Welcome to Worry-Less Wednesdays!
We are all going through this challenging time together. We have come together to support each other when we feel the stress of the times. Spring holidays are upon us, and we find ourselves creating new routines and rituals in an effort to maintain equilibrium. We are here to provide support and encouragement to Worry Less. Please send us ideas to share with our colleagues and families across the district. (WellnessWednesdays@Lawrence.k12.ny.us)
Excerpts from In Stressful Times, Make Stress Work for You from NY Times Science Section, 4/7/20
Research shows we can actually use stress to improve our health and well-being. Here’s how.
Credit...Paper illustration by Reina Takahashi, photographed by Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
By Kari Leibowitz and Alia Crum
These are stressful times. As a result of coronavirus and the disease it causes, Covid-19, millions of Americans aren’t just worried about their health, but also about their livelihoods and their futures. At the same time, warnings abound that stress itself is bad for our health and might even make us more susceptible to the illness. The irony is obvious.
Fortunately, there is an alternative approach: We can actually use that stress to improve our health and well-being. Over a decade of research — ours and that of others — suggests that it’s not the type or amount of stress that determines its impact. Instead, it’s our mind-set about stress that matters most.
Changing our stress mind-sets about the coronavirus may not happen instantaneously, but it is possible to shift our reaction to our stress. These are the three steps to harnessing the benefits of stress while minimizing its harmful effects.
Step 1: Acknowledge Your Stress
The first step to making stress work for you is to simply see and acknowledge your stress. When we take a moment to acknowledge our stress, it moves us from operating from a fearful, reactive place to a position where we can be thoughtful and deliberate.
Acknowledging your stress also helps us overcome what’s known as “ironic mental processing.” When we try to avoid thinking about something — say, how stressed we are about the coronavirus — our brain tries to help us not think of this thing by constantly checking in with us to see if we’re thinking of it.
This step is also an opportunity to understand what’s at the heart of your personal stress or anxiety. Are you most worried about getting sick, or are you worried about a vulnerable loved one? Are you most stressed about balancing working from home with family responsibilities, or about losing your job?
Once you determine what’s stressing you specifically, you can also examine your reactions to these stressors. What emotions are you experiencing: frustration, sadness, anger? And what do you notice in your body: Do you feel tightness in your neck and shoulders, or do you have difficulty sleeping?
Step 2: Own Your Stress
The next step is to welcome, or “own,” your stress. Why would we want to welcome stress into our lives, especially during a pandemic? We only stress about things that we care about. By owning our stress, we connect to the positive motivation or personal value behind our stress. If we deny or avoid our stress, we may actually be denying or disconnecting ourselves from the things we value and treasure most.
In order to connect with the values and goals underlying your stress, try completing this sentence about whatever was specifically stressing you out in step one: “I’m stressed about [insert stressor from step one] because I deeply care about …”
Step 3: Use Your Stress
Connecting to the core values behind your stress sets you up for the third and most essential step: using or leveraging stress to achieve your goals and connect more deeply with the things that matter most.
Ask yourself: Are your typical responses in alignment with the values behind your stress? If you’re worried about your family getting sick because you care about their health, is snapping at them for not washing their hands for long enough the best way to protect your family? If you’re worried about the impact of coronavirus on society, is seeking out constant news coverage the best way to help support your community during this time? Think about how you might change your response to this stress to better facilitate your goals and your purpose.
There’s so much happening right now that we can’t control. But — as many people are noticing — there are also unprecedented opportunities amid the fear. Some psychologists argue that true transformative change can occur only during stress or crises. The trick is to channel your coronavirus stress as energy to make the most of this time.
The virus and our response to it are incredibly complex. But later, we will be able to ask ourselves how we each responded to this crisis. Did we live in accordance with our values? Did we make the most of this opportunity to learn and grow personally, to connect with loved ones, and to prepare for the next time we face a crisis?
One of our Middle School teachers uses this to check - in with her students during their at-home time. It helps her identify who may be struggling with stress. You may find this helpful as well. Thank you for sharing!