Over the past three years, we’ve had so much news raining down on us, it would be more than enough for a lifetime. In 2022, things have been changing so rapidly that we had almost no time to adjust and are under continuous stress. When dealing with stress, the body engages all resources it has, trying to stabilize the mental state, but its resources are limited. Their depletion leads to emotional and behavioral disorders. In psychology, this condition is known as an adjustment disorder, or an adaptive responses disorder.
Stress is essentially how our bodies respond to external impact when all adaptation resources are strained. The more stress-inducing factors and the longer the exposure, the faster we become exhausted. In a situation when new potential stressors emerge almost daily, it is hard to stay resourceful for long, which results in adjustment disorder. How can you recognize it?
- Depression (low spirits, feeling of helplessness, dark and negative perception of the world);
- Anxiety (a nagging sense of alarm, wariness and constant expectation of bad news);
- Emotional instability (impulsiveness, irritability and mood swings);
- Fatigue (low performance and concentration, poor memory);
- Behavioral changes (reserve, anti-social tendencies and aggressiveness);
- Vegetative disorder (tightness of chess, elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, numbness, sweatiness or chills).
Every individual perceives events in their unique way. What is a source of stress, fear or anxiety to some, has no effect on others or is seen in a completely different light. So, there is no universal one-size-fits-all – and 100% effective – solution for dealing with constant change. But how can one replenish resources and avoid a stress-induced disorder? And how can one overcome the disorder if it has already occurred? There is general advice after all. You can choose what feels more appropriate to you.
The first thing you need to do is reduce the amount of stressing factors. Cut down on new information to one or two sources you trust. Don’t read comments to news: you won’t find anything useful, only other people’s emotions.
Second, keep socializing. Maintain a comfortable circle of people around you. Don’t self-isolate. If your and other people’s views on certain issues differ or a topic is difficult, agree to leave it aside.
Third, accept your emotions as a natural occurrence. Each person has individual responses, which is due to physiological and biochemical processes and reactions to certain events that develop during personality formation.
Fourth, define your fears clearly. Analyze your feelings and put the emphasis on what throws you off balance or scares you. Write these reasons down on paper and try to be as specific and clear as possible. Vague and implicit reasons have a stronger negative impact than specifics.
Fifth, decide on your actions. Analyze the list drawn up during the previous step and think on how you can influence the stressors. You don’t need a grand scheme – just look solely within the limits of how this all affects you and your immediate environment. Rank all factors according to the effects of stress on you currently and in the future: the stronger and more negative the impact, the higher the priority. Develop a plan to protect yourself against the stronger stressors first. This will allow you to make a more rational use of your adaptation resources.
Sixth, take care of your body and health. A regular balanced diet and getting at least eight hours of sleep a night plus a sufficient amount of fresh air and oxygen levels provide the body with the resources it needs to deal with stress. Avoid alcohol or any psychoactive substances as they bring only short-term relief, adverse reaction occurring and condition worsening after their effects are over.
Seventh, get positive emotions. Enjoying our favorite books, films and hobbies, spending time with children and our loved ones, and engaging in quality work – all this can boost positive emotions and help us change the tone of our thoughts from negative to positive.
Eighth, engage in regular physical activity, do breathing exercises and yoga. Similar to ways emotions affect the physical health, physical actions affect emotions as well. Exercise helps stimulate mechanisms that reduce levels of stress hormones and release biologically active substances.
Ninth, seek help from professionals. If you are aware that you are struggling to cope with stress on your own, do not hesitate to contact qualified psychologists and psychotherapists, who will help you look into causes of anxiety and develop a plan for adaptive action.
We should understand that emotional health requires an individual approach. And yet, it depends primarily on us – on our desires that translate into actions. You can be aware of physical and psychological tools to overcome a crisis situation – but failure to follow practical recommendations will only bring you further down into the abyss of anxiety and depression. No action will lead to no results. You need to take the first step – and then the second one, with many more to follow.
By Maria Syomina, Consulting Psychologist, Ponimayu corporate wellness platform