Managing Your Stress in Turbulent Times

How to take care of yourself or reach out to others

By Dr. Andrea Hartman

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Shomos Uddin/Getty

November 10, 2022

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2022 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Traffic, chaotic calendars and never-ending to-do lists. Life will always have standard stressors, but now we have additional distress from increasing gun violence, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the ongoing pandemic and more. 

It is crucial to manage your stress during these exceptionally challenging times. The good news is there are many helpful strategies to decrease your anxiety, give you back some control and provide a little peace. 

First, make sure you’re sleeping and eating well. These essential functions often tend to go the wayside when you’re stressed, which can lead to more anxiety, irritability or depression. I also recommend taking breaks from the news and social media. You can still stay up to date on current events even if you are not constantly tuned in. 

Use some of that free time instead to engage in a few moments of mindfulness throughout the day. This does not have to be a daunting meditation session, but just some simple activities to help you stay present: focusing on your breath, observing your thoughts, checking how your body feels.  

Engaging in a self-care practice like reading or taking a bath, getting active, or spending time with friends and family also helps to keep stress in check. 

When around others, I caution you to be intentional about the conversations you’re having. Discussions can quickly lead to politics, negative subjects in the news and other controversial topics. If you find yourself in a conversation causing you angst, try redirecting to something you’re excited to talk about and that you think the other person would find interesting. 

If that doesn’t work, consider being more direct and say something along the lines of, “I know you really want to talk about (X topic), but I’m trying not to spend most of my time thinking and talking about that. It’s challenging for my own mental health. Can we talk about something else?” 

While these strategies can be effective for many, sometimes they may not be enough, which is completely understandable. 

Warning signs that you may need to seek professional help for your stress include difficulty keeping up with daily tasks, a decrease in concentration, isolation and a lack of pleasure in doing things you once enjoyed. Stress can also often manifest in physiological symptoms such as headaches, stomach pain, and sleeping too little or too much. 

If you are managing your own stress well but notice these warning signs in a loved one, I encourage you to reach out. The fact that you notice these changes means that you are a close friend or family member who values their well-being. 

Start by letting them know the behaviors you observed, express your concern and ask how they are doing. If they decide to share details with you, ask if they think it would be helpful to speak to a professional and if they need help finding resources. 

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. There is no shame in receiving the appropriate level of treatment, whether it be recurring therapy sessions or more specialized care. For instance, at Rogers Behavioral Health we offer two levels of outpatient treatment, residential programming and inpatient services. 

There is a plethora of local and national resources to find support, and I suggest first consulting your medical insurance to find mental health providers in your network.  

You may also consider visiting psychologytoday.com for a listing of private providers in your community or The Washington State Mental Health Referral Service for help for a child or teen 17 and under. 

Furthermore, free phone and online screenings are available at Rogers Behavioral Health, where we offer adults, children and teens evidence-based treatment backed by outcomes that show the treatment is effective. Resources like fact sheets, podcasts and blogs may also be found at rogersbh.org/resources.

If you are in a mental health crisis, please get help immediately. Call, text or chat the new national 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline to be immediately connected with a trained professional. Visit 988lifeline.org for more information. 

Please take care of yourself and others and know that you are not alone. 

In fact, nearly one in five American adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year, according to Mental Health America. Anxiety disorders, in particular, are among the most common mental illnesses in the United States. 

It’s OK not to be OK, and there are resources and support for you if and when you need it. 

Andrea Hartman, PsyD, is a psychologist and clinical supervisor at Rogers Behavioral Health in Bellevue.

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