Understanding Stress

In the last 4 weeks, Dr Bill Howatt of Howatt HR has been helping us navigate through self-isolation by providing micro skills on how to charge our battery in the name of maintaining good mental health during this difficult time.

Creating a Mental Fitness Plan and writing it down is key in charging our battery in combination with the micro skills learned.  So far, we have learned to have an attitude of gratitude and the importance of making a social connection.  This week, we understand the impacts of stress during such a difficult period in our lives.

As you know, there is good stress (Eustress) in which there needs to be a balance to keep us motivated in the things we do every day.

There is also bad stress (Distress).  The balance of the frequency, intensity, and duration of this stress can predict our mental health risk.  This is made up of the difference between what you want and what you have.  If you are on the high end of distress you may relate to the following:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Increased emotional response
  • Memory loss
  • Feeling lonely
  • Loss of purpose
  • Increased sensitivity to stimulus
  • Increased procrastination
  • Increase physiological response

Some of us may cope with distress in negative ways such as drug and alcohol use, isolating ourselves, the use of food, or working too much.

Finding positive ways to cope with distress is important.  Some healthy habits in dealing with distress may include:

  • Having a support network
    • Personal and Professional
  • Maintaining social connection
  • Problem solving
  • Attitude of gratitude
  • Social connection
  • Exercise
  • Gardening
  • Pets
  • Reading or Music

If you have a habit of using a negative coping mechanism, it isn’t as simple as removing that behaviour.  The old behaviour needs to be replaced with a positive coping mechanism or behaviour.  For example, if you go to a bag of potato chips or a glass of wine when you are stressed, you can’t just stop going to the potato chips  or having the glass of wine, you need to be able to go to something else other than the potato chips or wine.

You will need to replace the eating or drinking habit with something else like exercise.  Go for a 20-minute walk.  If eating is what is preferred, substitute the potato chips for fruits or vegetables.   Find something that will work for you.  This will help the new behaviour become habit and in turn a positive method of coping with stress.

If you haven’t done so already, take the Mental Fitness Index survey.  Click here to see if you are charging your battery.  You will learn where you stand in regards to your own mental fitness and this may influence your Mental Fitness Plan.