No matter where you live or how old you are, the past eight months have presented a challenge to your ability to feel happy and calm. The combo of health and economic threats is enough to put anyone off their game.
A new survey from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic, found that almost 26 percent of folks said they were contending with symptoms of an anxiety disorder. That's up from 8 percent exactly a year before - pre-COVID. More than 25 percent of those surveyed said they were dealing with depression compared with 6.5 percent last year and thoughts of suicide doubled from 2018. Substance abuse jumped 13 percent.
Unchecked stress contributes to high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, insomnia, heartburn, indigestion, heart disease and emotional upset/mental illness, as well as turmoil in your relationships and work life.
The Cleveland Clinic says that signs stress is beating you down and you're not as resilient as you may want to be include: anxiety, anger, resentment or fear; fatigue; insomnia; recurring nightmares; stomach upset; sadness; being overly critical and blaming others or yourself; and increased use of alcohol or recreational/prescription drugs.
The big question: How do you acknowledge the real threats and challenges presented in the world today without letting them sink your ship? Experts agree that reclaiming your emotional stability and positivity takes a combination of inner resolve and outside support. And it is helped along by a sense of humor and the ability to love thy neighbors (even if you can't give them a hug). In short, people who are resilient are able to self-regulate emotions and reactions.
The basic tenets of resilience training are: promoting positive emotions; learning flexible thinking; finding social support; identifying meaning in life; and cultivating good coping skills. You have it; we all do. It's built into the brain's network of neural responses to stress. So here's how to tap into your inner resilience.
1. Find a stress management program to join - online if necessary. Type "hospital classes on resilience" in Google for an extensive list of programs around the country, such as the SMART program that is offered at various medical centers.
2. Practice optimism. People who see adversity as an opportunity for growth are able to cope and achieve happiness most effectively, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. That means when you hear yourself say or think, "I can't" or "There's no way," consciously stop. Replace that thought with one that says, "I see how hard and scary this is, but I am going to find a way to make it better, even if just a little bit." And steer clear of gloomy Gusses. Spend time with folks who are optimistic, suggests Dr. Brian G. Donley of Cleveland Clinic London in his article "7 Ways You can Build Resilience," at https://consultqd.clevelandclinic.org.
3. Identify what can give your life meaning and a sense of purpose - then go for it: It may be interacting with your family and/or friends; volunteer work (helping others is transformative); athletic achievement (regular, moderate exercise dispels stress); reaching academic goals (you always wanted to learn Italian!); and/or doing specific work-related activities or tasks, etc.
4. Identify coping skills that'll help you manage or shake off stress. They can be anything from bike riding to needlepoint or gardening. Meditation and breathing exercises (see sharecare.com for instructions) are also time-proven ways to go with the flow; we suggest 10 minutes in the morning and at night for a calmer day and a better night's sleep.
5. Remember, you build resilience by welcoming challenging situations. Go whitewater rafting or reveal your inner comic for the first time at a comedy club's (outdoor) open mic night. Successfully rising to a new challenge teaches you how resilient you are and makes stress, well, less stressful.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.