Stress Management Tips for a Successful End of 2020
I can’t be the only one who feels like we’ve been living in a sci-fi movie for the last six months. And honestly, it’s not as fun as I thought it would be. I want a refund!
One good thing that did come out of this disaster of a year is all the memes the internet provided about how bad it’s been. Like this gem of a tweet:
Jokes aside, this year has been tough for many of us, as we’re trying to find normalcy in a global pandemic. Suddenly our jobs, livelihoods, health, and future feels unstable, and as a bonus your mental strength suffers.
Back in March, not a day went by without receiving unexpected news. Just as most of you around the world, we at Printful felt the rapid changes, too—our offices moved to our homes, our production was limited, and each day brought a set of new challenges.
That’s when I got an idea to write a blog about dealing with pandemic stress. I wanted to write it for selfish reasons—to find ways to feel less anxious about, well, everything. I’m glad I didn’t write that blog post then. As I’m writing this 6 months into working from home, I can look back at what made my stress worse, what helped, and what I wish I made part of my daily routine from the start.
This article isn’t something you’d usually see on the Printful blog where we strive to help you grow your ecommerce business and learn the latest marketing trends. But taking care of yourself is crucial at this unprecedented time, heightened by the stress of the upcoming holiday season. At the end of the day, how can you successfully grow your business when you’re not your best self?
The mental toll of 2020
The disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic are far from over. We’re experiencing financial hardships and fear of infection all while the ongoing social isolation takes a toll on our mental health. According to research by the Department of Mental Health, more than one in four US adults with no prior history of a mental health condition experienced mental distress in the early phases of the pandemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety.” What’s more, the stress you feel during an infectious disease outbreak can cause:
- Fear about your own health, as well as the health of your loved ones, your financial stability, or loss of support services you rely on.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Changes in sleep and/or eating habits.
- Worsening of chronic health problems, including mental health conditions.
Now put the hustle and bustle of the upcoming holiday season on top of that and you’ve got yourself a perfect storm of emotional distress. So how do we keep it all together in the midst of all this chaos?
Healthy ways to cope with stress
Back in March, when our marketing team began working from home, we started a Slack thread about stress management tips. We shared what each of us is doing to not go stir-crazy while being in lockdown, how we’re keeping our productivity up, and most importantly—how we’re easing our common anxiety.
Here are the top five tips that stood out to me that I added to my daily routine straight away, and I can confidently say that they made me feel less on edge, they increased my productivity while working from home, and helped me feel more in control during this strange time.
1. Limit your screen time
We’re using screens more than ever now—having work meetings on Zoom, doing virtual workouts, staying in touch with our family and friends through Facetime. Not to mention the endless push notifications with the latest news.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that greater exposure to social and traditional media sources is associated with mental distress among US adults. It’s important to stay connected, but after so many weeks of quarantine, the burnout is real.
Too much screen time can cause sleep difficulties, rise in anxiety and depression, and even spike loneliness (especially when looking at the perfect versions of one’s life on Instagram). Here are the three steps that helped me take control of my screen time:
- Take hourly 10-15 minute screen breaks: Easier said than done, I know. Especially if your workday is spent in front of a computer. But trust me, your productivity will only soar if you give your eyes and your brain regular breaks. Set a break time reminder on your phone or computer, so you’re notified when it’s time to switch from your laptop to your phone (just kidding).
- Remove your guilty-pleasure apps from home screen: Apps like Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter are true time-suckers for me, especially when the world seems to be on fire. I took those apps off my home screen, so I wouldn’t open them by force of habit. I find that this trick helps me be more mindful, and sometimes that small time delay while I’m looking for the app is what drives me to put my phone down.
- Keep the tech out of the bedroom: This simple trick can do wonders for decreasing your screen time. Plus, it will improve your sleep—using TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other electronic devices before bedtime suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and makes it more difficult to fall asleep. So leave your laptop at your desk after you’re done with work, and stop charging your phone on your nightstand. Instead, try a good old bedtime reading session.
2. Make time for mindfulness
Whenever you feel confused or anxious, it’s important to slow down, let your ideas flow, and deconstruct the thoughts that upset you one by one.
Mindfulness is about being present, being aware of your body, thoughts, and where you are at this exact moment. Practicing mindfulness can change how you think and respond to situations, and it plays a big role in our well-being.
For example, something positive that came out of working from home for me is cooking my meals every day. I’ve learned that taking a bit of time each day to prepare food for myself can be a mindfulness exercise.
Cooking gives you something to do other than work, and helps develop a healthy relationship with food. Through that, I’ve become more mindful of my food choices, plus the ritual of cooking is a calming, almost meditative experience for me.
Not only does this exercise help my mind rest, I might come out of this quarantine a semi-professional chef (emphasis on semi, but still).
3. Talk it out
Complaining gets a bad rap, but it’s not always a bad thing to vent out your feelings, especially when you’re stressed.
My colleague Una shared that what helped her mental state during quarantine was “rant and whine” with her mom:
“My mom and I have been doing these rant sessions, talking out frustrations, annoyances, and fears. After we rant, we try to end on a positive note—find something that we appreciate right here and now. For example, the pandemic made us slow down a bit and find more time for mother-daughter convos. At times like these, a short venting session while still addressing the bright side helps me keep some of my sanity.”
Venting out your feelings helps you process them better and takes some of the pressure off. What’s more, one study found that venting in the workplace might improve mental health, help you bond with your co-workers, and allow you to work through your feelings.
However, after your rant session is over, I encourage you to either let your frustration go and move on with your life, or come up with an action plan on how to make the situation better. Or as Una said, simply end on a positive note, reminding yourself about the things that bring you joy. Otherwise, you risk marinating in those feelings and getting even more stressed.
4. Move it
Just like venting out your feelings, exercise can be a great de-stressor—it increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. What’s more, exercise:
- Boosts the production of the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins.
- Strengthens your cardiovascular, digestive, and immune system, which help protect your body from the harmful effects of stress.
- Increases self-confidence, improves your mood, helps you relax, and lowers symptoms of mild depression and anxiety.
- Improves your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression, and anxiety.
Even brief amounts of exercise have surprising mental health benefits. Just five minutes of simple exercise can reduce anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. So start moving–take a walk, skip the elevator, or do an online fitness class!
5. Take a breather
Take a deep breath in. Now let it out. Straight away, you may notice a difference in how you feel.
When we feel anxious or under stress, we tend to take too many breaths too quickly, which can cause hyperventilation, so having a few simple breathing exercises up your sleeve can help at times of distress.
There is a variety of breathing exercises you can implement into your daily routine. My favorite is the long exhale, which I was introduced to at a yoga class a couple of years ago. While taking a deep breath can help calm you down, it’s actually the exhale that truly relaxes your body:
- Push all the air out of your lungs, then simply let your lungs do their work inhaling air.
- Then, spend a bit longer exhaling than you do inhaling. For example, try inhaling for 4 seconds, then exhale for 6.
- Do this for several minutes and see how you feel.
I also love the mental fitness app Calm—and yes, technically it will log extra minutes to your screen time, but it’s worth it, I promise. The app offers various sessions that help ease anxiety and stress, like guided and unguided meditations, breathing exercises, and even sleep stories narrated by celebrities like Harry Styles, Kelly Rowland, and Matthew McConaughey.
Put your well-being first
Paying attention to stress relief is more important than ever as we deal with unprecedented changes in our lives brought by the pandemic, and especially as we get closer to the holiday season. For a lot of you ecommerce business owners, this time of the year can get extra stressful, and I hope you can use some of my tips to take a breather and put your well-being first.
And remember: it’s ok to have bad days, to feel stressed, frustrated, and even defeated at times. However, by learning to use the tools that help strengthen our mental well-being, we can hopefully have more good days than bad, pandemic or not.
Are you feeling the stress of 2020? What are your pandemic stress relievers? Share in the comments below!
Note that this blog post isn’t medical advice. If you’re struggling with a mental health disorder, please speak with a licensed professional.