COVID-19 and lockdown have come with a wide variety of challenges for us all that include issues such as; reduced pay, increased workload (depending whether you are furloughed or not), loss of control, uncertain business and physical environments, and fears for our own safety. Not to mention the concerns about whether other people are keeping to the lockdown rules.
Now the spectre of unlocking is upon us, bringing renewed uncertainty, more choices and judgements to be made by us. There are also unknowns about how the "new normal" will be experienced. For many this can feel intensely stressful and that is before we consider the previous stresses we, ourselves, bring in to play.
To deal with these times of uncertainty and fast moving changeable rules we need to be on top of our game and make sure that we are not bringing any additional issues in to play that can cause our decision making to be reactive or over reactive. Below are the 6 key ways we attract and build up stress in our lives. They are common to all of us. Some of us will have a relationship with all of these areas and others may just continually cause themselves stress in one or two of them.
By paying attention to these, and being aware of our own relationship with them, we arm ourselves with additional choices about our relationships with stress. Most importantly if we have a healthy relationship with these 6 areas then when really big, out of our control issues arise, such as COVID-19 we are better equipped to ride the waves and make healthy rational decisions.
Below we take a brief look at each area. Which ones apply to you? What can you do to make the relationship with these areas a healthier one?
For many of us our (not so secret) super power is our ability to put ourselves under pressure. We learnt early on in our life if we pushed ourselves through issues that scared us we learnt more about ourselves, stretched our comfort zone and developed new skills. For many though, this becomes our number one coping mechanism when faced with new challenges. It is worthwhile being aware of whether you are over reliant upon this as a coping mechanism and whether putting yourself under pressure, in fact, can go too far and cause you harm.
This is the stress of the supporter/rescuer personality type. The person that gets their energy from, and sometimes defines themselves by, the sacrifices they make for others. There will always be times when it is a healthy choice to put your agenda to one side and focus on supporting others. When it goes too far, however, those that see it as their role to support and help others can quickly end up feeling that they are the ones who are under-resourced emotionally, and that they are the victims of their own decisions. Do you go into support mode automatically without considering your own needs?
Those of us that thrive on the feedback of others, who like to compete and compare ourselves to others will be well aware that this motivator can become a burden. The desire to show certain others, or the whole world, how well we are coping can become a poisoned chalice as we realise that it can be a constant stress we have attracted into our lives. Put simply, sometimes we care too much about what others think of our behaviours, of our actions and about us as a person. It is too easy to say that we need to develop more internal validation and confidence, but if this has been a successful motivator for you in the past it is a challenge to let go of trying to please the rest of the world before yourself. Learning to do so could give you a sense of freedom.
If there is one area of stress that can be embodied by the locking down and unlocking processes, it is our relationship with control. For those of us who have managed to successfully navigate life so far by maintaining absolute control, this will have been a trying period. Our relationship with control is complex but we can experience stress simply because of our inability to let go of control. In other words, it's not the stuff that is out of my control that is causing the rising anxiety in me. It is the fact that despite knowing it is out of my control I still try to control it.
It may be worthwhile sitting down and reflecting on how seeking less control may still get the same or similar outcomes but leave you feeling a lot better.
This area has two different impacts. Depending upon your relationship with trust it may hit you both ways.
We attract stress into our lives through our inability to trust others and/or our inability to trust ourselves.
You may use lack of trust as a self motivator or a way of keeping yourself feeling safe. You may use it to actively undermine relationships or your own ability. Whatever your relationship with it, and for many of us it is complex, if taken too far it can be a source of a great deal of anxiety. It may be worth considering how learning to trust yourself or others could benefit you emotionally.
Within each of those areas there is a whole world of important personal development work. If worked on, we can help ourselves to view the world differently, take different decisions and most importantly feel more comfortable within ourselves. In doing so we will be able to deal with other external issues with greater resilience.
If you want to explore your relationship with stress as a whole, or any of these specific areas, why not step inside My Internal World and take a look at the comprehensive video clips and worksheets within the Stress Pathway.