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Idle Thoughts: A Good Place To Be

It’s been a challenging year, full of uncertainty, but we’ll get through it, and emerge stronger on the other side.

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Like many people, I struggle with anxiety. With everything that’s transpired this year, 2020 has put my coping mechanisms to the test like no other year in recent memory. I suspect I’m not alone.

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 A contentious presidential election, social unrest, hurricanes and wildfires and a once-in-a-century global pandemic have blended into a potent cocktail of stress and anxiety for many people.

And there appears to be no end in sight for the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, that could change in a heartbeat with the discovery of a vaccine. But as of the time of this posting, it’s uncertain when life – and our economy – can return to normal. (For now, some are calling this “the new normal.”)

Not surprisingly, the American Psychological Association’s (APA) most recent “Stress in America” survey finds that uncertainty – about our health and our economic future – is stressful to many Americans. The association offers some coping strategies, a few of which I’ll share here. I plan to try some of these myself:

• Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if your threshold for uncertainty seems lower than someone else’s. Give yourself a break.

• Reflect on past successes. I like this one. Think about a stressful situation that you overcame in the past, and give yourself credit for getting through it.

 • Develop new skills. “From standing up to a difficult boss to trying a new sport, taking risks helps you develop confidence and skills that come in handy when life veers off course,” APA says. 

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• Control what you can. Focus on the things that you can control, and don’t dwell on the stuff you can’t.

• Seek support from the people you trust. Don’t fall into the trap (as I have from time to time) of you isolating yourself when you’re stressed or worried.

• Limit exposure to news. I’m saving this one for last, because the last eight months have produced a constant stream of bad news, readily available 24/7 on our smartphones. From what I’ve read, this constant exposure to news and social media feeds isn’t healthy for us. And it’s especially dangerous before bedtime, because that blue light – as I’ve learned the hard way – can make it harder to fall asleep, because it interferes with your natural production of melatonin. Bottom line: I’m recommitting myself to spending less time on my phone.

That’s great advice from the American Psychological Association, and you can find the entire article here: https://www.apa.org/topics/stress-uncertainty. 

It’s been a challenging year – full of uncertainty – but we’ll get through it, and we’ll emerge stronger on the other side. Stay healthy and sane out there.

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