As we make our way through a crisis situation, we may find ourselves feeling overwhelming and unfamiliar emotions. These emotions could be more consistent versions of our everyday feelings, like worry or concern, or they could develop into more extreme responses, like anxiety, lingering stress, and depression.
One of the biggest battles we face when it comes to our reactions to stress in a crisis is addressing and understanding the feelings and emotions we’re experiencing. That’s because in the moment, it’s much easier to ignore how we’re reacting to a situation than to try to unpack why we’re reacting that way. But when we try to ignore the stress that’s weighing on us, we push away the opportunity to care for ourselves well, and when we aren’t caring for ourselves well, we can’t care for others well either.
Step 1: Evaluate Signs of Stress
Knowing is half the battle—it’s possible that some of us may be under extreme stress without even realizing it. Below we’ve listed some signs of stress to look out for in both adults and children. Start by reading through the list and seeing if you’ve experienced any of these signs recently in your own life.
Signs of Stress in Adults
- Trouble sleeping, either too much or too little, or an increase in napping
- Change in eating patterns—eating more processed foods or not eating enough
- Eating out of boredom or anxiety
- Irritability—yelling more or reacting more harshly than normal
- Increase in alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana usage
- Increase in online shopping—spending more money online
- Decrease in exercise
- Obsession with most current news stories or the stock market
- Fear/worry about your health
- Worsening of chronic health problems—more headaches, increased blood pressure, pains, etc.
Signs of Stress in Kids and Teens
- Excessive crying
- Regressive behaviors—bedwetting, not sleeping alone, etc.
- Excessive worry or sadness
- Change in sleeping or eating patterns
- More irritability or acting out behaviors
- Avoiding schoolwork or necessary chores
- Complaining more of headaches or belly aches or pain throughout the body which is not explained by a medical condition
Step 2: Evaluate Yourself
Now that you’ve read over the signs of stress, it’s time to realize how they relate to your personal feelings and behaviors. Start by asking yourself, “In these times of drastic change, have I drastically changed in any way?”
Think through your habits, your desires, your body, and your emotional balance. We’re all likely to spend more time watching the news or in front of devices catching up on Netflix right now, but have you noticed big changes in your commitment levels or sleep patterns? Do you feel an incessant need to fill online shopping carts or indulge in food or drink that used to only be a treat? Has your body been giving you signs of stress through weight gain or loss, increased blood pressure, or more aches and pains? And have you noticed you’re quicker to snap at your spouse in a small disagreement, suddenly apathetic towards something that normally brings you joy, or feeling a deep desire to stay in bed when you’d consider yourself a morning person?
These are all signs that we’re carrying stress. The way you carry stress may look different from the way your friend carries it, or your spouse, or your co-worker. But addressing that we’re dealing with stress prepares us to start combating it.
Step 3: Practice Self-Care
The concept of self-care has received a lot of definitions in recent years, but the true meaning is pretty simple: taking care of yourself. This is where the process begins to look different for each one of us, because we all need care in different ways. But once you’ve addressed and acknowledged the way you’re reacting to stress, your road to self-care may look less intimidating.
Below you’ll find a list of starting points for self-care. They can be used as jumping off points to see what may work for you, or as inspiration for new ideas. Choose 1 or 2 to start—don’t try to tackle all of them.
Self-Care Starting Points
- When you begin to feel stressed or anxious, make it a point to take a moment to pray, read your Bible, and spend intentional time with God, shifting your energy there instead of living in your head for the moment
- Practice box breathing and take a minute to focus
- Prioritize time with trusted friends or family—work regular calls or video chats into your schedule to avoid feeling alone or isolated
- Choose a workout routine that keeps your healthy and moving that you can commit to doing on a regular basis
- Bring routine back to your life by controlling what you can—when you wake up, what you wear, when you work, what you eat, how you spend your downtime, and when you’ll go to sleep
- Get outside when you can and remind yourself that the world is still thriving all around you
- Consider talking to someone about your stress or anxiety, like a counselor, who can give you a professional and fresh perspective on your thoughts and feelings
- Reach out and help others—with safety in mind, be intentional about being a good neighbor, spreading positivity, and being the light that you want to see in the world
- Start a long-term project to keep you busy and distract your mind, from a 1000-piece puzzle to a big home renovation to a 7-season Netflix show you’ve always wanted to start
No matter what self-care steps work best for you, remember that this is the time to give yourself and others grace. There is no right way to respond to a crisis—but remembering to love yourself and other people the way Jesus loves us is a great start.
If you’d like to talk to a counselor but aren’t sure where to start, we have a list of Counseling References recommended by LCBC for you to explore.