Managing Stress in
Tumultuous Times

Allison Walsh, Social Media Strategist
Managing Stress in

At Combined Insurance, we take having a Positive Mental Attitudeseriously. In fact, our founder, W. Clement Stone, coined it as “PMA,” an acronym used widely inside our company walls. But PMA isn’t just for Combined Insurance employees - it can help anyone overcome obstacles and achieve success. During the COVID-19 pandemic, having a PMA was especially important as many new and anxiety-producing stressors were added into our lives.

Now that the pandemic seems to be waning, life is changing again. For some, it may be for the better, with more time spent with family and friends and less time spent isolated. However, others may be going back into the office after years of work-from-home, creating long commutes and stricter schedules for many. There may also be people who enjoyed the slower pace of life COVID afforded and are not excited about the rush of activity coming their way.

No matter your circumstance, having a PMA will help you navigate these ever-changing times. To learn how to hone your PMA, Supplementally Speaking turned to Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo (Dr. E). 

Her advice? Use this time of change to grow and become stronger.

The best way to get started?  Learn how to manage stress.  Dr. E explains how stress affects us, and what we can do about it.

How stress affects our bodies and minds

Stress is the response we all have to outside pressures: It can be good or bad. Stress can be the motivator that helps us succeed at a personal or career goal. But continual, or chronic, stress can have a negative toll on the mind and body.

Dr. E suggests we think of our stress levels as being on a continuum of 1 to10, 1 being no stress at all, and 7 to10 meaning it feels like steam is coming out of our ears. Dr. E refers to this as the “red zone.” She explains that when we are in this red zone, we are much more likely to say things we don’t mean or to offend our loved ones or our co-workers.

“I always tell my clients, when you’re in the red zone, don’t let anything into or out of your mouth,” Dr. E explains. “Meaning, we are much more likely to say things we don’t mean to the people around us, and/or we are more likely to consume things that are not good for us, like overeating or substance abuse.”  

When we are in the stress red zone, we tend to personalize others’ behaviors and assume everything they do is about us in order to further annoy or offend us. When we are in this state, there are biological responses that can cause us to feel anger or hostility toward the people we perceive as adding to our stress.

Constant stress can have a negative impact on the health of our brains and our bodies. A stressed-out brain is more susceptible to anxiety and depression, and it can have an effect on our entire body, making us more susceptible to becoming ill.

Another concern about being in the red zone: Stressed brains are not productive brains. When a person is completely stressed-out, it came make it very hard to get meaningful work done.

Dr. E notes, “Before COVID, stress cost American companies $300 billion in absenteeism and loss of productivity. It’s hard to even imagine what that number will be now with the added stresses of enduring a global pandemic!”

The good news in all of this is you can choose to deal with the negative effects of stress proactively and reactively:

-       Proactively dealing with stress means you have an action plan in place to avoid becoming stressed; and

-       Reactively dealing with stress means you know how to deal with stress if, despite your best efforts, you find yourself nearing the red zone

Proactive measures

There are many ways to relieve stress, and Dr. E suggests making appointments with yourself like you would with your boss to proactively relieve stress throughout the day.

Here are a few commitments you could make with yourself (don’t be afraid to set these in your calendar as actual appointments!):

Start and end each day on a positive note. 

Dr. E explains that the way you frame your day is more powerful than you may realize. Try starting and ending each day in a positive way. For example, you may name something you’re grateful for or take a moment to imagine your favorite beach. You could spend a minute in quiet personal reflection or prayer or repeat a positive aspiration. Whatever you decide, make it a habit. If a negative thought tries to intrude, push it away and replace it intentionally.

Change your state.

“Changing your state or doing something different than what you are currently doing is an incredibly powerful way to become more positive and to stop stress in its tracks,” Dr. E explains. “Changing your state could mean getting up and walking around for a few minutes. It doesn’t have to take long, even 1-3 minutes can be a game changer. Plan these throughout your day and put them on your calendar to make sure you do them.”

 Other actions to consider:

  • Call a friend you love to talk to
  • Check social media (if it makes you happy) for five minutes
  • Do 10 burpees, pushups, or sit-ups
  • Watch your favorite comedian on YouTube for five minutes
  • Pray or meditate for a few minutes
  • Take five deep breaths
  • Take a coffee or tea break
  • Listen to music
  • Schedule a full cardio-pumping workout

Honor your own coping mechanisms

Not everyone will respond to the same to every stress management idea. That’s why it’s so important to find what works for you.

One of the most popular and effective forms of stress release is exercise; it can improve your mood, pump up your endorphins and take your mind off whatever is stressing you at the moment. But what do you do when you’re looking for some stress release, but it’s not the ideal time for a sweat-inducing workout?

We’ve compiled a list of things we think will help lower your stress without breaking a sweat. Try some and let us know what you think!

  1. Visit a beautiful park or beach
  2. Escape to the library and look at magazines
  3. Focus on someone else’s story for a while through a book
  4. Bake or cook
  5. Go for a coffee
  6. Color in a coloring book
  7. Use essential oils for aromatherapy
  8. Listen to the Moods section on Spotify
  9. Write frustrations down on paper
  10. Call a friend
  11. Organize a drawer, cupboard or closet
  12. Read to nursing home residents
  13. Play with your dog or cat
  14. Treat yourself to a manicure, pedicure or massage
  15. Drink hot tea
  16. Decorate with fresh flowers
  17. Light a candle
  18. Try the Calm app
  19. Work in the garden
  20. Paint or sculpt
  21. Indulge in a treat
  22. Take a warm bath

Take care of basic needs: mind, body and soul

Make sure you are taking care of your basic needs to maintain your healthiest self and to manage stress levels.  

“Ever wonder why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture?” Dr. E. half-jokingly laughs, “it’s because it makes us crazy!” 

You may think watching TV is a great way to beat stress, but are you sacrificing your sleep to keep up with your shows? Face sleep issues head on by treating sleep apnea and following basic sleep hygiene. You may need to contact a sleep specialist if you’re still having trouble getting a good night’s sleep.

Eating regular nutritious meals and moderating your alcohol intake is also extremely important for staying healthy. 

Commit to getting the recommended amount of exercise, and don’t forget to take care of your spiritual needs as well, whether through prayer, meditation or spending time in nature. 

Address any depression or anxiety you may have by reaching out to a mental health professional. Most major medical plans will cover these visits, and given the current circumstances, you could even consider connecting with a qualified therapist online.

Reactive measures

“Despite taking these proactive measures, you still may find your stress meter creeping up, but there are steps you can take to recognize and react,” Dr. E explains. “Stay in tune with how you’re feeling. If you notice your stress level is rising, take time to acknowledge it and take action to stop it. Remember, you can do and say things you may later regret when you’re in the red zone and being in the red zone is harmful to your physical and mental health.”

Try Dr. E’s complimentary stress relief strategies.

Corporate responsibility

Corporations are also on the hook to take notice of how their employees are doing -- especially during this difficult time -- and taking proactive measures to help them. Dr. E suggests that companies should create new programs to help struggling employees. This can help employees connect with the company and their co-workers in a positive light, making them feel more centered and purposeful at work amidst the uncertainty in the world.

Some ways companies can help their employees deal with stress include:

  • Providing positive or mental health speaker series
  • Workshops to manage stress
  • Outlets to relieve stress, like gym memberships and walking trails
  • Pleasant break rooms with coffee and tea
  • Access to healthcare that covers mental health treatments
  • Access to mini massages or manicures
  • A place to rest, like a quiet room or a sleep pod
  • Training leaders to be empathetic and supportive

Growing together

It’s our choice, whether we let the next few months of finding our new normal (once again) make us stronger or weaker. No matter what we are facing, the common denominator is stress. Thanks to Dr. E for helping us learn how to manage it so we come out of this crisis stronger and more resilient than ever.

Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo Bio

Thanks to our contributor, Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo. She is contributing to Combined Insurance in an effort to help educate readers, but her medical opinions and advice are for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for visiting your doctor.

Dr. E is the authority on how to crush your inner critic so that you can live a life of purpose, fulfillment and True Success™.

She’s America’s most trusted celebrity psychologist with over 100 national media interviews including The Today Show, Good Morning America, Dr. Oz, Fox Business News, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and countless others.

Considered Shaquille O’Neal’s “Head Coach for Happiness” Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo is on a mission to help you recognize your REAL self worth, so you can live the life you’ve always dreamed of.

Dr. E has personally helped celebrities and high performing executives, entrepreneurs and athletes crush their inner critic and access untapped, practically limitless, reserves of potential.

Through her inspiring writings, on-line training, passionate keynote speeches and private one-on-one work, Dr. E is on a mission to change the global conversation around ICS (Inner Critic Syndrome) FOR GOOD… so we can all live happier, fuller and more connected lives.