As the Covid-19 pandemic continues across the globe, many of us are feeling the additional stress that the virus has caused. Not only are most of us worried about friends and family, but the virus has also left us with uncertainty. You may be anxious because no one can be exactly sure what the new normal will be, or perhaps you have experienced a routine or life change. Work norms have certainly had to be adjusted and depending on what type of business you are in, you may have had to change the way you conduct business. Whatever the case may be, handling the additional stress we are all experiencing can feel like a challenge. Fortunately, there are steps you can take on a daily basis to help lower your stress levels. Here are some of my own "go to" stress relievers:
- Take time to breathe: This may seem very simplistic but giving yourself a couple of minutes to take a break and just breathe can immediately relieve stress. Not just a couple of breaths, but really breathe deep and focus on the air flowing in and out of your lungs. This will do wonders for your mental health and stress levels. It also forces you to slow down and ground yourself.
- Stay connected: With social distancing in effect, many of us have been forced to abandon recreational routines that we may have had. For example, most of us are not able to go out on Friday nights or take a trip to a local restaurant or movie theatre. Form a new, fun routine that you enjoy. This may be getting on a face time call with your friends and eating dinner together or forming a book club. It could be any activity but set aside time to allow yourself to still socialize and have "fun time" from afar.
- Turn off media (even social media) for certain parts of the day: Currently, Covid-19 is being widely discussed on all forms of media. Unfortunately, hearing the facts – which are not always positive – can take a toll on your mental health. Set aside time during the day where you decide to turn off all forms of media.
- Focus on what you can control and on areas where you can bring certainty to your life: Perhaps one of the biggest stressors that many of us feel from Covid-19 is the feeling that things are out of control and that we no longer have any certainty in our lives. When you start to feel this way, take a few minutes to think about what you can do to feel more certain and in control. How you set your mind at the beginning of each day will largely determine how your day goes. You may not have control over all situations, but you have control and certainty over how you react, respond, tackle obstacles, and solve problems.
- Help others: Helping others always makes me feel better and it can be as simple as a phone call or text encouraging someone who is really struggling or not feeling well. Think about how you can help others in your community, support your local businesses, and check in on your neighbors. Taking the focus off yourself for even just a little while to be there for someone else does wonders for the heart and soul.
- Develop or keep your exercise routine: Physical activity is a wonderful and effective way to lower your stress levels. Not only can exercising be a distraction from stress, it also helps to regulate the nervous system. Because of this, having a routine exercise regime can be immensely helpful for not only your physical health, but also your mental health. I have never been a morning workout person, but lately I am pushing myself to workout first thing before I start my day. This enables me to get those positive endorphins that keep me feeling great all day long. Not in love with exercise? Even taking a walk outside to clear your head can be enough to activate endorphins released by exercise.
- Form a new routine: Without a doubt, Covid-19 has caused major societal disruption. More than likely, you have had to abandon an old routine that you once had. Most of us take comfort from having a routine, and for that reason it can be important to form a new routine. For example, if you are now working from home instead of an office, still get up, get dressed, and have set work hours. While we have all had to make adjustments, keeping yourself on a routine, even though different, can help reduce stress.
- Spend time outside: Even with social distancing, it is still possible – and important for your health – to spend time outdoors. Even as simple as taking a walk around your neighborhood or reading a book outside, you can often boost your mood by getting fresh air.
- Start something new: If you have free time, start something new that you enjoy. Maybe you love doing puzzles or drawing – or there a couple of home improvement projects you want to start. Whatever the case may be, starting on a new project can not only be a great way to distract yourself from what is stressing you out, but can boost your mood and productivity levels.
- Putting pen to paper: I find that journaling once a day (in the morning for me), helps me write down my thoughts and set a positive mood for the day. If I wake up anxious, I find that this also reduces my anxiety. Most of us have a tendency to keep our anxious thoughts to ourselves, and as a result, tend to internalize our anxiety. By writing down what is bothering you, you physically get it out of your head and onto paper and in essence you let it go. For me, it is a much different feeling than typing on a computer and a much more enjoyable and effective process for whatever I am writing. Putting pen to paper is not just for reducing stress or anxiety, you can also use it to generate ideas, list the things you are most grateful for or even hand write a letter to someone you love. Get creative with it and enjoy the process!
While the Covid-19 crisis is incredibly stressful and most of us are feeling the effects of the uncertainty of the future, there are ways that you can help yourself adjust to the new normal that we are all currently facing. At the end of each day, do your best to focus on the positives in your life and what you are most grateful for – even the smallest thing matters!