Security work often involves conflict, the possibility for crisis, and the need to be able to accurately predict the future. Each of these can be stressful, and if you take the added pressures of managing security during the COVID-19 pandemic, the stress can be easily amplified. It is now, more than ever, important for security professionals to positively meet their day to day challenges; one way to do so is to build habits around six daily tools for stress management, using the reminder BREADS, or Breathing, Relaxation, Exercise, Attitude, Diet, Sleep.
Breathing. All stress-related breathing is short, shallow, and rapid. Stress-managed breathing is long, deep, and slow. You can’t think or function effectively if your breathing is out of control. Shallow breathing creates a vicious circle; the shorter your breaths, the more of them you need to take. Without good oxygen control, your body shifts into fight-or-flight mode. When you can, practice breathing slowly and deeply, concentrating on the length of each breath and spending a moment on those transitions between the end of one inhalation and the start of the next exhalation.
Relaxation. Using focused relaxation for stress control means you should try to find a safe, quiet place to close your eyes for about 10 minutes and simply breathe slowly, counting from 100 down to 1, then back to 100 again. If you can make this a part of your everyday routine, you will actually want to start extending the time.
Exercise. Just walk, every day, for about 30 minutes. Walking is easy on your joints, burns calories if you move along at a good pace (about 100 to 130 steps per minute), and is a great social activity to connect with your spouse or partner, friends, colleagues, or your dog. Exercise helps you get better sleep, burns your excess stress energy from your workday, and supports your heart and lungs.
Attitude. In two words, you can better manage your stress when you are relentlessly positive. People who see the worst in everyone and in everything are no fun to be around. Not all the world is bad. Those same people who always see their glass (or their checking account) as half-empty rather than half-full bring everyone around them down. Leucadia, California-based psychologist and stress expert Brian Alman, PhD, says it best: “Successful people have one foot in the present and the other in the future. Miserable people have one foot in the present and the other stuck in the past.” Find the good in the situation you’re in.
Diet. Out with the bad carbs (diet and regular sodas, candy, bagels, white rice, pasta, fries) and in with the lean proteins, more veggies, complex carbohydrates, fruits, nuts, more water, and vitamins. Food is a drug, and it changes your mood for the good or the bad (caffeine, alcohol, sugar, fats). Small changes make a big difference over time, like cutting portion sizes, avoiding most fast foods, drinking two glasses of water before each meal, no carbs after dinner, or adding more fiber. Your body needs fuel, but it needs the right kinds of fuel. What you eat makes a difference in how you think, feel, exercise, and even how you sleep.
Sleep. We are a sleep-deprived culture. People who try to get by on 4 to 6 hours of sleep a night are actually harming themselves. Lack of sleep affects your hormones (which can give you belly fat), judgment, concentration, and interactions with people. If you feel tired all the time, resolve to get more and better sleep than you do now. Make your bedroom dark, quiet (use a white noise fan or earplugs), and cool.