How can we deal with stress in this period?
I’m not a doctor; nor am I a psychologist.
I have completed hundreds of hours of neuroscience training. For over twenty years now, I’ve been practising ways of achieving my own personal wellbeing. I was an athlete at competition level for many years. This is a list of approaches I have tried and which have sound scientific foundations. I won’t go into long-winded explanations about why they work. Many are “well-known”, others less so.
I set out to create a check-list that would remind us to apply at least one each day. You can print the list off and keep it where you can see it.
Objectively speaking, we need to acknowledge this situation. Accepting doesn’t necessarily mean “agreeing” with the situation; it just means recognising that the situation exists, that is how things stand.
If we do not accept/acknowledge it, we are unable to reason clearly; pointless anxiety will then ensue. We cannot see reality as it stands and take effective measures. If you are indignant, you are not accepting. if you are angry, you are not accepting.
Every correct decision, every improvement, every “recovery” involves accepting the existing situation.
Many are rejecting the situation (we need only see what people write on social media for proof). But this stops them from thinking with a clear head, and taking effective measures.
This is a broad, complex issue, but I hope I have managed to convey the general idea.
Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions we have for counteracting fear, anxiety and confusion. If you are reading these words, you have many, many things to be grateful for. You have your health. You have a minimum of stability and wellbeing. You have food to eat, and what you need to protect and look after yourself.
I hope you have love, friendship, passions, things worth living for.
Try this exercise: every morning, write 10 things you are grateful for. Try, just do it. The effect on mood is often very powerful.
Limit news and TV
We need to keep up-to-date, and so we should. But it is also necessary to keep the amount of television we watch to a bare minimum, along with any information which is not really useful. Television involves us on a highly “emotive” level, and prevents us from putting distance between us and what we see. Over 90% of information is actually just pointless “noise”. Get the information you really need from official online sources and direct personal contact. Be wary of any information which is not official. Right now, we are awash with information and non-factual opinions.
Avoid passing judgment; concentrate on facts and on what you can do
It is not down to you or I to pass judgement. Unless you are a director or a virologist, you do not have the means to judge the measures adopted by our government.
I have my own opinions, though they are not based on any real know-how, so I keep them to myself.
I constantly put myself in the shoes of those that have to take decisions affecting the lives of millions. They are extremely difficult to take. I have so much respect for these people, and I would not want to be in their position right now… There is no doubt in my mind that they are doing their best, with the resources at their disposal.
By very definition, decisions are never perfect. Any decision can be subject to criticism. But right now, criticising has no practical purpose. We can criticise waste, the shortfalls in the “ordinary” management of the health service in decades past… and many other objective and structural aspects. But it still fails to serve any practical purpose at this moment in time.
Trying to understand things is positive and useful.
Criticising is not useful.
Focusing on what we can do is useful.
If you find yourself criticising things mentally, try and ask yourself:
What can we do to avoid contagion?
What can be done to ensure I strengthen myself from a physical, immune-system and financial position?
What can we do to help others? How can I be of use?
What risks am I running, and how can I reduce them?
These are just a few examples.
Avoid making comments and criticising on social media
Recently, I’ve seen many people I once thought intelligent making truly idiotic comments.
Try weighing up the pros and cons of losing your personal and professional credibility.
Personally speaking, I do not think I am authorised to pass judgment on decisions taken by the Italian government, by other governments or anyone else.
I try not to speak or write about things unless I have extensive knowledge of them.
I don’t even criticise those that criticise.
I have opinions, and I keep them to myself.
At this moment in time, the greatest problem of all is confusion, all the background “noise”.
I don’t want to be part of that noise. I don’t want to be part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution.
It’s up to you to do the same.
Supplementing with magnesium and B-group vitamins
Magnesium and B-group vitamins are vital for the functioning of the nervous system. Anxiety, fear and stress increase how much magnesium is consumed by the nervous system. At this time of heightened stress, think about taking supplements of this kind.
Vitamin C supplements and others
It might seem obvious, but supplementing with vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals does boost the immune system. The best option is to take vitamins obtained from natural extracts, instead of chemically produced ones. Examples of natural supplements include the “Erbamea” range by Erbolario. But general speaking, chemically manufactured supplements are also fine.
It need hardly be said that drinking at least 2-3 litres of water a day helps concentration, manage stress and eliminate toxins.
Physical activity to burn off fear and stress
Fear and stress are emotions man harnesses to activate the “fight-or-flight” mechanism, and we need them to activate the body. They restrict cognitive functions and prepare muscles for exertion: less blood reaches the brain, digestive system and other internal organs (which also explains why we are less clear-headed).
The problem is that if we don’t do at least a little bit of exercise, we don’t release all that stress and fear. They literally build up in the body, because emotions are fully-fledged chemical substances that our bodies produce.
The slightest amount of physical activity can help get rid of all the “toxins” from fear and stress, preventing them from building up.
What kind of exercise? It doesn’t matter… whatever you can do effortlessly, things you like doing, and which comply with regulations now in force. They might include things like push-ups, climbing the stars, running on the spot or dancing in the sitting room to music you like, to name a few.
Meditation and relaxing
Meditation and relaxation techniques like yoga, autogenous training and the more “fashionable” Mindfulness can really help our psychophysical wellbeing.
I once took part in a scientific experiment on the effects of meditation. I experienced immediate physical effects first-hand: the colour and consistency of blood samples taken from the same person before and after meditating for just 20 minutes are visibly different.
If you have ever tried using a relaxation technique, this might be the time to use it every day.
If you have never tried anything along these lines, there is plenty of information available for free online, along with videos and guided meditations.
It has been scientifically proven that a good belly laugh really boosts the immune system, as well as helping to counteract anxiety. Can we “work hard” at laughing? Of course, why not! We can use comics, films and joke books, to name but a few…
Even if it is forced, at a muscular level smiling automatically prompts the body to produce chemical substances that counteract stress and anxiety.
Warm bath and salts
Taking a warm bath really helps us relax and unwind. A few weeks ago, I tried adding bicarbonate and Epsom salts to a warm bath. All you need for incredibly revitalising results is a measuring spoon of each.
For over 15 years now Andrea has led high-impact strategic development and organisational change projects for banks, SMEs, innovative start-ups and international NGOs. He is a certified personal development trainer of international standing. He is the author of the book “Ri-Evoluzione Aziendale, La Crisi non Esiste”.