Five Ways to Help Ease Stress in a Time of Change

Life is full of changes and transitions and many will agree that we have had more than our share during these past few months. The gradual process of “restarting” our lives is holding us in a perpetual state of change and sometimes it seems like there is no end in sight!

Even with the summer unfolding before us, you may find yourself feeling stressed, sad, distant, irritable, or exhausted. You are not alone. Many people are feeling this way right now – it is very understandable!

Change can be difficult. Good or challenging, change is associated with stress as we leave the comfort of routines into situations that are not familiar to us. Even if we see the change as positive, our mind and body are impacted. The mind is comfortable when we are surrounded by familiar things, routines and circumstances. It likes predictability. When we are in a new situation or routines are disrupted, other parts of our brain are activated. This is our inherent way to protect ourselves when things may get too intense. Most of you may have heard of the “fight or flight” response. It is the same area of the brain that is also responsible for those emotions mentioned above.

So what can you do to help manage and get through the transitions that are almost certain to continue?  First, remember that you are not alone. With most of the world experiencing similar impact as a result of the pandemic, many have similar feelings. Reach out to others and keep in contact with your friends and family. Talking, venting, and hearing ideas can all be reassuring. Just remember in the end to do what feels good for you.

It is important to take a break when you need to or shift your attention to something you enjoy or that is soothing.  Sometimes labelling what you are feeling and identifying the cause is helpful.  Seek support from a friend or professional if the feelings are more intense and or are persistent. Whatever you choose, go easy on yourself and remember that we are all learning how to navigate our daily lives in a new environment and with a new set of rules and social norms.

Some find it helpful to be mindful and focus on the present. We need to be compassionate and allow time to heal. This can also be a time of reflection on our priorities and values. A recent social media post by a friend focused on what she has learned over the past few months and on what she was grateful for. I have heard many express similar sentiments as they are revisiting activities that they love and haven’t had the time for such as sleeping longer without guilt, walking – a lot, and having nightly dinners with family.

Finally, try to be hopeful and remember that even though we do not yet have a vaccine progress is being made.  This may be a long road, but we are learning more strategies that will slow the spread and keep ourselves and loved ones protected.

If you are experiencing heightened anxiety or depression, Howard Center’s Access and Intake Main Number, 802-488-6000, is available M-F 8 am – 6 pm. Our staff will offer support and connect you with services. Also, our First Call for Chittenden County crisis hotline, 802-488-7777, is available 24/7/365. Help is here.

Karen Prosciak, Psy.D., works at Howard Center and lives in Williston.