The COVID-19 pandemic has left us with two years’ worth of collective trauma. We’ve lost loved ones, dealt with isolation, and experienced stress from a 24/7 cycle of negative news and changing economic conditions. For many, this shared trauma comes on top of personal stressors, which may include household conflicts or workplace discrimination.
Living in a turbulent world can easily lead to trauma, anxiety, and a sense of grief that we don’t know how to properly process. In this article, we’ll discuss how living with environmental stress impacts our daily lives and how to counter the negative effects.
Hardships, Trauma, and Mental Health
Hardships in our lives can take a toll on our mental health. When we’re facing trauma, for instance, our brain becomes less capable of controlling fear, which leaves us in a stressful, reactive state.
When emotional stress leads to mental illnesses like depression or anxiety, our need for social connection may increase — and social connection may soothe the symptoms of anxiety. It’s important to recognize that you’re not alone. Odds are, many others are struggling with similar stressors. Reach out to friends and family members about what you’re experiencing — and if they can’t relate or sympathize as much as you want them to, consider looking for a support group online or in your area for people experiencing hardships like yours.
Building Relationships in the Face of Stress
While growing anxieties may increase our longing for relationships, it’s also true that many people choose self-isolation when dealing with environmental stressors like violence, death, or even job issues. This can lead to a lack of social life, relationship turmoil, poor collaboration at work, and even issues with everyday routines, particularly where it requires human interaction.
Beginning the recovery process requires you to fight the thoughts in your head that are calling you to isolate. To process your emotions and invite harmony into your life, it’s important to connect with others — perhaps by doing something fun and non-triggering with your loved ones. Slowly start to re-establish a normal routine that involves regular interactions, even if it simply includes work meetings and ordering at coffee shops.
Dealing With Unhealthy Habits
When we’re dealing with emotions that are hard to process, it’s easy to slip into unhealthy coping processes to numb us from our feelings. For example, some people may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their hardships and remove themselves from reality. This can be a slippery slope to long-term substance issues.
If you find yourself constantly pushing aside your feelings, it’s time to take a step back and discover healthy ways to work through your emotions. For instance, if you’re feeling chronic stress or anxiety, reducing your caffeine intake and practicing mindfulness are two powerful coping strategies that you can incorporate into your life.
Keep in mind that coping strategies aren’t one-size-fits-all. It may take time to figure out what best helps you deal with your unique environmental stressors. While distractions (like movies) may help some people, soothing activities (like massages) may work for others. Don’t give up if you don’t find a coping strategy that works for you right away. Instead, move on to the next strategy instead of slipping into unhealthy numbing habits.
Of course, some unhealthy habits aren’t intentional at all. When your sleeping patterns, nutrition, or health suffer, it can be a sign of a clinical mental illness. For instance, people with depression may find environmental stressors (like traffic or arguments) more difficult to handle, which leads to more issues with insomnia.
This demonstrates the importance of taking purposeful steps toward healing. If you can’t find the motivation to practice healthy habits, like putting your phone away before bed to improve your ability to sleep, consider reaching out to a therapist for support.
Changing Productivity Patterns
Environmental stress can lead to large drops in productivity, both at work and in your home. After all, when it’s already difficult for you to take care of yourself, it can be even harder to take care of external issues, even if they’re your responsibility. For example, you might start avoiding cleaning your house or fall behind at work.
Changing productivity patterns isn’t always easy. However, you can start to alleviate your stress by focusing on one task at a time. Attempting to multitask can actually take longer, increase stress, and lead to more mistakes, so it’s best for your mental health and your results to simplify the way you work.
Start the Healing Process to Change Your Path
Environmental stress can have a powerful impact on your daily life, both internally and externally. However, when you take your first steps toward healing — perhaps by practicing healthy coping strategies and talking with a therapist — you can relieve stress, tackle mental illness, and improve your quality of life. Take time to discover what strategies work best for you as you learn to process your emotions and bounce back from your hardships.