Managing Your Stress While Social Distancing
We are amid unprecedented circumstances as all of us are experiencing hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute changes, fears and uncertainties. Many of us are being asked to work from home and are having to balance two obligations simultaneously – working from home while also parenting or caregiving at the same time. Building in time each day to take care of our bodies and minds can go a long way in managing these multiple coronavirus-related stressors, increasing our chances of staying well.
According to the CDC, stress and anxiety around COVID-19 may include:
- Changes in your eating habits
- Difficulty sleeping or a shift in your sleep pattern
- A strong sense of fear about your health or the health of your loved ones
- Having trouble focusing or concentrating
- An increase in your use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
- Your chronic health problems getting worse
Ways to Combat Stress and Improve your Mental Health
Meditation has long been used to increase relaxation and calmness. If you’re thinking meditation means twisting your body into an uncomfortable position and uttering “oohs” and “omms” for an hour, guess again. Any repetitive action can be a source of meditation, This includes walking, swimming, painting, knitting—any activity that helps keep your attention calmly in the present moment. There are lots of meditation apps you can choose from that easily download onto your phone or tablet. Just search your app store. When you catch yourself thinking about your job, your relationship or your lifelong to-do list, experts say to simply let the thought escape, and bring your mind back the repetition of the activity. Try it for just 5 to 10 minutes a day and watch stress levels drop.
Picture Yourself Relaxed
Is your mind too talkative to meditate? Try creating a peaceful visualization, or “dreamscape.” To start, simply visualize anything that keeps your thoughts away from current tensions. It could be a favorite vacation spot or something “touchable,” like the feel of your favorite silk robe or cozy sweater. The idea is to take your mind off your stress and replace it with an image that evokes a sense of calm. The more realistic your daydream—in terms of colors, sights, sounds; even touch and feel—the more relaxation you’ll experience.
Exercise your Brain
It’s not healthy to be constantly focused on what’s happening with COVID-19 while you are social distancing. Consider trying activities that stimulate your brain and take your mind off the coronavirus, like crosswords, Sudoku or working on a puzzle.
Practice Yoga or Tai Chi
The ancient practices of yoga and tai chi have both been shown to improve mental and physical health. Whether it’s your first time or you are looking for new inspiration, there are plenty of apps, websites and online videos to help guide you through your practice.
Stay Connected Virtually
Maintaining connections with friends and family is critical to boosting your mental health. Although you can’t connect in person, there are wonderful ways to stay connected virtually. Software and apps like Zoom, What’s App or Google Hangout allow groups of people to visit through video—the perfect way to stay socially connected while social distancing.
Make Sure That You are Getting Enough Sleep
If you don’t sleep enough at night, your body boosts its levels of stress hormones. The brain chemicals connected with deep sleep are the same ones that tell the body to stop the production of stress hormones. As a result, when you don’t sleep well, your body keeps pumping out those hormones The next day, you feel more stressed, the following night you find it harder to fall asleep, and so on. Even worse, stress hormones peak in the afternoon and early evening—just when you should be relaxing and preparing for slumber.
Drink Hot Tea
If you’re a coffee-guzzler, consider going green. Coffee raises levels of the notorious stress hormone, cortisol, while green tea offers health and beauty benefits. Chamomile tea is a traditional favorite for calming the mind and reducing stress. And black tea may be a stress-fighter, too. People who drink regular black tea displayed lower levels of cortisol, and reported feeling calmer during six weeks of stressful situations than those who drank a placebo with the same amount of caffeine. According to a Harvard study.
Super Foods for Stress Relief
What better way to relieve stress than to indulge in foods and ingredients that can potentially bring about a positive shift in mood. One of the most beneficial ways to reduce stress and nourish the soul is by consuming stress-busting foods. Food is our most natural form of medicine and a key ingredient in reducing our overall levels of stress and anxiety.
Yes, you heard that right. Chocolate can be good for you! The key is choosing the dark version, which is strongly linked to improving mood when consumed in moderation. Dark chocolate is jammed with polyphenols and flavanols – both of which can improve mood and lower blood pressure.
Avocados are not only super high in MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids), they are full of lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin E and folate. You can consider avocados a powerhouse of nutrient density.
Besides being nature’s candy, berries are full of antioxidants and vitamins to help combat free radical damage. Vitamin C has been shown to help lower blood pressure and cortisol (a stress hormone).
These golden nuggets pack a punch with protein and healthy fats. They also contain zinc, which in low levels has been linked to depression and anxiety.
Stress amps up certain hormones as part of our fight or flight nervous system response. As a result, inflammation can set it. Salmon contains a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory by nature.
Chamomile has long been celebrated as a calming plant. Steep some chamomile tea before bed and enjoy the relaxing effects of this seemingly magical substance.
More research continues to be published related to stomach and gut-health. Stress impacts every system in our body and most notably, the stomach. Incorporating a serving of yogurt each day may help support the gut bacteria balance and combat stress at the same time.
Online Stress Management Coaching Courses
Humans rely on predictability. We are built to read our environment, anticipate what comes next, and prepare ourselves for it. We do it consistently to manage our day-to-day. Under normal circumstances, we feel some stress when there’s uncertainty.
Remember, we are all in this together. Keep yourself and your loved ones healthy. Check-in when you can or need, and let us know how we can help.
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