The World Health Organization is recommending social distancing, which in some cases, can lead to loneliness resulting in depression and low mood. We are built for connection and even the introverts of the world may be feeling the impact this lack of socializing has on their mental health as we progress into the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Self-isolation, in addition to the anxiety we have around our wellbeing and the wellbeing of loved ones, plus financial concerns and the unknown economic future can fuel our fight and flight response and release the stress hormone known as Cortisol into our bodies.
Although Cortisol can have a positive impact on our bodies, too much Cortisol is known to increase the risk of serious health issues such as heart disease, insomnia and diabetes to name but a few. Listed below are 10 simple ways we have the power to reduce stress and bring a practice of creativity, mindfulness and calm to our day.
#1 Move your body
Movement is the natural way to combat the risks our stress hormone places on our bodies.
What you can do: Go for a brisk walk every day. If you are in quarantine dance around your house, put on your favorite playlist and move that body. An alternative to dancing is to do a high impact workout for 20 minutes you can find on YouTube or, pretend you are Jackie Chan and get those martial arts moves going. Anything that gets your body moving is a great method of combatting the build-up of cortisol in our bodies.
They say laughter is the best medicine and for a good reason. Laughing releases endorphins and increases our immune cells creating a stronger resistance to infection. Laughing relaxes our muscles, improves the function of our blood vessels protecting us against heart disease.
What you can do: Try Laughing Yoga on YouTube! Yes, I did say Laughing Yoga. No equipment needed just some “fake” laughter that will bring you a genuine belly laugh once you get the hang of it. If that isn’t something you are willing to try go to Netflix and enjoy your favourite comedy or watch a comedian perform standup. Soon you will be laughing your way to a healthier you.
It is proven that journaling supports a more mindful and less stressful life. It creates self-awareness, promotes emotional regulation and results in healing of emotional wounding. Journaling helps us plan and create our dreams, explore hope for the future and helps us set intentions for our lives.
What you can do: Start by writing just a few sentences a day on the right-hand side of your journal. If you find yourself staring at a blank page and not knowing where to start it can be as simple as “Today I feel (happy, sad, anxious, excited, encouraged, hopeful, pleased) about ______________.” Then, each evening on the opposite page write three things you are grateful for before you go to sleep. If you can’t come up with three start with one, guaranteed you will have a long list before you know it. Start with small steps, allow yourself to take it one sentence at a time.
Yoga is proven to reduce muscle tension in our body, relieve stress and calms the central nervous system.
What you can do: There are many yoga classes online try Yoga with Adrienne, one of my favorites, and tailor the yoga class time to meet your time availability so as not to cause undue stress.
For the most part, we do not use deep breathing in our day-to-day functioning. In fact, we resist breathing deep into our diaphragms and hold our breath when we are stressed which results in shoulder, back and neck pain.
What you can do: Use what is known as “Square Breathing”. To square breath:
Take a breath in for the count of 1, 2, 3,4,
Hold for a count of 1,2,3,4,
Breath out for a count of 1,2,3,4,
Hold on empty for 1,2,3,4 counts.
Repeat three times.
This technique will reduce stress, support better sleep, and lower blood pressure to name but a few benefits.
#6 Write a love letter to your “Little”.
If we were to go inside and examine the fear we are experiencing that is causing our anxiety we will most likely find our younger self clinging onto our shirttail looking for some form of reassurance. It is at this time I would ask you the questions When was the last time you spoke to your younger self in a loving way? When was the last time you wrote yourself a love letter?
What you can do: Don’t hold back. Although it may seem corny, write yourself a love letter and include how absolutely amazing and wonderful you are. Take the time to recognize your achievements to date, if you are reading this article then you have survived past stresses and are stronger than you think. It is time you gave yourself some credit for that. Reassure your “Little Self” you have this under control and you will survive this time just like you have survived other times in the past that caused her/him/them fear.
Take a moment to re-parent your younger self and write a beautiful love letter to proclaim just how awesome you are.
In my published article on Thrive Global, I wrote about the benefits of sleep and, although it may seem like a difficult time to get any sleep because of our worried minds, I suggest you focus on some bedtime rituals that will help you get the rest you need.
What you can do: Create bedtime rituals such as a warm bath before bed, listening to relaxing music or, my favorite, listen to a sleep story at bedtime. I am not encouraging the use of devices at night but there are some apps you can upload to help you get the much needed 8 hours of sleep. Meditation before bedtime will also reduce stress and promote a good night’s sleep.
#8 Be kind to yourself
We quite often give ourselves the hardest time and our self-talk is filled with negatives, criticisms, and judgment. Let your critic take a vacation, pack her/him/them off for the next few weeks and get a break from your inner critic.
What you can do: Be kind with your words to yourself. I am a strong believer in self-compassion and the power it has to promote self-care and self-worth. Be your own best friend. If you are giving yourself a rough time ask yourself how it would feel to speak to a friend, a sibling or child like that? You will soon realize the words we use with ourselves are cruel at times and we are worthy of better. Remember the relationship we have with ourselves is the most important relationship we can have and self-compassion is key to positive mental health. Create affirmations such as “I am enough” and remind yourself every day of that fact.
#9 Limit Social Media
It is important to remember not everyone online is an expert, the panic and fear-mongering some people are creating is harmful to your mental health.
What you can do: Less is more. Limit the amount of social media you are digesting each day, ask yourself is this helpful or harmful? Don’t watch the news before bed and be cognizant of where you are sourcing your information.
#10 Reach Out
Finally, if you are struggling please reach out to your therapist or if you do not have a mental health practitioner source a free service within your community. I provide online therapy to my clients who want to connect from the comfort of their homes.
What you can do: Ask your therapist if they can do the same, there are legislatively approved platforms for psychotherapy that are specifically designed for online therapy and can be easily accessed without having to upload software.
Mind yourself! Under these very unusual circumstances, you are doing great and if you are in doubt look in the mirror and remind yourself, “I have come this far, I am enough”