The Perfect Storm for Stress: COVID, Politics & Uncertainty: 7 Steps to Reduce Stress & Improve Coping

Over the next few weeks and months, a typically stressful time-the beginning of the holiday season which starts in the fall with Halloween and ends with New Years may feel even more stressful than in years past with the added stress of the pandemic, politics, social unrest and so much uncertainty.

You may feeling like you want to fast-forward time from now until January, and you are not alone! So many moms I support share this exact sentiment! 2020 has been an incredible year of epic levels of stress and uncertainty, and when we feel overwhelmed, wanting the stress to be ‘over’ is a natural response.

Now more than ever, I want to remind you, to take care of your mental health and well-being

Be informed but not Overwhelmed
We live in a world where we have access to the news and media 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And the information is no longer just streaming to our televisions; we have access to news through social media on our phones with notifications and alerts. Be mindful to stay informed on news and current events and limit the amount of time you spend informing yourself. There is a difference between being informed and being overwhelmed and saturated with information. Many people are overwhelmed with the news even if they’re only spending a short amount of time limiting exposure. I want to encourage you to KNOW YOURSELF and what you need and be aware of when you’re no longer being informed, but feeling overwhelmed to the point of noticing a decline in your mental health and functioning.

Streamline Decision Making
Are you having a difficult time making decisions? Do you notice that even making small choices feel overwhelming? Chronic psychological stress can impact decision making, making even the smallest decisions that once came with ease, overwhelming or exhausting. One way you can preserve your energy and manage stress is to streamline your decision making. In daily practice, this means creating a routine with a limited range of choices throughout your day.

Examples include: during the week having one to two breakfasts and lunches to prepare for you and your children, lay your clothes and your children’s clothes out the night before, and keep a routine and schedule throughout the day. Children respond well to routine and schedules-knowing what comes next and what is happening throughout the day can be reassuring and comforting during times of stress and uncertainty.

For example, keep the same schedule for waking up and going to bed. When there is downtime or time to be active, have a two to three activities to choose from for you and your child. Of course, you can always improve, but in the moment when feeling stressed, sometimes deciding what to do can feel overwhelming, so by default, nothing happens, or screen time is often the default activity.

Get Outside Daily
Every day set a goal to get outside, unplug, get some fresh air, and change your scenery. Spending time in nature, listening to the sounds outside, whether you’re living in an urban or rural area, is good for your well-being. Even small daily activity for fifteen minutes a day can help to reduce stress and tension.

Focus on What You Can Manage
There is so much going on in our world, creating unrest and uncertainty. To manage your stress now is not the time to focus on things you can not control. And if we really think about it, we can’t control much, but what we can do is MANAGE how we respond. Managing our emotions and thoughts is one way to decrease stress and improve well-being. In practice, this looks different for everyone-but collectively, we can be aware of when stress levels are getting too high and identifying what is contributing to elevating stress.

The next step is to take care of yourself by keeping good boundaries with preserving energy by limiting distressing conversations, topics, and interactions, including certain relationships (e.g., co-workers, family, friends). And staying focused on the near future, what is happening today, tomorrow, and perhaps in a week. Limit forecasting what the future will be or generalizing things will never change; this will only increase your stress.

Do Tasks During time Matches Energy
This is a recommendation I have been practicing myself and encouraging clients I support. Whenever possible, do tasks that match your energy level and mental stamina. If you are a morning person and tend to tank out with your patience and energy by mid-afternoon, then do the tasks for work and home (if possible) during the times of day when you’re mentally at your best.

For example, if you have a block of time in the day when you’re most energetic and focused, let’s say your child’s nap or down-time, do more mentally draining tasks during this time or use this time for restoration and self-care. What I see in my practice are many moms who do chores during their child’s downtime/school time, which often doesn’t require the same amount of mental power a work-related task or self-care activity would. When possible, match your tasks and the mental energy required with your best time of day.

Limit and Detox from Social Media & Conversations
During stressful times, an important self-care practice is to set limits with social media and conversations on topics upsetting or confusing or traumatizing to you. Know that you change the topic, set a limit, and not participate in specific conversations and discussions. And taking a social media break or detox can also help reduce your stress.

Schedule Meaningful Activities
Self-care involves removing or limiting stressors and adding in activities to reduce stress and increase your well-being. One way to do this is to schedule meaningful activities and bring you joy to your daily and weekly routine. While this may sound overly simple, over time, daily self-care acts add up to have a meaningful impact; if you need some inspiration, head over to and read more about self-care activities, you can do to reduce stress.

Please share in the comments others suggestions and strategies you’ve used to reduce stress during these uncertain times.

© Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2020

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