Feeling a little stressed about the “new normal” that we are all currently all living?
Sweating about working from the kitchen table, trying to meet a work deadline, while the dog barks to go out and the 1
grader sitting across the table is demanding help with her addition that looks like it is written in a foreign language? Wondering if it is “safe” to leave the computer across the table from that same 6 -year old (after all, she can push buttons, even if it takes an act of Congress for her to figure out that 5 plus 7 equals 12) while you race to the restroom? Will the WIFI crash under the weight of all of the users in the household and will you find yourself suddenly “disconnected” (in more ways than one)?
All of these considerations and a host more, rising from the current unprecedented Coronavirus Pandemic, coupled with the many stresses of our already hectic everyday lives, have wreaked havoc on our physical and mental well-being, as well as our personal and professional lives, and made them all the more well, stressful.
I had recently been tasked to prepare an article for the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Quality of Life Balance Committee, of which I am currently the Co- Vice-Chair, for publication during “Wellness Wednesday” on May 6th, as part of the American Bar Association’s “Lawyer Well Being Week”. The purpose of the article was to provide my fellow colleagues in the law with some coping tips and mechanisms for brief “escapes” to help each of us achieve some measure of harmony and well-being during the current unprecedented uncertainty. After completing the article, I realized that the tools and suggestions discussed in the article applied to non-lawyers, as well as lawyers. So, I decided to share the “coping” tips in the firm’s Newsletter.
There is nothing earth shattering here, or any new “revelations”, but what follows are just SEVEN basic tips that take less time (or effort), yet can yield BIG rewards in reducing both stress and anxiety:
First, BREATHE. You can do it anytime, anywhere. You don’t need any special equipment, a special location or even a friend. All you need to do is stop and focus. Four seconds to inhale deeply, hold for 4 seconds, exhale all of the stale air out in another 4 seconds and hold for 4 more seconds before proceeding to take another breath. Do this ten times. There are many variations on the theme of how to BREATHE for stress reduction. Try several and use the breathing technique that works best for you. For those of you who need “proof”, studies show that doing these types of focused breathing exercises decreases blood pressure and eases anxiety (whew, what a relief!);
Second, keep a GRATEFULNESS JOURNAL. Start (or end) each day with positivity by recording just three things for which you are grateful (The sun is shining. It is Spring and the flowers and trees are blooming with new life. The baby slept through the night for the first time EVER). Easy enough- “JUST TRY IT”.
Third, get out in the SUNSHINE. Even a mere ten minutes a day of direct sunlight has been shown to increase the levels of serotonin (the “feel good” hormone) in the brain. Plus, being outdoors helps you connect with nature, which acts as a “re-charge” to reduce mental fatigue.
Fourth, MOVE. Dance, walk, jog, cycle, run the vacuum, do yoga, whatever movement suits your mood, your lifestyle and your physical condition. Even a ½ hour of any type of exercise every day, at any level of activity, has been documented to improve mental health as well as (or better) than some prescription medications, such as antidepressants.
Fifth, commune with NATURE. Go for a walk, dig in the dirt. Look at the world around us. Help things to grow. Most importantly, leave the technology, the news, and the social media at home.
Sixth, extend KINDNESS to someone. Perform some sort of “service” for others (including pets). It can be something small like taking 10 minutes to read a short story to the six- year old, struggling with her math, and sitting across the kitchen table from you. Or, place a call (you know, actually talk) to an elderly friend, neighbor or family member to assure that they are well and have what they need during the pandemic. Text a friend with a virtual hug “until we meet again” to let him/her know you care and miss them. Pack up a box of non-perishables from the pantry and deliver it to the local food bank or shelter. Helping others is a not only a “feel good” event, it is a huge source of stress relief and provides rewards far greater, and for much longer, than you can imagine.
Seventh, get between 7 and 8 hours of SLEEP every night. Can’t get to sleep? Ditch the technology in your bedroom. In fact, ditch it a good hour before you turn in (studies show that blue light disrupts your sleep cycle). Still can’t get to sleep? Try the focused breathing exercises, listen to relaxing music or place something on your bedside table that evokes gratitude in you or helps you to recall experiences and happy memories whenever you look at it. Studies have shown that experiences far outweigh “things” from a satisfying perspective. Relive those “feel good” experiences by holding the object or looking at the photo to evoke the gratitude and happy memories that they bring, right before closing your eyes. Then, zzzzzzzz’s
If you notice a theme here, you are right on the money.
SELF-CARE is the best gift that you can give yourself, your family, your colleagues and your clients. Not just during this international crisis, but EVERYDAY. If you are not in a good place- both physically and mentally, you cannot effectively help others. As the airlines tell you, “Put on your oxygen mask first. Then help others put on theirs”. All of the above tools/tips are the functional equivalent of putting on your own oxygen mask first. Only then can you be an asset to those who depend on you.
As I stated at the inception, these tools told are not, neither new nor novel. The good news is that they also collectively do NOT take much time. But, they ARE trying, true and known to work, especially if they become a part of your daily “mindset” such that they begin to feel like your favorite pair of old shoes. How about trying them on for size and doing just a couple of figurative laps in them? You may be pleasantly surprised how natural and good they cause you to feel.
From the Law Firm of Peter J. Russo, P.C. we wish you and yours safety and good health. Here’s to your, mine, and our collective “WELLNESS”.