3 Tips on Dealing with Long-Term Stress

Would you be surprised if I told you that mental health and substance abuse counselors are going to be in demand as of 2021? According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics requests for mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral disorder counselors are predicted to rise by 25% in the next 10 years. 

There is a good chance you or one of your colleagues/friends will be in need of such counseling. Still wondering why? Apparently 2020 had it all – health crisis, economic crisis, racial crisis, political crisis, you name it! Some people are easier to admit they need help, others fight the psychological stress on their own until they reach a nervous breakdown. No matter when you start looking for help, most importantly is you get it as soon as possible. 

We are all learning, and no one is born with all the skills they ever need.

– Dr. nicole tschierske

During the first lockdown, I published an article on How to handle psychological stress during the COVID-19 isolation. Today I decided to share some tips on dealing with the long-term effects of this stress, all based on personal experience, work with a stress coach, and psychological first aid certification that I took from John Hopkins University.

1. Acknowledge the Stress

Many people are expected to be coming out of the second pandemic lockdown slightly traumatized and even with PTSD symptoms. We all hope this is the last lockdown we are ought to experience, but there is no guarantee. So my first step to recovery is acknowledging what you are going through, as it is not always that easy. 

A few years back, when I was struggling with work stress, I denied it as long as I could and it took its toll on me. During yet another mindfulness class I had a breakthrough, finally accepting the stress I was under, and allowing myself to feel angry and upset. Forcing myself into the positive mindset and ignoring the negative feelings did not help, on the opposite, it led to several months of counseling.

Even children do not feel joy all the time. Sometimes they meet with anger, fear, disgust, and sadness, which together make the five core human emotions. If you notice, only one feeling is pleasant and positive. The other four are often repressed, ignored, and negated. Emotions often control our actions, and by acknowledging your emotions you are giving yourself a chance to heal. The best way to explain this I have found in the computer-animated comedy film Inside Out (2015), which I now use as guidance for working with people. Remember, you are only human, so it is natural to meet with depression, stress, or trauma at some point in your life.

2. Assess your Needs

Today most people are likely to be living from work than working from home. During the Web Summit 2020 this situation was referred to as pandemic work, not remote work. Even though you have been doing that for months, does not mean you should have figured this all out by now. When forced into change, it is normal to experience stress, and everyone adjusts differently.

If feeling overwhelmed and confused, experiencing inability to concentrate and solve problems, it is time to slow down and address your personal needs. To do so, I use a life balance wheel, which is widely used in coaching practice to help address life areas that need more attention. A “helicopter view” on your life, if you like.

Life Balance Wheel

At different stages in life the attention will switch among the areas – health, partner, parents and siblings, children, personal development, creative projects and hobby, career, money, savings, belongings, etc. The most important question to ask yourself during the evaluation process is “To what degree am I satisfied with the current area of my life?”. Select a few to focus on, and take some action. After all, you are doing your best to balance your life-work.

3. Prioritize your Responsibilities

Finally, when in stress it can be difficult to handle multiple responsibilities at once. Sorting out less urgent tasks and focusing on important ones can make a big difference. The tool I apply here is called an Urgent-Important Matrix (Eisenhower matrix) that helps organize, manage and prioritize tasks. Especially for those with perfectionism syndrome, like me, this tool helps delegate tasks to other people, trust and rely on their help. 

Eisenhower Matrix

From the business point of view better mental health brings higher productivity and performance. So your work will get better once you take care of your psychological balance. Often people are too afraid or ashamed to ask for this kind of help, but reality is there are more people struggling than you think. And in case your mind keeps playing tricks on you, remember this – “We are all learning, and no one is born with all the skills they ever need” (Dr. Nicole Tschierske).

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