How to Manage Stress in a Chaotic World
By Krishna Dholakia, MS, RD, CDE, CDN
Feeling a certain level of stress and worry in our lives is normal. Stress can be positive — it can help us get things done, prioritize and organize our lives, and propel us forward. However, too much stress and worry can have a negative effect.
While some stressful situations in our lives such as personal or work conflicts can be resolved, many others lie beyond our control. We are reminded daily by news and world events that the world we live in may feel hostile and full of threats. This only increases the collective level of stress and anxiety that we feel and that surrounds us. Because of this, it is important to manage our stress and emotions.
Here are a few ways to cope with stress:
Weigh the worry. If we don’t rationalize or aim to resolve the worry, it gets bigger. Some worries are more relevant than others. Ask yourself if you can control or change what it is you are worried about. How crucial is it? Do you have to solve it now? Does your worry involve you or another person? Oftentimes, there is reason and a root to why we are feeling a certain way. Asking yourself these questions can help you rationalize and weigh the real importance of the worry. Offer yourself ways to process what you are worried about by journaling your thoughts, talking your problems over with friends, family, or a therapist, and by engaging in activities that bring you joy and promote self-care.
Be proactive, not reactive. Viktor E. Frankl once said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”* It’s often too easy to be reactive when we are feeling stressed or agitated. Use practices like mindfulness, prayer, scripture reflection, meditation, and breathing techniques that can help slow down the thought process and calm the nervous system. Approaching a situation from a calm and grounded state makes you less likely to act or say something impulsively.
Learn to accept the things you cannot change. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”** It may be hard to make peace with the things we cannot change, but being aware of our beliefs and attitudes toward a situation or a person can be eye opening. Change occurs from gaining awareness and understanding.
The more we condition ourselves to better manage stress, the more resilient we will become. Lean on your community and resources during hard times. If you feel like stress is affecting your life in a negative way, be sure to talk to your doctor or mental health provider. For those who have health coverage provided by the Episcopal Church Medical Trust Plan, Cigna Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides a confidential, 24-hour service that can help you address behavioral health issues. Call (866) 395-7794, or sign in to myCigna.com using the Employer ID: episcopal.
Krishna Dholakia serves as the Senior Health Education Specialist in the Education & Wellness department at CPG. She is a registered dietitian and a 500-hour certified yoga instructor.
*Man’s Search for Meaning, copyright 1946.
**Excerpt taken from The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.