One Word Lets You Overcome Multiple Stress Events
However chaotic your life may be, there's an effective way to manage it.
Posted Sep 14, 2020
In this age of COVID-19, there's no question that we are all under heightened levels of stress. But what can you do when you're experiencing multiple streams of stress. Living in Oregon, for example, I just had to evacuate my home, and have met many others who were faced with this dire situation.
As stressful as it was to have someone banging on our door in the middle of the night and shouting "there's a fire behind your house, you have to go now!" We got through it, (*and are still getting through it because the fires are not totally under control).
While you may not be dealing with fires, it seems we're all facing multiple metaphorical "fires" these days—from political and COVID uncertainty to job and financial security. What can we do? How can we not succumb to overwhelming anxiety and stress-induced illness and depression?
That brings me to the one special word that can tilt you away from feeling overwhelmed and point you in a more positive and hopeful direction.
And now for the reveal of the special word. My assistant will now raise up the imaginary veil to reveal: Support.
Now before you think this is a mundane answer to stress, "support" as I'm referring to it consists of two key components. These have been scientifically shown to be effective. Let's look at each one below.
1) Peer Support
First, there's peer support, which means you can seek out those who are dealing with similar difficulties. Overall, studies on the value of peer support have shown that social support is vital in various ways. The UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health lists the benefits of social support as: "Decreases morbidity and mortality rates, increases life expectancy, increases knowledge of disease, improves self-efficacy, improves self-reported health status and self-care skills, including medication adherence, reduces the use of emergency services." In addition, they report that "providers of social support report less depression, heightened self-esteem and self-efficacy, and improved quality of life."
Peer support has been shown helpful for not just mental health conditions, but diabetes and many kinds of health-related issues. Why is peer support so helpful? I think it's because it helps us learn new coping skills and feel understood by others who are facing similar issues.
In my own training groups, for example, I have seen that sharing experiences with others helps individuals discover other effective coping skills that they never thought of using. And, they feel a deep sense of camaraderie and companionship that comes from being truly heard by others.
2) Supportive Friendships and Relationships
Just like a toxic friendship or relationship can be stressful, the right, positive, and supportive connections can lift you up and keep you afloat, even in stormy waters.
Research has found that being around friends can actually help boost our immune system response and help us feel happier and more satisfied with life. One such study, for example, showed that as little as a 10-minute phone chat with a friend improved problem thinking and boosted the brain's executive function.
Finding Resources and Support When and Where You Can
First: You may have more resources and support than you ever imagined. Sometimes, it's our own desire to do everything on our own that blocks us from seeking support. If that's the case, know that it's more than okay to ask for help. If you've been led to believe that there is something shameful about asking for help, you could be missing out on a great reservoir of support that is already waiting for you.
The truth is that no one is an island. We all survive off the efforts of others—even if those efforts are invisible to us. Consider that even the food you eat is available through a complex network of persons and activities. And, when you allow someone to help, you are also allowing another person to share and give something. Getting support can be viewed as one big circle of giving and receiving, We're all in it together.
In case you were wondering about the fires in Oregon, the community here really shined, making places available for those persons needing evacuation, as well as for their animals. In my case, I had dear friends who offered us a place to stay in case of evacuation. Admittedly, it was a lot easier to get through this with my best friend and wife Maria. I think it made us appreciate each other even more as we shared, laughed, and worried our way through it all.
May you find the support and resources that lift up your spirits and your well-being in the days ahead.