Working with clients during these past 5 weeks, I’ve noticed a growing tension. It has been increasing steadily, like an eerie movie soundtrack that gradually becomes louder as the movie goes on. There is an unnamed baseline strain caused by fear of getting Covid and the economic uncertainty created by quarantine. Everything feels harder than it used to be, because every household task and each sedentary moment is laced with this extra strain.
What do you do about the residual stress that Covid causes us each day? Many of my clients have tried it all. Some are doing meditation. Others are having video chat meetings and online parties with friends. Most have already exhausted the comedy sections of their streaming services and are now debating whether or not to get into binge watching a drama series. Most want to exercise to burn off the extra quarantine carbs, but only some of them are actually doing it.
Regardless of what activity you choose for stress relief, it’s crucial to track your emotional intensity level. This is the amount of tension that your body is physically holding in response to the mental stress in your mind. The more stressful thoughts that you hold in your head, the more physical tension that your body will have. One of the easiest ways to gauge your emotional intensity level is to take 10 Conscious Breaths, which requires less than a minute to perform. By noticing how shallow or deeply your breaths are happening, you can get a sense of how this residual strain is impacting you right now. Try it.
Now that you have a sense of your emotional intensity level, the question becomes how do you lower it? You need to intentionally create low intensity moments in your life. These are dedicated periods of time when you can release the strain without having the pressure to do something else. Here are two elements to consider when creating your daily, low intensity moments.
Manage Your Self Expectations
Are you putting extra pressure on yourself to produce something? Is your To-Do list too ambitious? Are you expecting yourself to become fluent in a new language by the end of the month. Because the strain in the background is already exerting pressure on you, be aware of how much you expect to get done and ask yourself if your deadlines are reasonable. There may be things that you haven’t gotten to because you haven’t de-stressed enough to make space for them. Doing too much may also happen when other people have not been living up to their family or work expectations, so you could be shouldering their load, which prevents you from doing your next task. Check in with yourself and re-evaluate what you’re expecting from yourself.
Protect Your Low Intensity Moments
Protecting your low intensity time means you actively disengage from sources of stress. Recognize the wear and tear of social media as political rants and fearful/painful posts can contribute to that baseline strain. You can’t always control what kind of story that you will get in your social media streams, so viewing it late at night can put shocking images and infuriating protests in your mind. Likewise, watching the News contributes its own strain. It’s important to stay informed, but you do have control over when you consume the news. It’s often presented in an emotionally gripping way to keep viewers tuned in, however this can have an after effect of agitating your thoughts for several hours afterwards.
It’s time to create low intensity moments on a regular basis. These are your moments to initiate. We’re in a pandemic, so you need no further excuse to take care your well being.