We tend to view stress as a terrible thing. After all, stress sparks or leads to all sorts of health concerns and conditions. But while stress can be harmful, the real problem often resides in our perception of stress. We can protect against the negative effects of stress by viewing stressful situations as challenges we can overcome or lessons we can grow from.
When we're feeling stressed out and lonely, one of the best things we can do is to help someone else. Research shows that volunteering boosts physical health, mental wellness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and happiness. Helping others provides us with a sense of purpose and meaning. It also might lower symptoms of depression and psychological distress. And it might even help us to live longer.
Right now, there’s a pile-up of stressors. On top of the regular challenges of life, we're dealing with a pandemic and so much uncertainty: Will kids go back to full-time, face-to-face school in the fall? Will we be able to travel internationally or take a cruise? Will we shake hands and see our families? Will we return to our offices? Will life ever look the same?
You scroll social and see a bunch of smiles (and coordinating outfits). People celebrating summer and successfully working from home. People promoting their exciting projects. People standing in bright white, shiny kitchens with no clutter in sight. People eating their delicious, complicated creations from the super fresh ingredients taken from their super fresh backyard garden.
Now that we've spent many months inside---which may last longer depending on your work situation and your kids' camp and school situations---having a serene home seems especially essential. And it might feel especially impossible because you're also tired and worn out.
When our loved ones are struggling with a stressful situation, it's hard to know what to say or what to do. We don't want to offend them or make them feel uncomfortable. Or maybe the truth is we don't want to make ourselves feel uncomfortable, because we have a hard time sitting with anyone's pain (including our own).
Whenever you try to do something challenging, it tells you precisely why you can't. Whenever you're tired, it tells you that you're lazy. Whenever you don't complete everything on your list, it tells you that you're a loser. When you can't figure something out, it tells you that you're stupid (and always have been). Whenever you receive negative feedback on a project, it tells you that you better just quit. You're not very smart or capable anyway.
As you're going about your day, putting out fires at work and home, trying not to freak out over the latest headline, it's easy to spend your days unaware of what's happening inside your own mind and body. It's easy to overlook your physical sensations and thoughts. Because you're trying to keep moving and keep it all together. You're trying to check off essential tasks, raise your kids, and do a good job at your job.