Managing Stress in Difficult Times

Tuning into the news may be highly stressful or upsetting for many Americans. You are not alone if you’ve been experiencing stress or anxiety due to current events. Stress is part of everyday life, but it can be particularly heightened due to the news, current events or unfortunate incidents that could directly or indirectly impact your well-being. So, what exactly are stress and anxiety?

Stress Versus Anxiety
Stress is any demand placed on your brain or physical body. An external trigger typically causes stress. Any event or scenario that makes you feel frustrated or nervous can trigger it. On the other hand, anxiety is defined as persistent, excessive worries that don’t go away even in the absence of a stressor. Anxiety and stress lead to nearly identical symptoms. According to the American Psychological Association, people experience mental and physical symptoms, such as irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles and difficulty sleeping.

How to Cope
Since anxiety and stress are emotional responses, they respond well to similar coping mechanisms. Try these general tips to manage anxiety and stress:

  • Avoid doomscrolling. Binging on negative news or excessively scrolling on social media can have negative consequences. Try to focus on facts rather than speculation.
  • Be physically active. Try to give your mind a rest, shifting the focus to your body instead. Physical activity creates mood-boosting chemical changes in the brain.
  • Be mindful. When thoughts feel spiraling, meditation and other mindfulness activities can help you feel present in the moment.
  • Try breathing exercises. Breathing is closely linked to the nervous system. Deep, controlled breathing with extended exhalation can cause a fall in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Take time to unwind. It’s essential to still engage in activities you enjoy. Creative outlets, such as hobbies, crafts, writing or home improvement, can be good distractions.
  • Maintain sleep habits. Although it may be hard to sleep when anxious, try to maintain your usual sleeping pattern. Being well-rested is vital for emotional balance.
  • Eat healthy, balanced meals. Healthy eating positively impacts your overall physical and mental health, improving your ability to navigate stress during troubling times.
  • Connect with others. Good relationships foster a sense of belonging and provide an outlet to share experiences. Sharing worries with others can improve your situation and feelings.
  • Be transparent. Talk to your manager if your stress or anxiety stems from work-related situations. There may be ways they can help to lessen the burden.
  • Reach out for help. Feeling anxious or stressed is natural, but don’t suffer alone. Talk to your doctor or check with your employer for mental health or wellness resources.

If you’re concerned about your mental health, talk to your doctor, a licensed mental health professional or contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline by calling 800-662-HELP (4357).