5 Ways to Manage Stress
If you’re finding it more difficult to manage stress and anxiety, there’s a perfectly valid reason: living through a global pandemic isn’t normal at all. In fact, there is research to suggest that because our society has never experienced this kind of situation, our brains are not able to adequately process what is happening and how our bodies should react. The good news is we have more tools than ever to help manage how we feel and how we respond. Try these five doctor-approved ways to achieve peace-of-mind in a time of heightened stress, isolation and uncertainty.
Tip 1: Check In With Yourself
It sounds like the easy part, but for some, this is the hardest task of all. Look closely at your habits and feelings: Are you sleeping well? Are you staying (virtually) connected with friends and family, or are you retreating? Do you feel safe and supported, or in constant fear?
With self-quarantine and shelter-in-place as the new norm, your daily patterns have probably changed. Look closely at your emotional wellbeing and mental health, and take some time to reflect on how you’re feeling. Use this information to determine where you need to adjust, and then make time for those adjustments.
Bonus tip: Even a small amount of physical activity can increase endorphins and improve your mood. Take a moment to stretch or head outside for a short walk; anything that gets you moving can help curb anxiety and stress.
Tip 2: Stay Informed, But Not Obsessed
Information (and in some cases, misinformation) about COVID-19 is changing every day. While it’s vital to stay up to date with the latest developments and preventive measures, make sure you look to trusted experts—both globally and in your community—for the most accurate news.
Stick to trustworthy sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization and your community health system—especially because their doctors are closest to how the situation is unfolding in your area. Limit how often you check for updates and step away from social media entirely if you begin to feel overwhelmed.
Tip 3: Focus on What You Can Control
If it feels like the world is spinning out of control with every news story, take heart in one thing: your health is still within your control and there are many things you can do to safeguard it.
Wash your hands frequently—for at least 20 seconds—with soap and warm water, or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol until you can wash with soap and water. Stay home, avoid crowds and limit nonessential trips. Practice vigilance when disinfecting the surfaces in your home and any groceries you bring in. Try not to touch your face, eat well and get plenty of sleep to help keep your immune system strong.
Tip 4: Connect with Others—Virtually
Social distancing, while undeniably one of the best things we can do to help stop the spread of COVID-19, comes at a cost. Humans are hardwired for connection. It sustains and supports us. But physical distance doesn’t have to mean walling off the relationships we count on.
Make it a priority to stay in touch with friends and family by scheduling regular phone, chat, Zoom or Skype dates. And use social media to create positive connections on a larger scale: with your community, the country, the world. Those connections and shared stories can give us a greater sense of purpose and inspire others to take safety precautions for the health of all.
Tip 5: Take Care of Your Physical Self
Remember when life was too busy to work out or cook a healthy meal? With the many disruptions to our daily schedule that COVID-19 is causing, time to take care of our body, mind and spirit feels abundant.
Eat healthy meals. Look up a new recipe and cook it with your family or over video chat with a friend. Get plenty of sleep to keep your immune system strong. Try yoga, meditation, or journaling to encourage mindfulness and reduce anxiety. Find ways to be active. Go for a walk or try an indoor workout. Lifting a toddler isn’t too far from lifting a kettlebell! Most of all, carve out a routine that works for you.
Lastly, if you’re well enough to help someone else, you’ll feel better for it. Send an uplifting text, donate to food banks, pick up groceries for an older neighbor or be a source of calm for someone that needs a listening ear. We’re all in this together, and together, we’ll see it through.