Well, hello there. Yes, it’s been too long. I know. 12 months to be exact. Yes, we had a baby, but there has been a lot of other things going on in our world. And in your world too. So, I hope you have given yourself some grace, as I did, so let’s talk about what’s going on…stress!
Stress – How do you know when you are stressed?
I bet if I asked 10 people this question, most people would say their body starts exhibiting physical symptoms, like tense neck/shoulders, or they may talk about how their eating behavior changes, like craving more comfort/junk foods. The Mayo Clinic says that stress can manifest in 3 ways – on our body, on our mood and on our behavior. Physically, stress can look like headaches, muscle pain/tension, chest pain, digestive problems, fatigue, change in sex drive or even sleep problems. When it comes to your mood, you could clearly be more anxious, restless, but also more irritable, overwhelmed or even sad/depressed. I definitely get more angry and have a short fuse with my kids. And finally, when it comes to your behavior, you may overeat/undereat, exercise less, turn to alcohol or substances, and even withdraw socially. Is this you? Have you been stressed? I have this year and I knew it.
Let’s talk about this year. Not only did we have a 4 month old last January who wasn’t gaining weight and with severe skin issues, but I was gearing up to go back to work in last February. After instituting a lengthy bath and moisturizing process at every diaper change, as well as switching to an elemental formula (I had to stop nursing, too), we were able to get this skin under control and start to turn his weight trends back around. Just in time to take on the stress of leaving the house everyday, daycare and re-entering the work force. But we did it, and then March.
After 5 weeks of work, we stopped. The whole world stopped. And all of a sudden, we were home. The uncertainty of COVID-19 was so stressful. I was listening to podcasts, reading as much as possible, all while ordering groceries online, utilizing an elaborate disinfecting process in our garage that we hoped was working. We did all of this while entertaining our children, and working from home. Plus, we were now doing all the cooking and cleaning at home too! And keep in mind, our 6 month old was just starting back on his weight gain journey, so I was waking up at least once/night to feed him. Zoom, zoom, zoom. At first, it was fun to see friends and family virtually, and after 6 weeks, it was becoming a chore.
How did I manage my stress – eating more and enjoying lots of baked goods (who was going to see me anyway) and drinking most nights. This was not my normal behavior. But it was what I needed to cope. As always, I incorporated exercise, mostly from home, utilizing our amazing home gym (thank goodness we built this out pre-COVID) and loads of online workouts (thank you Fitness Blender and Orange Theory at Home).
And just as we were getting used to WFH and staying in, we watched the horror of racial injustice unfold across America. Because we were home, and there was nothing on TV to entertain us, our eyes were opened as George Floyd couldn’t breathe, Ahmad Arbery couldn’t run, and Breonna Taylor wasn’t safe in her own home. Stress again. How did I cope? By getting involved and discussing it. I listened to countless podcasts (thank you John Biewen from Scene on Radio) and read books on antiracism (thank you Ibram Kendi) to wake up and understand that racism was all around me and I didn’t know or see it (white privilege). I felt guilt and I wanted to learn more – so I read/listened to as much as possible. It was my duty. And as an Asian American, while I have felt racism, I have never experienced this kind of treatment.
The summer (my favorite season by far) had my spirits up. The kids could play outside all the time and I could run again, as we learned more about COVID transmission. But we also stressed about our planned vacations. Should we go to the beach this year? Was it worth the risk? In the end, we did. We got away, but we didn’t spend as much time on the beach as we normally do. The whole family got into golf, the one sport that we felt most comfortable given the ability to socially distance.
And like most of you, now that our world had started adapting to the virtual world, so did our expectations at work. I was getting more pressure to ‘see’ my customers virtually, which meant a lot of cold calls to engage with physicians who were likely stressed as well as they were managing new challenges in the office environment due to COVID, all while taking care of high risk patients. Luckily, I adapt well, and I took this time as an opportunity to learn a new skill (engaging virtually), and networking with many people in the company that were new to me. That helped me cope with the additional stress.
And then the fall. We started school – virtually. I was so anxious. Would our 7-year old be able to adapt? Would he get the attention he needed at school? If there is one thing I have learned in the past 44 years – control what you can control. And my husband kept reminding me (thank you baby), that everyone at school was in the same position. Our kids wouldn’t get behind, because the whole world is in the same position. Plus, with a 4.5 year old at home, we would have to keep him entertained and away from big brother for the entire morning. In the end, it worked out beautifully. Our 2nd grader is loving virtual school (as much as he would ever love school), staying engaged all morning, and becoming incredibly self-reliant. It was one of the most amazing learnings of virtual learning that I hadn’t predicted (that and learning how to mute in a virtual classroom).
We survived the election, the holidays and thankfully, we celebrated the inauguration. And somehow, fingers-crossed, we have stayed Covid free. But in case we didn’t have enough stress, I decided to change jobs and companies for a bigger challenge, all at the start of the new year. Training has been intense, and had me incredibly busy during the day, and the stress is creeping up again. But what do I do during times of stress, control what I can control, and take it one day at a time. And write, that helps me with stress. Even as I write this post, I realize that not blogging all year was a miss. Writing truly helps me process.
While we can’t prevent stress, we can cope and manage it. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep and exercising are huge for me. But also, I need a social outlet regularly. Even a quick chat on the phone (not texting) does wonders for my mood. We want to hear from you. How will you manage stress as we continue during COVID? Please share your thoughts in our comments. If you want to eat healthier and exercise more, please download our app for healthy recipes and workouts you can do from home!
Stay safe and healthy!