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Four ways to manage stress as we return to “normal”

As British Columbians ease back into pre-pandemic routines, activities and work situations, for many it may come with mixed emotions. While we might expect to feel nothing but joy and relief, that just isn’t the case for many of us - and that’s perfectly okay. After 18 months of changing the way we live and how we interact with others, it might take time to readjust.

If the idea of returning to the office, socializing, large crowds or travelling abroad makes you uncomfortable or anxious, you aren’t alone. In fact, you’re probably part of the majority. Before rushing back and resuming life as it was before the world stopped on its heels, be honest with yourself. Listen to your body and pay attention to how you’re feeling.

To help you adjust and ease into post-pandemic life, here are 4 ways to help manage stress.

mother and daughter cooking in the kitchen

1. Prioritize self-care

With stores, restaurants, and activities open again, it’s tempting to make up for lost time and try to fit everything in. But there are also things you should set time aside for to make sure you’re taking care of yourself:

  • Exercise daily: even if you aren’t ready to start training for a 10k or hitting the gym before work every morning, moving your body is important. That might mean stretching for 10-20 minutes or going for walks to get your 10,000 steps per day (really any amount is better than nothing!) - what really counts is exercising consistently. Help make tracking your progress easy with a fitness tracker or smart watch. If you’re looking to purchase new tech, head to The Source where Members save up to 20%.
  • Eat (and drink) well: you know the drill - focus on eating fresh, healthy foods through the day, avoid over-processed foods and snacks, and drink water in favour of sugary juice and pop. Tip: making smart choices at the grocery store makes it easier to stick to your goals at home.
  • Get enough sleep: when we worry or stress, our sleep is often the first thing affected. Luckily, you can train yourself to get a better night sleep, but like any new habit, it takes time. Try gradually going to bed 5-10 minutes earlier each week, or use podcasts to help you nod off (Nothing Much Happens is a favourite of some of our team members!). You might also consider replacing your mattress, pillows or bedding, as your current setup might not give your body the support it needs. And don’t forgot to use your BCAA Membership to save: you can earn 5% back in CAA Dollars® by shopping online at Linen Chest or 4% back in CAA Dollars by shopping online at Simons.
  • Practice meditation and breathe: meditation has been proven to reduce stress, control anxiety, boost attention span and improve sleep, but there’s no right way to meditate. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps (like Headspace, Calm and Breethe, to name a few) that are designed to help you get started.
man with bluetooth headphones relaxing on sofa

2. Practice mindfulness

It’s reasonable to think the main contributors to our health are diet, exercise and rest. But there’s one big piece missing from that list: mental health.

Our mental health is a critical component of overall health, and one way to boost mental health is by practicing mindfulness.

Focus your attention on what’s happening in front of you right now and shut out the rest. By being present and appreciating what we have, it’s easier to understand that others are responding to their post-pandemic lives in different ways. We may be in it together, but everybody manages changes in very different, personal ways.

To become more mindful and incorporate mindfulness into your daily life, here are several questions to ask yourself.

3. Be kind to yourself

Yes, we’ve been at home for well over a year. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with knowing when to say no and stay home for an evening. Jumping back in with both feet can be a lot.

Listen to your body and pay attention to your own needs. It might not be easy to say no to big dinners or parties, but certain situations may trigger anxiety or stress. Know your personal boundaries and limits and go easy on yourself if you react differently than you’d like.

man and woman having a discussion in an office

4. When you need help, ask for it

The so-called return to normal is a good opportunity to get a full check-up from your family doctor, dentist or optometrist. If you’re not fully covered through a private health insurance plan, consider BCAA Health & Dental Insurance to fill in the gaps not covered through BC’s Medical Services Plan (MSP).

And building on the theme of being honest with yourself, if you ever need help, feel comfortable asking for it. There is a lot you can do to improve your physical, emotional and mental health, but some issues are beyond our own control. If you just aren’t feeling right, reach out and talk to your doctor or seek professional help.