After two years of living with the COVID-19 pandemic, people are feeling stressed. We have less patience for slights that we used to shrug off. We want people to listen to us and support us, but we sometimes may forget that they probably want the same things from us.
We might also feel we don’t have the bandwidth to extend more support to others. We might be a little less kind than we could be.
But in today’s reality, small annoyances can mushroom into big conflicts. We’ve seen shootings over parking spaces, people yelling at each other for wearing masks or not wearing masks, and a frightening uptick in violence throughout Philadelphia and across the country.
Sensational Headlines Can Raise Our Stress Levels
The smartphones we carry around often add to the tension. Social media, television, and radio programming often thrives on conflict and emotion. We are fed a steady stream of provocative headlines, whether they’re about the war in Ukraine, politics, or racial injustice. Even sports updates and weather forecasts are often presented in dire terms.
It’s important to be mindful of how these stories may upset us and try to avoid getting overwhelmed. Otherwise all this negative news can raise our blood pressure and increase our risk of heart disease or stroke, weaken our immune systems, affect the quality of our sleep, and generally worsen our mental health and sense of well-being.
Take Back Control
There are a few things we can do to de-escalate the level of stress in our lives.
Start by practicing love and kindness to yourself. Affirmations — positive statements we repeat to ourselves to help us overcome negative thoughts — can be a useful tool. Repeat gentle affirmations in your mind, such as wishing happiness and freedom from suffering for you and the people you care about. It sounds simple, but studies show that this kind of practice helps us feel connected and supported and increases our patience.
It’s also important to take breaks. Give your phone a rest and go outside. Take a walk, play with your dog, or say hello to your neighbors. Get together with friends in person.
And consider reading the news rather than listening to it. You’ll be able to better control which stories you read. Take them in at your own pace, and stop before you become overwhelmed.
Finally, remember that most people are having a hard time, so resist the temptation to assume the worst about them. If a friend, stranger, or co-worker makes an insensitive comment, it may be because they’re experiencing a lot of stress themselves. A well-meaning compliment or kind word from you could change their whole attitude and lead to a more positive relationship.
For more information about mental health self-care strategies and where to find help, visit ibx.com/knowyourmind.