The first month of the new year has already proven to be a continuation of challenges and stress for many people in our country and around the world.
With the ongoing needs to cope with and respond to the pandemic, as well as significant political events and transitions, many people face enduring uncertainty and discouragement. They were hoping that, once 2020 was over, life would settle down a bit – but most of the same stressors are still interfering with “normal” life. Clients frequently ask how they can learn to cope more effectively with the stress and negative emotions these challenges present.
My recommendations for navigating this new year are the same ones I do my best to focus on every year. For me, these 5 intentional strategies have proven extremely effective in keeping me focused on what I need most to strengthen my resiliency to all types of stress.
Here they are:
In an effort to build strength and hope I focus on growing deeper in my spiritual faith. I commit to engaging daily in spiritual disciplines such as prayer, meditation, and study. Believing that I can put my trust in an all-powerful, all-knowing, and loving Creator is my greatest source of peace. Even 15 minutes a day of intentional quiet time will help you calm your spirit and create hope.
I am able to find clarity and direction for my life by filtering my biggest decisions and choices through what I value most. When you consistently live your life in alignment with what’s most important to you, doubt and confusion will greatly decrease. If it helps you focus, write a list of your core values in order of priority, and refer to it frequently when you are feeling stuck or indecisive. You can read more about the benefits of clarifying your values here.
Quality time spent with healthy friends and family is a tremendous source of social connection and encouragement. In these unusual days of the pandemic, you may need to be creative to connect with others if you feel you need to be physically separated. But, we have so many options for virtual meetings, video calls, voice calls and written communication like email or text. Think about who you enjoy talking to – someone who encourages you – and reach out. And, think about who may be in need of encouragement from you. You may find that lifting someone else’s spirits makes you feel so much better!
For some families, the most devastating aspect of the pandemic has been the loss of income due to closed or downsized businesses. But for others, it has been a time of “business as usual” with steady paychecks, or even an increase for those providing essential services. If your needs are being met financially, take a look around you for opportunity to bless someone in need. It is uniquely satisfying to become a source for provision and purpose. Spending your bonus or stimulus payment on recreation or non-essential items may be fun, but spending it for groceries for a friend who is struggling will give you a joy that no “toy” or material item can give.
In this season of negativity, you can become a source for positivity and perspective. Almost everyone is carrying some extra burdens and wrestling with worries these days. But no matter what, there is almost always a reason to be grateful. Express gratitude for friends and family who care, and to people working hard in essential jobs to make it possible to buy groceries, eat at a restaurant, or take care of your medical needs. Don’t let a face mask get in the way of smiling at others in public places – it will show in your eyes and your attitude. Sometimes a harried clerk just needs someone to say, “Thanks for working today. I know it isn’t easy.” Empathy helps us understand what someone else is feeling and experiencing, and when we are brave enough to take a few steps in their shoes, we can’t help but feel a bit more grateful.
Today is a good day to pray, “God, help me to be part of the solution, not part of the problem!” These strategies for coping with stress will help you achieve it!
Live, Work and Relate Well!