It would be hard not to be more than a little stressed out by the challenges presented by the COVID19 pandemic. From taking all your work online, to trying to work while your children are home and the interpersonal challenges of social distancing and quarantines, there are so many changes and so many unknowns that it is hard to find calm and stability. But your mental – and physical health – depend on you being able to de-stress, especially because chronic stress has a negative impact on your immune system and you need your immune system to be as strong as possible right now. So here are some strategies for you to manage the stress of this present moment.
- Go on a news diet. Yes, you want to know the latest information regarding the virus and how it impacts your work and the economy etc etc but listening to bad news all day is not good for your emotional and psychological health. So schedule your news consumption for morning, noon and evening and turn off the news the rest of the time. I also suggest that if you watch 20 minutes of news then you have to find 20 minutes of uplifting content to counteract the negativity that the news brings. Watch puppy or kitten videos. Watch 20 minutes of a comedy special. Watch 20 minutes of a concert by your favorite artist.
- Slow down and take a break. There is just so much happening and so quickly that it is easy to feel overwhelmed. So if you can, take a break each hour for 1-5 minutes to sit in silence. If you’re in remote videoconference meetings all day, ask the people in your meeting to take a one minute pause on the hour or half hour. Your brains will thank you for it. You will be sharper, clearer and more creative because you will feel less overwhelmed. During that pause you can sit in silence, do deep breathing exercises together, do some stretches to release muscle tension, or do a yoga pose or two.
- Move. Whether it’s dancing in your bedroom to a playlist – or a remote party thrown by your favorite DJ on Instagram or Facebook, going for a walk or bike ride in your neighborhood (while staying AT LEAST 6ft apart), or doing yoga to a YouTube video in your living room, get your body moving. Our bodies were not meant to be sedentary and our bodies hold stress in ways that can cause health problems such as insulin resistance that can lead to diabetes, digestive problems such as acid reflux and heartburn, hypertension, and muscle pain and tension.
- Get outside. Yes. I know. You’re supposed to shelter in place at home, but you can still get fresh air and sunshine. The sun on our faces improves our mood and you need it for the production of Vitamin D, which keeps depression at bay. Sit on your front porch or balcony, do a workout in your backyard, attend your remote meeting in the fresh air, or take a walk or bike ride as in #3.
- Connect with loved ones. If you’re at home with your loved ones then treasure this opportunity to catch up with each other; to have deep conversations that you don’t always have the time to have. Play board games and card games. Garden together. Bake. Cook a meal. If you’re not in the same space, then get on the phone or on your laptop or tablet and do video chats. Take a virtual tour of each other’s homes. Have a watch party where you watch the same show wherever you are. Play a virtual game of scrabble together. Exercise together. Meditate or pray together. Reach out to those friends you haven’t seen or spoken to in a long time and reconnect. Make appointments to regularly connect with siblings, children and parents. Having a scheduled call helps create a routine and some stability in a time where we need all that we can get.
- Practice mindfulness. Whether you do yoga, deep breathing, practice a mantra or repeat an affirmation, a great way to start and end your day is to find peace in a few moments when you close your eyes and block out the chaos and noise of the world. You can also do a mindfulness exercise at regular points in the day when you are feeling stressed or agitated or just to keep your mood on an even keel.
- Be grateful. When there is bad news all around us and we are feeling afraid and anxious, focusing on the positive is a scientifically proven to improve physical and mental well-being. Gratitude keeps us optimistic. Each morning and each evening, you can look in the mirror and speak 3 things for which you are grateful. Or if you want to journal – which is a great way to document your gratitude – then write it down. If you need to remind yourself of all that you are grateful for, you can put it on stickies and put them on your bathroom mirror.
Whatever strategies you use, make it part of your daily routine. This will help you build emotional resilience that will serve you for the rest of your life, while helping you stay mentally well in the present.