How to Cope with the Stress of 2020... and Beyond

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

There is so much going on in the world right now. Where I live, in Calgary Alberta, we have gone back into lockdown for 4 weeks. That means that Christmas is essentially cancelled, or at least it feels that way. While that is incredibly sad and difficult to accept, Covid cases are growing quickly and I think it’s important that we all do our part to contain the spread of the virus.

On that note, things might be tough for a while. I mean, things HAVE been tough for while! 2020 has been a really hard year for everybody. While I truly hope that you are happy, healthy and have been impacted minimally by the pandemic, I understand that is likely not the case for the majority. Many of us are feeling isolated, both physically and emotionally, being separated from our loved ones. This is new territory for everyone, it’s hard to know how to cope.


I personally struggled with mental illness for several years. I would lay awake at night, unable to turn off my brain from the negative thoughts. This was incredibly unhealthy and it impacted every aspect of my life. The lack of sleep was debilitating, making me a walking (often crying) zombie. It became a vicious cycle of feeling depressed and not sleeping, not sleeping and feeling depressed. This experience eventually led me to my passion of helping others with their sleep.


I am so happy to be able to say that I eventually learned how to cope with my anxiety and depression, I used many of the techniques below and I also started using medication. It took me many years to finally accept my doctor’s recommendation of medication, but it was the right decision for me. Only you can make that decision. Mental illness is so common and it needs to be normalized, especially in times like these. There is no shame in having depression or taking medication for it. There is no shame in having these feelings and seeking help. There is no shame. Period.


I wanted to share some tips that I have accumulated over the years, on how to cope with these feelings when they arise. I hope that something inspires you and helps you get through the emotions of Christmas, 2020 and whatever 2021 brings.


In no particular order. Just kidding, I totally put Sleep at the top on purpose, but the rest is in no particular order!


Sleep

It can be difficult to sleep when you are experiencing high stress and anxiety. Falling asleep and staying asleep become seemingly impossible. Your body NEEDS sleep, and getting the proper sleep requirements for your age will drastically improve your overall emotional well-being. Out of all of my suggestions in this post, getting more sleep will help you the most. Possibly because it is my business, but mostly because I have had insomnia and I know the affects it has. Check out my other Blog “10 Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep,” if you are struggling, or reach out to me.


Breathing/Meditation

Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, close your eyes and focus only on the air going in and out of your body. Take deep breaths, counting slowly from 1 to 4. In moments when emotions are high, breathing helps to ground you in the moment, lowering your heartrate and distracting your mind from what is causing you stress.


Your Happy Place

Think about somewhere you have been that brought you joy. Go to that place in your mind whenever you feel the need to escape. Recall the details, truly envision yourself there. It helps to be alone and in a quiet and peaceful space, but you can really do it anywhere.


Goal Setting

Try to set aside 10-30 minutes once a week. Take this time to write down all the roles you have in your life (friend, sister, brother, parent, child, manager, student, etc.) Think about little ways that you can improve in each of those roles, then come up with some small steps you can take. Look at your week ahead and think about how and when you can accomplish those things. (Ex. As a student, maybe you want to improve your grades on a class you are struggling in. Set aside extra time to focus on that class. Be specific. Wednesday at 6:30-7:30pm I will put my phone away and read chapter 9 again.)

(Ex. 2. As a mother, I want to connect with my child more. I will turn off all electronics and sit with my child and read to them for 20 minutes, every evening after dinner.)


Journaling

Keeping a daily log of your thoughts and experiences can help you. Write down things that made you feel happy, sad, anxious, overwhelmed, out of control, etc. It can help to get these emotions out, even if it just on paper or digitally. It is also beneficial to look at your list and recognize that there may be things that you can control, and things you cannot. You can then focus on the controllable items (when you are awake during the day, not when you are lying in bed at night), and learn to let go of the things you have no control over.

I also recommend setting aside 5 minutes in the morning before you start your day. This time can be used to write positive affirmations (you are strong, you are worthy, you are where you need to be). I also encourage you to write down 3-5 tasks you want to complete that day, something that will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something and will help you feel less stressed. Use your “role goals” to help you create these small and simple tasks. It can be something that has been keeping you up at night, or something as simple as making your bed, drinking 8 cups water, or reading 10 pages of a book. This is meant to help you find some direction, not stress you out or overwhelm you. You may start to notice that you feel accomplished when you get to cross off the things you have completed!


Vision Boards

Sometimes it can feel like we are trapped, stuck in this situation and unable to move forward. Right now, this is truer than ever, since we are literally being forced to stay home. It can help to visualize the life you want. You want to visualize yourself sitting in that dream car, owning that beautiful home, working in your dream career, etc. Whatever your dreams are, believe that they are going to happen for you. And if you truly believe it, then they WILL. Manifest that shit.


I have created a Vision Board on my Pinterest Page which I have connected to a widget on my iPhone. Every hour, my phone cycles through my Vision Board pictures, so I see a new photo of something I want in my life. I take a moment to visualize myself there. This can also be a moment for you to escape if you’re feeling stressed, but it also helps you see that you have a future and you control where it goes.


Reading/Music/Hobbies

There are so many books out there that can help you get through difficult times. Music is also incredibly therapeutic, listen to songs that bring you joy or calm you. If you know what hobbies or activities make you feel good, set aside time to do them. Bring joy into your daily life as much and as often as you can.


A few book recommendations:

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Atomic Habits by James Clear


Your 5 Senses

If you ever feel out of control, emotionally, bring it back to basics. Open your eyes and think of 5 things you can see. Then close your eyes and think of 4 things you can feel/touch. Then 3 things you can hear. Then 2 things you can smell. And finally, 1 thing you can taste. This will help ground you and help you realize that all the emotions you are/were feeling are just extra. Life really comes down to those 5 senses and taking a moment to focus on them intently can help bring your awareness back to the foundations of life.


Aromatherapy

I want you to make your bedroom your sanctuary, this will help with your sleep and overall mood. Move your furniture around if you need to, paint your walls, hang up pictures, write your favorite quotes on your mirror or frame them on your nightstand. Fill it with positive smells, pictures and objects. Keeping it tidy will also help your stress immensely! Find a candle you love or an essential oil diffuser and make y