“Stress acts as an accelerator: it will push you either forward or backward, but you choose which direction.”
Many years ago, I was a college-student driving home on my way back from work in Austin when I had the misfortune of getting stuck behind a school bus. I tried to wait patiently as the bus stopped every few blocks, letting off little elementary-school aged passengers. But once the children got off the bus, this bus driver stayed parked for an additional 2-3 minutes before he would start moving again. My normally 20-minute commute back to campus was turning into a much longer drive home. I was running late to a study group meeting that I was supposed to host. Soon I felt my heart beating faster, my jaw start clenching, and my hands tightly gripping the steering wheel…
These knee-jerk reactions to stress and anxiety are very common. According to a recent Gallup survey, 60% of people in the US are experiencing daily stress and worry, a 14% increase in the last year. When asked how the level of stress in their life has changed compared with before the pandemic, nearly half of U.S. adults (47%) said the level of stress in their life has increased.
Stop for a minute and think about 3 to 5 stressors that you are currently experiencing. Have these increased for you as well?
There is no doubt that stress is a fact of life that we must all manage, especially amidst this ongoing pandemic. Work, children, health issues, family responsibilities, and the economy are often listed as the most common sources of stress.
So how do we deal? Here are a few of my tried-and-true techniques:
- Go outside or take a walk for 5 minutes – Being outside with nature can calm adults just like it can a crying baby. A new environment offers new perspective.
- Call Up or Go Visit an Uplifting Friend – the one who is naturally sunny, can make you laugh and help you stay positive
- Find a Hobby – for me these include Zumba, reading, and biking which never fail to bring me joy. As we grow older, I’ve watched many adults sacrifice their own hobbies. Our own hobbies are important and it’s never too late to learn a new skill or try a new adventure!
- Meditation or Yoga – there is a ton of science on the positive effects of both of these forms of therapy. If you’re a newbie, try an app like Calm or Headspace, which can provide guided meditation that walks you right through. There are tons of free Yoga classes online, such as YogaWithAdrienne and Boho Beautiful or even at your local gym or rec center.
- Be wary of your newsfeeds or social media – while these can certainly be used for good, much of it is filled with topics that are designed to induce anxiety and fear.
- Some fun ideas to tune into instead are Instagram’s GoodNews_Movement profile, or your favorite art, music or travel blogs. I personally love csapunch for her funny videos that feature all my favorite 90’s hip-hop and R&B artists. “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain” -Bob Marley ❤️
Getting back to my story about the Austin bus driver: After the 3rd or 4th stop, I realized that he was not only diligently following the speed limits and dropping off kids, but he was stopping and waiting to make sure that each child was let into their house before moving on.
I immediately had a totally different perspective on this situation, thinking that if I ever had kids, I sure hoped that they would have a bus driver like this one. This man obviously took his job very seriously and was going way above and beyond his job responsibility to make sure the children were safe. I maintained my death-grip on my steering wheel and showed up 20 minutes late for my group project.
Twenty years later, my 6-year old daughter was lucky enough to have a bus driver like the one I followed home that day, our neighborhood’s own Mr. Tommy. He would ask me what happened if my daughter was ever absent and make sure she got off at the right stop during the first few weeks when she was too young to be certain herself. If I had a grandparent or another friend greet her, he would ask for ID to make sure they were authorized to receive her. And I’m sure thankful that he takes care of our kids the way that Austin bus driver did so many years ago.