Last year, when parents were forced to juggle childcare, virtual learning, and their careers, the mounting stress undoubtedly led to psychological distress and anxiety for many. New research suggests that COVID-related stress on parents and caregivers—who were anxious about everything from job stability and financial security to their family’s health and safety—directly impacted their children's well-being as well as their own.
While there is no way to completely eliminate stress from your life, the Happify Daily team has some tactics to help you manage it so it doesn't impact how you show up at work or for your family.
Not All Stress Is Bad For You
You might be under the impression that all stress is unhealthy, but this notion is not only false; it’s counterproductive. Research by Stanford psychologist Alia Crum shows that our "stress mindset" determines our biological response to stress. Some stress can be motivating, causing our bodies release hormones that help us face challenges and become more resilient.
Stressful situations can trigger paralyzing anxiety. As an antidote, try think of past experiences when you rose to challenges or think of other people who succeeded in similar situations. This helps build self-efficacy which is not quite the same as self-esteem; self-efficacy is more focused on doing whereas self-esteem has to do with being and general feelings of self-worth. Also avoid catastrophizing—imagining the worst case scenario—because you risk blowing things out of proportion.
Embrace the Unknown
Sometimes your ability to eliminate or limit stress factors will be beyond your control, yet you might still try, whether it’s attempting to change another person’s behavior or the outcome of a natural event. This impulse, while natural, can result in insecure striving, which leads to unhappiness if you don't achieve your goal (and a false sense of security if you do). Mindfulness, especially expressed in self-compassion meditations and body scans, can help, along with letting go of the desire to control.
Create a Network of Resources
Building up your inner and outer resources is perhaps the best way to handle stress. Pay attention to your sleep, diet, and exercise, stay engaged in projects you find meaningful, and don't hesitate to reach out to others for support and connection. As Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains in her book The Upside of Stress, oxytocin released from forming personal bonds initiates a "tend and befriend" response that makes us courageous in times of stress and is a healthy alternative to "fight or flight."
For a deeper dive on this topic, read the full article here.