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Once you have generated an accurate assessment of functioning, you can begin to implement some coping strategies for yourself and those you lead. The assessment should measure your personal emotional state, as well as how dramatically your life has changed and how those around you (family, friends, co-workers, employees) are impacted. Leaders frequently make the mistake of rating themselves in a vacuum, only assessing how they are impacted at work and not factoring in the impact that family members and loved ones can have on their personal emotional climate. This matters more than ever!
First – If this crisis has hit you in a particularly personal way, it is critical that you find support. You will need to have help when developing a strategy to navigate your way through this struggle. Find a professional, friend, or someone you trust who can aid in this process. The support systems you have in place help direct your path to coping success.
If you are a leader and are responsible for moving a team or group of people into a coping strategy, the next blog in this series is for you.
As we know, before we lead others, we must lead ourselves. Here are some thoughts on developing a strategy for coping which includes regulation of our emotions and de-stressing.
Create a plan.
There is a reason why all the information on managing stress during this time includes planning. The very act of creating a plan decreases stress both psychologically and physiologically. Human beings are designed for some type of structure.
Use your brain
When we are stressed and feeling fear or anxiety, our thinking brains cannot work as well. We are in a more primal, reactive place. We are less rational and in control of our behaviors. We need to calm our bodies so our brains can think instead of reacting out of our emotions.
The following techniques are all scientifically shown to reduce stress. Try a few and see which techniques resonate well with you.
The emotional centers of our brains are located near where our sensory information is located so, by engaging our senses, we can help regulate our emotions!
Use your 5 Senses to help De-Stress and Self-Regulate
- Look at pictures of people, places, or memories that bring joy or love
- Use essential oils, lotions, candles, or food that produce feelings of happiness
- Eat a peppermint or chew gum
- Use cool ice pack on the back of your neck to help calm you down or a warm, weighted blanket to help with anxiety
- Listen to music, upbeat and happy tunes, or calming meditative or nature sounds, depending on what you need
- Showing Gratitude
- Helping Others
- Movement and Exercise
- Finding Humor and Ways to Laugh and Play
Once our bodies are physically calmer, we can engage in more “thinking” activities to change the way our minds process events in our lives.
How do you define your reality?
As we mentioned in the first part of this series, your thoughts have the power to influence the way you feel and behave. The more we think negatively about a situation, the more likely we are to feel negative emotions and stress.
Do your thoughts involve:
- All or nothing thinking?
- Catastrophizing? Imaging the worst?
- Ignoring the positive?
- Unrealistic expectations?
- Attempting to control the uncontrollable?
If so, then we need to take control of these negative thoughts. Put your thoughts on trial. Ask yourself: “What are the alternatives?”, “Where’s the evidence for your belief?”, “What else do we know to be true?”, “Would this stand up in a court of law?”, “What is the story I’m telling myself?”, and “Do these thoughts help me cope, or do these thoughts keep me stuck in my stress and anxiety?”
As a leader, are your thoughts creating an atmosphere of stress and anxiety, or growth and opportunity? Is the way you speak communicating an atmosphere of fear, or an atmosphere of unity, encouragement, and togetherness?
Take a break.
Take a break from social media. Take a break from the news. Take a break from comparison.
Social media leads to comparing yourself to others, and it has negative consequences. Reading posts and comments from others can evoke feelings of anger, envy and anxiety. Social media usage has been linked to elevated levels of depression and nervousness. You decide to use social media, check in for a short, designated time period. Don’t click off the phone just to click on the TV. Take a break from watching the news. Watching hours of news coverage produces increased amounts of anxiety and fear. This is especially true with children and teens, who often vicariously watch news with caregivers. If you need to obtain information, go to a trusted news media source briefly to receive information. Then, turn it off.
This is more important than ever, and, contrary to popular belief, it is especially important for “introverts” who may not naturally seek out socialization, increasing their isolation. Socialization is associated with decreased feelings of depression and increased feelings of happiness, purpose and meaning. Identify ways to socialize personally and professionally. Ensure that you include socialization in your crisis management plan. Minimize socialization via social media. Instead make calls and use virtual face-to-face methods.
Socialization is as important professionally as it is personally. We are more separated AND more stressed than normal. Therefore, our responses will naturally be less patient. Socialization decreases stress in the workplace the same way it does in our personal lives!
This is Part 2 of a series adapted from “Managing Stress During times of Crisis” by Riverbend facilitator Lauren S. Hamrick, MS, EdS, LPC, RPT.
She provides years of mental health experience and her advice comes from using techniques and information found in cognitive behavioral therapy, DBT, Emotional Intelligence (Goleman), Play therapy, and Crisis Intervention (Textbook Frances et all). To name a few!