A Step-by-Step Guide to Dealing with Stress During Difficult World Events

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Stay Educated, but Avoid Burnout

When major world events occur, it is important to stay updated and understand what is going on. However, that does not mean being glued to news sites and social media 24/7. It is  all too easy to get stuck in a cycle of reading the same news over and over again from different sources, which does not add to knowledge of a situation, but rather can result in overwhelm and burnout. There’s a new term for it – ‘doom-scrolling’.

The best way to deal with this is to learn the basics of the situation and come up with an action plan accordingly–for example, if there is a risk of danger, take the appropriate safety precautions, if there is a major social issue, plan how to address it through direct action in daily life–and then allocate a small amount of time each day (10-14 minutes) to read the news and stick to it. Set an alarm if necessary and switch to another activity when the time is up, so you don’t get caught in the doom-scrolling cycle!

Talk it Out

Discussing feelings about what is going on in the world is a helpful way to process, organize thoughts, and identify any triggering stressors. Having another person understand and relate provides validation, which makes it easier to accept any negative or stressful feelings. Talk about what’s going on with a partner, friend, or therapist. 

Take Time to Relax

Often stressful world events mean that people find themselves very busy in response. While whatever work that needs to be done is, of course, important, taking time away from the hustle-and-bustle of everything is essential to mental health during times of stress. Make it a priority to actively take time every day to do a fun, relaxing activity such as taking a long bath, watching an episode of a favorite series, reading a novel, or spending quality time with a loved one. Remember, self-care isn’t selfish, it is necessary in order to refuel, rejuvenate, and be capable of any kind of productivity.

Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Sleep is a huge factor that impacts stress and mental wellness. Go to bed and wake up around the same time every night (yes, even on the weekend!), avoid screens for at least an hour before bedtime, and implement a nighttime routine to help your body unwind and relax. 

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Maintain a Healthy Diet

During times of stress, it can be easy to slip into a habit of reaching for comfort food over balanced, nutritional meals, but a low-nutrition diet can contribute to stress. A regular diet that integrates healthy, nutrient-rich foods boosts mood and lowers stress levels.1 It is also important to avoid negative coping mechanisms such as over-consumption of alcohol, recreational drug use, and smoking during stressful periods.

Stay Active

Exercise can affect mood in a big way. It is very easy to feel physically fatigued during times of intense stress, particularly stress that is set off by uncontrollable events. However, getting active makes a major difference in boosting mood and decreasing stress levels.2 Physical activity produces endorphins and relieves excess stressful energy.3 Start small, do something active that is also enjoyable such as a bike ride, relaxing yoga, or dancing around the house to some favourite music. 

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