When COVID-19 arrived earlier this year and abruptly changed our lives, did any of us anticipate how long the pandemic would last? Or could last? I know I didn’t.

But here we are now, still striving to reconfigure how we live, how we work, and how we interact socially.

We’ve all become architects of our new reality.

We’ve been designing a way of working and living within the core domains of our lives: our workspace, our home space, and our social space.

Luckily, humans require change, but we also require consistency. To be at our best, we cannot exist within just one of these polarities.

And each of us has our own personal ratio of how much change and how much consistency we need to both survive and thrive.

Regardless of our own personal ratios, change can be uncomfortable, requiring immense effort and time. Try recalling an event like moving to a new neighbourhood, traveling in a new place, or starting a new job.

At moments like these, you can practically feel your neurons firing and re-wiring to learn new directions, new names, new computer software—the list goes on.

I’ve occasionally felt myself move into a sudden whirlwind of chaos spurred by our most recent changes: like bringing work into our home, assisting our children to learn virtually, and living with family fulltime.

Suddenly, in what seems like an instant, noise and rambunctiousness can flood our home/workplace, and that necessary calm of peacefulness can feel like a distant dream.

We can mange our in-the-moment real-time stress

We might not have control over our new expectations, but we can cultivate practices to find and treat the cause of our stress. Over the long-term, this will prevent the frequency and intensity of our stressful moments, which will continue to appear—pandemic or not.

Often we label a situation or person as the problem. But what we think of as the “problem” or “stressor” is really just a magnifying glass that enhances what is happening, and shines light on areas of our lives where growth and change can bring us more harmony and peace.

Self awareness and self control: the 3-R process

Learn to recognize how you feel when you’re becoming triggered by stress. Maybe your heart rate picks up, or your body is flooded with energy and you want to shout, or your mind is racing, and you feel out of control.

By recognizing this, you can use what I call the 3-R method to recover fast. It takes mental discipline and training. But like the body, the mind can be trained with practisDe.


As soon as you recognize that you are feeling upset or triggered, you can move into a place of empowerment: instead of reacting to something outside of you, you can react to yourself and remove yourself.


If necessary, tell your co worker you need to get something urgently or go to the washroom. Give your young children to your partner or give them a screen or tell your teenagers you need to sort yourself out and leave the room. It’s better than saying something you’ll regret. Just get into a separate space, even if that is your pantry or your closet! Removing yourself gives you a chance to reflect.


Reflecting involves reviewing the chain of events that led you down the road of an intense personal emotional storm. It takes time to get to the bottom of it, and if you feel stuck, professionals can help with that.

But the bottom line is that often what we are over-reacting to or what we are stressing about is not what we are upset about. It is something more significant, but we don’t know it until we understand ourselves and take the time to recognize, remove and reflect on what scenarios and behaviors trigger us.

Tips and tools for getting back to yourself

Breathe! Focus entirely on your breath with vim and vigor. Fill your chest with air and puff it out. Expand your belly and exhale for longer than you inhaled. This type of breathing can help bring your body into a parasympathetic, or calming, response. Peace and calm can be welcomed into your body and can help shift away any negative energy.

Dance! What? Dance? Yes! Turn on music that you love. Can you dance when you’re angry or upset? I can’t. Put on some of your favourite dance songs; it’s another energetic way to shift the energy in the moment. You can do the reflecting homework later.

Call a friend. If you have someone in your life who can help you navigate stressful situations, and who will give you honest feedback and insights, then they’re part of your support network. Venting can help, but someone who can ask you insightful questions to help you understand yourself better is, well, better.

Pet fluffy. Bond with your pet or consider getting one if you can adequately nurture it. Play, lie down, stroke, cuddle. Pets can be empathic supports who can calm our nervous system and who love us unconditionally.

Nurture yourself! Know your needs and nurture them. What hobbies and activities do you need to be at your best? How much solo time do you need? As an extroverted introvert, I have noticed how much a lack of quiet in my own space can leave me feeling drained, impatient, and easily frustrated by simple things. Ensuring I have enough personal time means I’m much more fun and energetic for my family and my clients.

Finally, use these tips and tools to improve your responses and next time, the trigger might not have the same negative effect.