—being present and paying attention. If possible, take a few minutes a day to be silent and let your mind and body rest. There are many free apps such as Headspace that can help you through this practice.
  • Take some time off. There may not be many places to take a vacation right now, but don’t forget to take some time off work to focus on you and do something you enjoy. So binge watch Netflix, enjoy a glass of wine, or read a good book—whatever it is that you like.
  • Stay physically active. Even with many gyms closed, there are still activities you can do at home. Take a walk around your neighborhood, or explore a new park or hiking trail. Try some body weight exercises such as lunges, planks, or pushups. Or look for “weights” around your home like canned goods or water bottles.
  • Keep in touch with loved ones. Humans require connection, even if that connection is virtual. Even if you are not able to see friends and family in person, keep in touch via phone or video calls.
  • Remember what you are grateful for. Has the pandemic allowed you to spend more time with family? Are you grateful that you and your family have stayed safe and healthy? Having gratitude has been shown to lead to higher levels of overall happiness.

Need help?

Reach out to your employer’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). In general, EAP counselors can help assess your needs and work with you to develop a solution or direct you to community resources or online tools that can help. Some EAPs also offer in-person visits with a counselor.

Take advantage of any mental health benefits available to you through your health plan. Many plans include the option to see providers virtually from your own home.

There are many national helplines that can help as well.

  • Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor.
  • Substance Abuse Support – Call 1-800-662-HELP.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 1-800-273-8255.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – Call 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522.

With everything that’s happening in our world right now, it is completely natural to feel more stressed and anxious. But taking steps to care for ourselves and make our mental health a priority can make a big difference. And there is help out there for you if you need it—don’t be afraid to ask!

Amanda Lutz

About the Author

Amanda Lutz, MBA, PHR, SHRM-CP manages the Mead & Hunt employee benefit plans and well-being program. She has over 15 years of human resources experience with a focus on employee benefit plans. Amanda was born and raised in Madison, WI—go Badgers! She currently lives in Mt. Horeb, WI (troll capital of the world) with her husband and two children.

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