Updated: Mar 19
In Episode 1065 of the Arete Coach Podcast, Sally Rhoads LCSW and Carolynn Lee LCSW discuss the importance of managing stress in troubled times. They review recent insights from the American Psychological Association (APA) that indicate people are more stressed now than in recent memory. People have waited for the COVID-19 wave to pass so they could return to normalcy. However, as returning to “normal” seemed closer than ever, an unrelenting barrage of stressors including inflation, the war in Ukraine, and future Russian aggression, quickly penetrated the population with fear—and stress. A recent APA study found over 80% of Americans feeling multiple stressors right now. If unmitigated, these stressors have the ability to negatively impact human behavior. This resource guide aggregates the research, insights, tips, and suggestions for managing today’s stressful environment as discussed during Episode 1065 of the Arete Coach Podcast.
Highlights from the Arete Coach Podcast Ep. 1065
Sally Rhoads LCSW and Carolynn Lee LCSW discuss several helpful strategies for coping with stress.
Keeping a healthy mindset
Keep a journal: “Take a look at what you’re saying to yourself with your stress. It’s really helpful to write your stresses down and your fears down and then be able to win in a couple to in a couple of months review. Because so much of what we worry about doesn’t tend to happen. It’s important that we don’t catastrophize…keep a journal” (Rhoads).
Practice gratitude: “I encourage clients continually to write down something every day that they’re grateful for” (Lee).
Focus on family: “Pull back a little bit from some of the devices and be more family-centered” (Rhoads).
Prioritize yourself: “It just takes time to slow down in your day-to-day struggle and focus energy back on yourself” (Lee).
Stay active: “Exercise is something that is very valuable” (Rhoads).
Be aware: “Mindfulness is very, very effective in stress reduction” (Rhoads).
Cool down before bed: “Go to bed, not with your cell phone. No electronic devices. Have a cooldown time before you go to bed” (Rhoads). “Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a very good thing to do. It changes your brain state. It helps you relax. Provides a better sleep” (Rhoads).
Take deep breaths: “One of the primary objectives I start with is breathwork; teaching a person to take a calm controlled breath. Within 5 breaths… it’s proven we can lower our heart rate which helps us…” (Lee).
Meditate: “Meditation is one of the things I guess you could say I prescribe to all of my clients and I utilize myself” (Lee). “Meditation helps us to make better decisions. We are able to have more self-control” (Rhoads). “I think yoga is a very effective tool for stress relief” (Rhoads).
Reduce engagement with social media: “We need to look at how much time we are spending on social media because social media can be a source of depression” (Rhoads).
Handling negative thoughts
Get a physical: “If you’re in that kind of depressive state, the first thing I want you to do is to go in and get a complete physical. Because sometimes things are physiologically based… Then if that comes out clean, then it’s time to actively seek mental health services and finding a good counselor” (Rhoads).
Reach out to your support system: “When people are feeling lonely, it’s important to reach out and start to build a greater support system” (Rhoads).
Talk to someone: “It’s okay to seek professional help. It’s okay to reach out to a therapist or look up someone who’s available online” (Lee).
Seek treatment immediately: “[In cases of suicidal thoughts] that person needs to seek treatment immediately because they are in acute distress… It’s time to see a mental health professional or in some instances, it’s time to have a person be seen in the hospital” (Rhoads).
Don’t wait until it’s too late: “The suicide prevention hotline [1-800-273-8255] or lifeline is always available and it doesn’t have to be because you are at that point where there’s no coming back. It’s always available even if you’re just having those negative thoughts” (Lee).
Research and insights
What is the data saying about the level of stress individuals are experiencing now?
American Psychological Association
According to recent insight from APA, stress is at an all-time high in the American population. Primary categories of stressors impacting the American population include: COVID-19, finances, global crises, mental health challenges, grief, loss, reduced wellbeing, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
63% of adults say their life has been forever changed by the pandemic
58% of adults agreed the pandemic overall is a daily stressor
Money stress registered at the highest recorded level since 2015
Americans are in a state of prolonged hyper-vigilance
81% of adults reported that “global uncertainty” is a significant source of stress
Children’s hospitals have reported a 14% increase in mental health-related emergencies and a 42% increase in cases of self-injury and suicide
Younger generations, Latino adults, and parents have consistently reported more stress than others
42% of adults report having relied on unhealthy habits to cope with COVID-19
23% of Americans have been drinking more alcohol during COVID-19 to cope with stress
The average amount of weight gained during the pandemic was 26 pounds
The Washington University School of Medicine
According to research from the Washington University School of Medicine, those who have recovered from COVID-19 “have a significantly higher chance of experiencing mental health problems.” In Episode #1065 of the Arete Coach Podcast, we discuss how isolation and quarantine have affected the mental health of both those who contracted COVID-19 and those who did not but still had to quarantine and use protective measures. During the episode, Carolynn Lee explains that “ isolation is forcing healthy people to operate and function as a depressed person. So after long-term isolation, people who were healthy and functioning will clearly begin to behave as more depressed” (Sauerwein, 2022).
Coping with COVID-19: Exposure to COVID-19 and Negative Impact on Livelihood Predict Elevated Mental Health Problems in Chinese Adults
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Researchers Jing Guo, Xing Lin Feng, Xiao Hua Want, and Marinus H. van IJzendoorn cited several findings from their 2020 research study:
“Less mental health problems were also associated with less intense exposure through the media”
“Perceived negative impact of the pandemic on livelihood showed a large effect size in predicting mental health problems”
“More use of cognitive and prosocial coping behaviors were associated with less mental health problems” (Guo et al., 2020)
Mental Health America (MHA)
The MHA found several key insights in their 2022 State of Mental Health in America. Consider the following:
“Suicidal ideation continues to increase among adults… an increase of 664,000 people from last year’s dataset”
“Over 2.5 million youth in the U.S. have severe depression, and multiracial youth are at greatest risk”
“Over half of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment”
“Over 60% of youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment”
Where can I find more information on coping strategies for managing and mitigating stress?
Center for Disease Control (CDC)
The CDC has several recommendations for coping with stress. They recommend the following:
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media
Make time to unwind; do other activities you enjoy
Connect with others
Connect with your community or faith-based organizations
Take care of your body
Avoiding excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use
Continue routine preventative measures and vaccinations as recommended by your healthcare provider
The Cleveland Clinic also has a variety of coping recommendations for those facing stress. In addition to the coping mechanisms recommended by the CDC, they recommend the following:
Engage in problem-solving
Maintain emotional composure or alternatively, express distressing emotions
Directly attempt to change the source of your stress
Distance yourself from the source of stress
Take a brief rest during the day to relax
Take vacations away from home and work
Practice relaxations exercises such as yoga, prayer, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation
Avoid the use of caffeine and alcohol
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries…” It pumps up your endorphins, reduces the negative effects of stress, acts as a meditation in motion, and improves your mood. The Mayo Clinic recommends consulting with your doctor, building up fitness levels gradually, “getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity,” setting exercise goals, exercising with a friend, changing routines to better help exercise, and exercising in “short bursts” (MayoClinic, 2020).
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline has several recommendations for coping with stress during times of “unrest.” They recommend talking “to others who understand and respect how you feel,” maintaining “regular routines to the extent possible,” focusing “on what you can do to care for yourself right here right now,” and starting “with small doable steps for you to cope.”
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline recommends setting limits on “media consumption, including social media, local or national news.” They also echo the recommendation of the CDC by recommending physical activity and community.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
“This fact sheet discusses tips on how to cope with grief after an incident of community violence. It introduces common signs of grief and anger, and offers tips for helping children deal with grief.”
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
“Provides information for parents and caregivers about infectious disease outbreaks in your community. Knowing important information about the outbreak and learning how to be prepared can reduce stress and help calm likely anxieties. This resource will help parents and caregivers think about how an infectious disease outbreak might affect their family— both physically and emotionally—and what they can do to help their family cope.”
Mental Health America (MHA)
Click the link above for a COVID-19 pandemic resource guide from the MHA including information for frontline workers.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Information on knowing the signs of stress and how to relieve stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
“The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) has compiled a selection of web pages and information sheets on mental health and coping with the effects of COVID-19. These resources are a selection from key organizations in the field. We will continue to update this list as new resources become available.”
Hotline contact information
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a lifeline available 24/7 for those facing negative thoughts, emotional challenges, and suicidal thoughts. Carolynn Lee explains that this resource “is always available and it doesn’t have to be because you are at that point where there’s no coming back. It’s always available, even if you’re just having those negative thoughts. There are resources there.” There is also a text line that has “great resources not only on suicidal thoughts or self-harming thoughts but also on how to cope with bullying and how to deal with the different life stressors that follow our children through social media.”
Call or text 1-800-985-5990
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a Disaster Distress Helpline that provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support (in English and Spanish) to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.
Free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
Call 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1)
24/7, confidential crisis support for Veterans and their loved ones. Online chat and text are also available via 838255.
The NAMI Help Line can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., ET. Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or text NAMI to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor and receive free, 24/7 crisis support.
Text “START” to 88788. Online chat also availble. TTY available through 1-800-787-3224.
Online chat is also available.
Call or text 1-800-422-4453
Online chat also available.
Text “START” to 678-678. Online chat is also available.
As recommended by the CDC, if you or someone you know is in a mental health crisis, get immediate help:
Contact the Disaster Distress Helpline by calling or texting 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish).
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