𝐓𝐢𝐩𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐝𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐟𝐮𝐥 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐬?
In a previous post a few months ago, I reflected on stress in the work place and how I like to frame it into three categories
• 𝐈𝐧𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 - stress that is part and parcel of the job.
• 𝐀𝐝𝐝𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 - stress that is temporary, occasional and most often due to unforeseen circumstances.
• 𝐔𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 - stress that is manufactured, created, and almost always attributed to person or personalities.
These frames can be expanded beyond the workplace and applied to life in general. Stress is part and parcel of our lives and it ebbs and it flows depending on situations and people we experience.
Over the past few weeks, the level of 𝐀𝐝𝐝𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 and the subsequent mental and emotional toll has skyrocketed especially for those who are directly impacted by the atrocities unfolding in Gaza. Although the level of intensity, and the degree of impact on individual psyches, may vary based on one’s proximity to those who are affected by the war on Gaza, there is no doubt that the shocking brutality is weighing heavy on the hearts and minds of many, many people.
Being a Palestinian whose parents have been forced into diasporic existence sinxe the first Nakba and being one who is witnessing, with unfathomable shock and astonishment, a second, bigger Nakba 75 years later, I am often asked how I have been dealing with it all.
Thinking through and reflecting on the question, I acknowledge the fact that it certainly is not easy to deal with all that is taking place and I don’t claim to have the best handle on things but I have figured out a few practical steps that have helped me along the way. I share these with you in hopes that any of them may be of help to you as you navigate these, and other, tough times.
I would view these as a collective, interrelated practical steps that build on each other
First and foremost 𝒌𝒏𝒐𝒘 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒔 𝒊𝒔 𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒘𝒉𝒚 𝒊𝒕’𝒔 𝒄𝒂𝒖𝒔𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒔𝒖𝒄𝒉 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒔. Knowing that helps you frame it and framing it gives it definition and, to an extent, makes it manageable. It becomes something that you can see an end to and therefor can overcome, it’s less abstract, less overwhelming and in time surmountable.
𝑩𝒆 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒖𝒏𝒆 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒔𝒆𝒍𝒇 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒌𝒏𝒐𝒘 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒍𝒊𝒎𝒊𝒕𝒔. Know your zones from “comfort zone” to “staring into the abyss zone” and know the breadth and depth of each. Know how far you can push yourself without getting to a point of no return. For example, I personally cannot look at any of the videos or pictures of the destruction and vicious damage to human life. I have not watched a single video. I simply can’t. I know that if I watch a child in pain or a father in agony or a mother in despair that I will completely lose my capacity to function and be completely consumed by an indescribable feeling of utter despair so I avoid it.
𝑲𝒏𝒐𝒘 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒓𝒆𝒅 𝒇𝒍𝒂𝒈𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒖𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒓𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒏 𝒚𝒐𝒖’𝒓𝒆 𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒓𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒐 𝒈𝒆𝒕 𝒂 𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒕𝒍𝒆 𝒕𝒐𝒐 𝒄𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒆𝒅𝒈𝒆. Once these red flags start going in your head, step back and take a break. Unplug and do something different. There is no shame in saying this is too much and I need a break because if you push through and ignore these flags you will end up getting burned out that is not healthy for you or for your loved ones around you
𝑫𝒐𝒏’𝒕 𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒆 𝒔𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒘𝒉𝒊𝒄𝒉 𝒃𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒋𝒐𝒚. I know experiencing joy during these times is often accompanied with guilt but experiencing joy is a necessary counterbalance to the stress. We’re made to experience a whole range of emotions and we must experience them to be whole and wholesome
𝑫𝒐𝒏’𝒕 𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒆 𝒔𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒘𝒉𝒊𝒄𝒉 𝒃𝒚 𝒅𝒐𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒑𝒍𝒆𝒕𝒆𝒍𝒚 𝒔𝒉𝒖𝒕 𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒆𝒍𝒔𝒆 𝒐𝒇𝒇 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒔𝒐𝒍𝒆𝒍𝒚 𝒇𝒐𝒄𝒖𝒔 𝒐𝒏 𝒊𝒕 𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒏 𝒊𝒇 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒂 𝒃𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒇 𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒐𝒅 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒆.. For me it’s physical activity, soccer in particular. I have been consistent with playing soccer, or riding my bike, at least once a week for years and I do my absolute best not to let anything take that away from me. Even if I’m dragging or not in the mood to play or feeling sluggish or whatever tricks my mind tries to play on me to keep me stuck in my low, I push myself and do it because I know that within five minutes of being on the pitch I’m in a different zone, a nothing else but the ball matters zone, and my mind can take a much needed break
𝑫𝒐 𝒔𝒐𝒎𝒆𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒑𝒓𝒐𝒅𝒖𝒄𝒕𝒊𝒗𝒆 𝒓𝒆𝒍𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝒕𝒐 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕’𝒔 𝒄𝒂𝒖𝒔𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒔. You define what “productive” means to you because it varies from one person to the next. This is about managing your stress not managing others expectations which will only add to your stress. For me personally and as it relates to the current situation in my homeland, I try and be productive by writing more, by engaging in educational activities, by engaging in conversations. That’s what works for me. Find what works for you
But perhaps the most important point for me is 𝒇𝒂𝒊𝒕𝒉 . My faith manifests itself in an unshakable belief in a just God, a God whose wisdom I seek to understand, a God who I experience as Most Gracious and Most merciful. If you’re not inclined towards the divine then have faith in the human experience that, although at times ugly, has taught us that injustice never lasts.
Don’t ignore your stress.
Don’t push it to the side.
Identify it and work on managing it.
Those are my tips and tricks, what are yours?
Have you ever wondered, what have I done to deserve this?
Have you ever looked towards the divine and asked, why me?
I’m at home, safe and secure
Surrounded by family, love, comfort and more
At times, I’m in the company of people whose intelligence leaves me struck with awe
other times I’m in the company of those whose faith makes me feel closer to the divine
rich people, powerful people, influential people…people who make me wonder what I have done to deserve this? Why me?
I could’ve never been, but my grandparents escaped the ethnic cleansing of their hometown with my parents who were then a mere 8 and 5 years old
I could’ve been buried under the rubbles of my parents’ house had they not left Rafah (Gaza) in the early 60s
I could’ve been carrying the dead bodies of my friends, neighbors, children had we not been able to stay as refugees in Qatar and went back to Gaza
I could’ve lived the war, I could’ve perhaps survived it physically but been emotionally and psychologically scarred
But I’m here at home, safe and secure
Surrounded by family, love, comfort and more
In the company of intellectuals, spirituals, change makers and more
Thankful and praising God for sure
But still wondering, what have I done to deserve this?
What am I meant for?
Palestinian, Muslim, American, Husband, Father, Academic, Pharmacist, Coffee Addict, Nutella phene, Pseudo writer, Soccer player, former Canadian, Community servant, Pinch hitter imam, interfaith ninja, Intellectual vigilante, and the undisputed KING of snark