As the coronavirus continues to disrupt our daily lives, increasingly more people are left to deal with stress related to trying to make ends meet, get coverage for their kids, and protect family members from the virus who may be especially vulnerable. In practical terms, this means new budgets, creative home “daycare” approaches, and venturing out in public to grab food and other important items for older family members. These changes and disruptions to our daily lives have taken us away from our daily comfort patterns, and have prompted us to cull our resources, minimize stress, and still find ways to live happy, healthy, and productive lives. How we appraise and respond to the stress we experience moment to moment is often what ultimately determines our level of happiness and success, making stress load management an important practice these days.
Stress & “load management”
The term “load management” has been used more regularly in sports these last few years, with increasingly more teams strategically sitting out players in an attempt to keep their mental health strong so they can play at the top of their game. The idea, in theory, is that intermittent time outs will not only help athletes stay physically healthy, but also mentally fresh — both leading to optimal athletic performance. While you may not be an elite-level athlete, you can still benefit from a “load management” approach to how you appraise and respond to stress.
Perception plays a big, big role in how we respond to stress, so it makes sense to begin by examining your logic-emotion mechanism. When we use a logical approach, we employ patience, critical thinking, and objective measurement. Conversely, when we are emotional and try to deal with problems, we are spontaneous, overly-excited, and generally use subjective, distorted measurement. As you can see there are stark differences between logical and emotional problem-solving, and as you might imagine, there are very different outcomes we experience depending on what approach we employ. Generally speaking, the better you become at tamping down initial, emotional responses to stress and instead begin to employ a more methodical, logical approach to problems, the better results you will experience. This is one example of how load management can help — emotional responses drain energy much faster than logical approaches, so be sure to choose wisely.
A second way to use load management is to delve deeper into your stress appraisal system and evaluate for effectiveness. In life, we experience both acute stress (life’s daily hassles) and chronic stress (prolonged stress you may not have much control over). Examples of acute stress include everything from the alarm clock startling you each morning to traffic jams and unexpected thunderstorms that cancel your round of golf. While annoying, none of these things should ruin your day. On the other hand, examples of chronic stress might include dealing with a long illness, or picking up the pieces after unexpectedly losing your job). Here you can see that chronic stress is more taxing, challenging, and in some cases defeating. By effectively distinguishing the differences between acute and chronic stress — and devoting appropriate amounts of time, energy, and focus to each — you will benefit from better stress load management by better utilizing your resources.
Stress load management tips
- Emotions usually appear first. For most people, emotions are the first to the scene when faced with stress. You might think of how people generally respond when they come into an unforeseen health concern, financial burden, or challenging relationship issue. The emotions we experience distort our thinking, often leading to irrational thinking and behaviors. The current pandemic has prompted many of us to initially “freak out” when learning of all the places shut down, but as we began to deal with the changes we have gained more control over the situation by using logical thinking when problem-solving.
- Logic provides us the most accurate framing of the problem, as well as the most useful solutions. Fortunately, even though emotions generally show up first, we can work through emotions and get to a more calm and logical mental state. This can be done by using deep breathing, writing down the problem and potential solutions, and even taking time to solicit help from a friend or mental health professional. Why is this important? Because well-thought out decisions are almost always better than “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” decisions based exclusively on emotions.
- It is not always easy to think logically, but it is possible. Is it easy to use logical thinking in the throes of a stressful situation, like a pandemic? Frankly speaking, no, it isn’t — but it is possible, and it is very important to do so. Try not to think in terms of simplicity when it comes to dealing with life stress, but instead realize that sometimes problems in life are complex and warrant a deeper level of thinking in order to experience favorable life results. Do you want an easy approach (emotional) with a low success rate, or a more potentially successful approach (logical) that may require a little patience and discipline?
- Use good framing. Not everything you stress out over should be experienced like an unexpected fire alarm! Remember, try and perceive life’s daily aggravations for what they are — temporary inconveniences. By saving energy not worrying about your hair not being perfect today, you will have more energy left to devote to the bigger, chronic stress (like planning out budgets for the next few months as we work through the coronavirus).
How you manage and mitigate stress has a direct effect on both your quality and success in life. By employing load management strategies that include logical thinking and proper stress framing, you will experience greater energy, better self-confidence, and more successful outcomes. These are challenging times, but you are not helpless to the situation. Snuff out daily acute stress so you can spend more time and energy working on the bigger issues you face — this is how successful people work through tough times, and you can, too.