The COVID-19 pandemic struggle is real.
According to a new national survey from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) on the impact of coronavirus, 35% of Americans report their mental health taking a serious hit. Those who already struggle with managing everyday conflicts and stress are finding themselves even more overwhelmed—and understandably so.
As we slowly transition out of quarantine and into a watered-down version of “business as usual,” I want to encourage you to leave anxiety behind. As an executive coach, I spend every day helping CEOs and leaders build resilience so they can do exactly that—say goodbye to stress and fear. Today I want to help you do the same by looking at three of the most common struggles I see people encounter and offering some helpful shifts you can make to overcome them.
Struggle One: Focusing on the Uncontrollable
You’re struggling… because you’re focusing too much on the uncontrollables.
You can shift to… focus on what you can control and establish structure.
The unknown is always scary. The key to navigating it is to focus on what you CAN do versus worrying about what’s out of your control. Use these strategies to shift your focus away from the uncontrollables and get a handle on that day-to-day stress you’re experiencing.
- Create structure in your day with a morning and night routine. Having a go-to regimen for the transition into and out of your day will give your body and mind the clarity it craves when other parts of your day are out of focus.
- Use a calendar or time management app to track your physical and mental energy levels. Use your “up” time—when you feel most productive—to put in your work hours. Dedicate your “down” time to rejuvenating activities like napping, reading, connecting with friends and family, or journaling.
- Maintain productivity by keeping your physical health at the forefront. You can create a positive impact for weeks to come by stabilizing your blood sugar with an anti-inflammatory diet, plenty of sleep, and consistent movement or exercise.
Struggle Two: Bad Environments
You’re struggling… because your environment isn’t working for you.
You can shift to… determine your why and create a supportive environment.
The first step in creating a supportive environment is to understand what causes disruption. Which gadgets distract you? What sounds turn your calm into chaos? Which people turn your focus into frustration? When you know what triggers your anger, agitation, or anxiety, you can also identify patterns and habits that might be prompting those feelings.
- Create purpose for your life by outlining goals and intentions for the future. Start with your deeper why. Why are you doing what you do every day? Why is it important? Make sure your reasons are connected to your values and core beliefs. When you have a deeper sense of purpose, you are less likely to get caught in survival or stress mode.
- Evaluate your physical surroundings. You have the power to create an environment that supports your goals and keeps you on your path. Dedicate time to consciously declutter the areas where you live and work as well as your relationships. Minimize your time spent in areas or with people who aren’t supportive, take you off your path, or distract you from reaching your goals.
Struggle Three: Lack of Boundaries
You’re struggling because… people aren’t aware of your boundaries or aren’t respecting them.
You can shift to… set, communicate, and stick to your boundaries.
Creating and maintaining boundaries during the pandemic has looked different for everyone. We each have our own definitions for “safe” and “healthy.” Get clear on what you need to protect your mental and physical well-being and take full responsibility for it.
- Re-introduce activities (as possible) into your schedule. As federal and state-level regulations governing day-to-day operations fluctuate, you might have some opportunity to re-introduce activities in your schedule. Think: a hike through the state park or enjoying a mobile tea or coffee order socially distanced from a friend. Just make sure to communicate and agree on any safety parameters in advance (social distancing, mask-wearing, proper sanitizing, etc.).
- Get clear in your communication. Once you’ve established what works for you, define and verbalize your boundaries to others including your family, friends, and co-workers. Let these boundaries bring you comfort, and remember, you can redefine your “normal” as often as you want.
- Learn to say “no” without feeling guilty. If someone has boundaries that are different from yours, you don’t have to put yourself in a compromising position just to make them happy. Remember you are the only one responsible for your happiness.
Whether your struggles mirror the above or look a little different, remember this: the key to building resilience is to dig deep, uncover the reason for struggle, and identify a perspective or habit shift that will lead to healthier outcomes.