The Ultimate Stress Test: A World Pandemic

We have reached a new level of stress and it’s normal for right now. 

Is it truly stress or could it be anxiety? Tune in to find out!



Nicki Kirlin, Jenna Fortinski



Are you stressed?


Nicki Kirlin  00:03




Me too.


Nicki Kirlin  00:06

Was that the quickest response ever?


Jenna Fortinski  00:07

Yeah, question. The best response? Oh, here’s our episode about stress.


Nicki Kirlin  00:15

It’s a good one.





Jenna Fortinski  00:17

And everybody is stressed. I’m stressed.


Nicki Kirlin  00:22

I know. But before we dive in to that, let’s focus on some happy right now.


Jenna Fortinski  00:29

Yeah, good idea,


Nicki Kirlin  00:30

which is the excitement and overwhelming positive response to our podcast


Jenna Fortinski  00:39

so far. Yes. It’s been unbelievable.



Mm hmm.


Jenna Fortinski  00:44

So part of having the podcast is, is that we get the statistics on people that are listening, what platforms people are listening on. And so the response has been unbelievable. It’s really crazy. It’s so exciting. But so happy to see that people are receiving it well, and sharing it. And hopefully, it’s making an impact, I get lots of positive feedback through my work in private counseling.


Nicki Kirlin  01:16

Oh, that’s fantastic.


Jenna Fortinski  01:17

Yeah, clients have given me lots of positive feedback and family and friends, of course. So, so happy to hear that people are receiving it. Well.


Nicki Kirlin  01:26

Yeah. So that means that we owe a huge shout out to everybody to say thank you for continuing on this journey with us and for hanging in there as we’ve kind of fumbled our way through the first few episodes. And we feel like we’re in a bit of a better groove now as the episodes roll on. So thank you for tuning in with us.


Jenna Fortinski  01:49

Yes, thank you so much. We’re so grateful to each and every one of you. And we’re just hoping that you continue to find it helpful and useful in your life. And if you have any Yes, ideas, or if you have a scenario that you want us to cover, we’re happy to do that. So please go to the simply counseling website at www dot simply counseling And you’ll see we have a podcast page there. And you can submit your information there, and we can tackle it on one of the episodes. So we’d be happy to do that for you.


Nicki Kirlin  02:29

Yeah, that would be awesome. We would love to do that. Yeah. Okay.


Jenna Fortinski  02:34

Let’s bite the bullet. Yes,


Nicki Kirlin  02:35

let’s, let’s get into it. So, obviously, stress is a very top of the mind topic right now. And it’s funny, because stress is typically like when we talk about it, it’s given quite a bad rap. But it actually serves an important function for us, and what is that job?


Jenna Fortinski  02:57

So yeah, so stress is a very normal and actually protective feature that happens in our body. So stress is our body’s way of letting us know, Hey, hold on, something is not right. You’re either doing too much, or it’s just an overload status. So it’s an unnatural thing that occurs in our bodies, and it’s there for purpose. So yes, it is, it doesn’t feel great. But we are and should be thankful to have it so that we know, to kind of keep ourselves in check that we’ve got maybe too much going on.


Nicki Kirlin  03:38

Perfect. So we are obviously living in sort of special circumstances right now with the pandemic. So how has the pandemic kind of changed or impacted our sort of normal stress experiences?


Jenna Fortinski  03:54

Yeah, so we thought we knew what stress Yeah, exactly, right. But yeah, the pandemic has just brought it to a whole nother level. So stress, of course, creates a physical and an emotional response in your body. And what’s happened with the pandemic that I’m seeing, and I’ve heard a lot of reports of is that it’s for during this pandemic time, it’s just been this chronic state of high stress. And so what’s happening is, is that we have what would be our typical normal levels of stress, and the pandemic has just brought it to another levels that were much more apt to get over the top with stress and for it to be at such a high intense intensity because we’re operating at such a high level already. So anything that’s added to that, it just, it just multiplies and it’s that much more intense. So, yeah, so it’s, it’s interesting, because, you know, up until last year, I thought I knew what stress was and what stress looked like and in people and And myself, but this pandemic has just really brought it to a whole nother level for us. One, it’s


Nicki Kirlin  05:06

been such a learning journey, right? Because we have all these unique situations now with extended working from home. And so that typically means that in some cases, there’s two people, three people may be working from home, right? You’re living in smaller, smaller quarters in your house, your house is now your office, your kids are potentially hanging around while you’re trying to get your work done. There’s a lack of control. We don’t it’s so unpredictable. All of these things that are sort of these unique challenges that we’ve never really faced before, in this way, right?


Jenna Fortinski  05:41

Yeah, we’re in this chronic state of not knowing what’s ahead. Yeah. And so that’s, of course, that’s the first thing you’re going to stress about is, what’s next? And what’s it gonna look like? And we haven’t had an answer to that for a very long time. And especially here in Alberta, we still don’t even know any answers to that. Right. And, you know, I know other countries in the world and other provinces have done really well with vaccinating and, and kind of getting a handle on things. But for us here in Alberta, it’s still a toss up. So that’s just creating so much more stress for us. And I wonder, too, about the


Nicki Kirlin  06:19

the impact to have sort of being bombarded by it on a daily basis as well, right? Because whether you’re looking on your phone, or you’re watching TV, I mean, it’s in the news every day. So you have this sort of constant reminder of what we’re living in and what we’re facing the unknown, like you said,


Jenna Fortinski  06:34

Yeah, yeah, so there’s no, there’s no reprieve. Yeah. And so it doesn’t matter, you know, how hard you might try, there’s still gonna be, like I said, that higher chronic state of stress. So that’s to be expected. So I do think that, at this point in time, I think it’s better for us to normalize that we are feeling that way. And that, you know, whatever we can do to just bring that level down, even just a notch would help everybody right now. So we’re not looking to, you know, we shouldn’t have the goal of returning to pre pandemic state of stress. I don’t think that we should set people up for that, because I feel like that’s setting us up for failure. So I do think that it’s normal, that we are more stressed than pre pandemic. But I think that there’s some things that we can try to do to help ourselves, you know, to avoid going over the top every time. And your words keep


Nicki Kirlin  07:35

coming up in my head of what you’ve said, in the past round, being easy on ourselves and each other, right, like, that’s what’s popping up in my brain as you’re talking is, that’s really good, solid advice for us to keep in mind throughout this episode, as well.


Jenna Fortinski  07:50

Yeah. So remembering for yourself that you’re going to be quick to stress and reminding you know, yourself for others, that they’re going to be quick to stress. So yes, be easy on yourself and be easy on others, you know, we really don’t know what other people are going through. And a lot of the times right now, we don’t even know what we’re going through ourselves.



Yeah. Right.


Jenna Fortinski  08:09

So just be easy on yourself.


Nicki Kirlin  08:12

And so that actually brings up another important part, another maybe population that we don’t often talk about that’s, you know, just as as, as affected as we are as adults, which is kids. Yes. So how does stress impact kids? Like, what would what does it look like?


Jenna Fortinski  08:31

Yeah. So again, going back to the media into the news. So there’s tons of news reports that there’s been more hospital admissions than ever for Child and Adolescent related mental health issues. So again, that speaks to what’s happening in this world right now is that the kids are feeling it just as much as we are. So what’s interesting about kids is that kids are still getting to know their bodies, and they’re still learning how to cope with stress as much as they can. And so it might look different than what it would in adults. So I think what’s important for us to do as parents or caregivers of these kids, is to really, you know, take the time to check in with them and to have little conversations about where their head is at what their worries are. You know, how they’re functioning on a daily basis, so that we can be that outside perspective of where their stress levels are at. Some kids, of course, the younger populations might not be able to vocalize it or use the right vocabulary. But there’s still ways that we can have conversations with our kids just to check in to see how they’re doing. And to make it a daily routine, where, you know, maybe everybody in the family is talking about how they’re feeling. And everybody kind of takes a turn and just to let children know that we’re there for them where we have a listening ear, and for them to be able to feel like they can share how they’re feeling in a safe environment. So and I think that’s the best way to kind of keep track and to keep a baseline of Our kids, like I said, it’s gonna look different. Stress is gonna look different in kids, and it will look in adults. And in saying that there’s no real like, clear cut, this is what to look for. Right? So, I am a huge believer in trusting your gut. So, as a mom, as a caregiver, as a dad, you know, we all have this intuition, this instinct, and if you just feel like something is not right, listen to it. And you know, start having a conversation with your, with your child and try to get them into a zone where they feel comfortable talking. That communication piece is so important. Yeah, yeah. And it’s helpful for us as adults to Yeah, you know, when you’re feeling stressed, it’s, that’s one of the coping strategies we’ll talk about is having a conversation, right. So same for kids. And the other thing is, is just remember that kids are always watching and kids always have little eyes. So if you are managing your stress, and you’re using coping strategies, you know, give it a voice and let the kids know what you’re up to, so that they can see that you’re doing the same. And hopefully they’ll follow suit. Excellent advice.


Nicki Kirlin  11:12

So talking about sort of what stress looks like or feels like, what are some of those sort of physical or emotional cues of stress.


Jenna Fortinski  11:24

So what’s interesting about stress is that it’s going to be very similar to the way anxiety presents physically. So if you’ve listened to our episode about anxiety, called the black hole of anxiety, you’ll hear some of the same responses, which is, so you’re going to have difficulty sleeping, whether it’s falling asleep or staying asleep. And then you’re going to have probably like an achy body, some gi intestinal issues, you’re going to feel tired, you’re gonna have difficulties concentrating. And probably like the headaches, the heartbeat stuff. So either your heart is racing, or just feeling like you can’t catch your breath. So those are all physical symptoms of stress, which is very, very, very similar to anxiety.


Nicki Kirlin  12:11

So then what’s the difference between stress and anxiety?


Jenna Fortinski  12:15

The million dollar question, right? So yeah, so when we talk about physical symptoms are very similar. So the difference between stress and anxiety is that we know that it’s anxiety when the stressor has left the situation, and you still have some of those same symptoms and same feelings. So anxiety would remain. So your worry, your fears would still be happening, even though the, what you’re worried about is no longer there. Okay. The other thing is, is that anxiety is usually something that’s inside of us. And stress is usually about things that are outside of us. So stress is usually about, you know, like financial issues, relationship issues, you know, work that kind of stuff, whereas anxiety is much more of an internal process.


Nicki Kirlin  13:08

Okay. That makes sense. So, let’s move into a discussion on what do we do with this stress feeling? How do we how do we start to manage it?


Jenna Fortinski  13:22

Yeah, so I’ve got got a few tips, I’m hoping people can give a try and see if it’ll help. So the first thing that I usually talk about with my clients is coming up with three coping strategies that you can kind of put in your repertoire to help combat how you’re feeling. So coping strategies are meant to just bring what you’re feeling down a little bit. So they don’t solve the situation, they don’t fix anything. But it’s just about managing how you’re feeling in the moment. So And typically, we want to try using coping strategies when we’re not already over the top in our feelings. So we want to try at a time when things are kind of, you know, level and steady and see how coping strategies work for us. Now, there is hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of coping strategies. And you know, we could probably do many episodes just talking about that. So I think like, my best advice would be just start a Google search coping strategies and pick the first 10 you see, and give them a try. But try to narrow it down to three, you know, tried and true strategies that work for you, or that feel good to you when you’re not feeling great. And then use those and keep them handy. So if you need to put it in your notes in your cell phone, if you need to put a little post it note inside your wallet, write it on your mirror, just find a place where it’s easily accessible until it becomes more of a natural process for you. And, and just really hold tight to those three strategies. So using them as early as as possible, when we’re feeling stressed. So not waiting till you’re over the edge. Exactly. Right. So really trying to, you know, check in with yourself on a regular basis and say, Okay, if I had to rate my stress level on a scale of one to 1010, being over the edge, and one being like no stress, which is not possible, you know, give yourself a rating. And if you’re sitting at, in the pandemic, likely a six or a seven, that’s probably normal. So as you’re heading to seven, eight, that would be when you start using your coping strategies, right. Okay. Okay. And then hopefully, that will help you bring down your emotions in that moment. The other thing to do is to really look at the commitments you have right now. So looking at what you have in your life that you’re committed to, that’s maybe not necessary, and trying to eliminate some of those external commitments, that are maybe causing some stress.



So how do you how do you make that decision?


Jenna Fortinski  16:10

So I like when you look at your daily, you know, your daily routine, or your weekly routine? really look at is, you know, if I’m going to do that, what is it doing for me? So going to work? Yes, we have to go to work. Do we need to, you know, commit to doing to doing the grocery shopping on Monday night? Does that have to happen on Monday night? is Monday night, the best time to be doing it? Okay? Is there another night that might work better? That might bring down the stress level for you? Can you do click and collect instead of going to the store, right? So really looking at what you have in your repertoire right now that you’re using, or that you’re doing every day? And saying is there adjustments that can be made to make it a little bit easier. So exercise is a natural drug for stress, right? So, so helpful, exercise fresher going for a walk, even if it’s just around the block once, even if it’s to the end of the driveway and back, opening the door standing on your porch, get some fresh air, move your body that will help with stress levels, of course. And the other thing is, is to make lists. So make lists of what you need to get done. I like that idea. Yes. And we’ve talked about that



professional list maker over here. If you are Yes.


Jenna Fortinski  17:25

But it just helps because you’re if you’re stressed, it’s hard to think of what needs to get done. And it’s pretty consuming. So if we make lists of what needs to get done, at least we can be, you know, focused and can concentrate on what’s important. And keep your lists short,





Jenna Fortinski  17:45

So there is not 20 things that need to get done. There is maybe three things a day, they need to get done. Well. And that’s the interesting part about that tactic is that it actually forces you to realize just how many things you have on your list.


Nicki Kirlin  18:00

Yeah, you know, and it is, it’s a great way to do that. That priority setting piece of it right. Yeah, that’s a fantastic idea.


Jenna Fortinski  18:08

And then, just as I mentioned, when we were talking about the kids piece is you don’t have a chat with somebody you love, or somebody that cares for you or somebody that’s important to you. And just let them know, Hey, you know why I’ve got a lot going on? Can I unload a little bit? And then maybe, you know, let them unload a little bit to just generating conversations that create a safe space that real we’re able to connect about how we’re feeling. And you know, maybe get advice from other people. But yeah, just having conversations is so important.


Nicki Kirlin  18:49

That’s excellent advice. Thank you for those those quick tips. Jana. So I think we’ve pretty well covered the surface anyway, yes, of talking about stress. So just as a reminder, some things that we went through, were talking about, you know, the function of what stress does in our body, and that it is actually normal to to be experiencing stress. And then just thinking about how it’s a little different now, now that we’ve been living in this pandemic mode for a while that we are in constant sort of stress mode all the time, which makes things a little bit more challenging. And then we talked a little bit about the uniqueness of kids and making considerations for how they’re experiencing stress and sort of being on the lookout for that and how we can encourage having those good conversations with them to make sure that there’s that opportunity for them to process their way through their own experiences of stress. And then talking a little bit about what it looks like from a physical perspective of some of the symptoms that we might see from experiencing stress and then how that differs from anxiety and then Jenna gave us some really good tips there at the end about how to manage our stress levels as well. Anything else that you want to chat about Jenna, before we wrap this one up?


Jenna Fortinski  20:11

I think just that if you have tried the stuff that we’ve talked about and it’s not working, then please reach out. Because there should be a little bit of an impact by using the strategies and using them consistently. If you’re not finding any reprieve, then please reach out. Like I said, we’re at a very high emotional state right now a high level of stress is normal. And if you just feel like you can’t make a dent, then please reach out and get support.


Nicki Kirlin  20:41

Excellent. Thank you. So our next episode, yes. Tell the people what we’ll be talking about the people


Jenna Fortinski  20:51

or the people. So what we’re going to be talking about is comparisons. So we’re going to be looking at comparisons across the lifespan. Hello. Yeah,


Nicki Kirlin  21:04

that’s a good one. I think it’ll be a really good episode.


Jenna Fortinski  21:06

Yes, be too. Okay. So as always, we will close this episode with a quote it comes from William James who’s known as the father of American psychology. The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another