14 Ways to Reduce Stress During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Caveat: I am writing this as someone who is sheltering in place and dealing with financial fall out of this situation. My heart goes out to you if you are dealing with serious illness of yourself or a loved one or death of a loved one, and I am not suggesting I know how to begin to deal with those levels of stress and pain.
Like many of you, I am spending my Saturday sheltering in place. One moment I’m enjoying how much more time there is when it’s not broken up by one errand after the other. The next, I’m trying to figure out how long I’m going to be able to pay my bills. Every day, things are changing rapidly.
In normal times, stress is a part of the daily landscape for many of us. According to the American Institute of Stress, in 2014 about 75% of Americans “regularly experienced” physiological or psychological symptoms of stress. These are not normal times. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout all parts of the world, the normal stresses are buried under piles of new fears, anxieties, problems and unknowns.
What Are You Going to Do About It?
Right now, there is no way to eliminate the stress for most of us. All of this is playing out on such a large scale, there is no getting away from it. However, there are plenty of things that we can do to help keep stress more manageable so we are not the ones to blame for panic.
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14 Ways to Reduce Stress While Sheltering in Place
- Go outside (or get as close to nature as you can).
Please follow the current restrictions in your area, but if you can do it and maintain social distancing, go outside. If you can’t go outside, open a window and look outside. If you can’t do that, even looking at pictures of outside can help. Sunshine, fresh air and trees are helpful for reducing stress.
2) Establish a routine.
With days on end of sheltering in place, it can become easy to let normal habits slide. Having a routine allows for a sense of control in an uncontrollable world. For those of you with kids, this is essential to all of you not losing your minds.
3) Choose your attitude and mindset.
Feelings are real and you can’t choose them. You can choose your overall attitude and mindset, though.
4) Breathe deeply. As simple as this one is, it can be a big help. Box breathing, 3–4–5 breathing, 4–7–8 breathing, are some easy options. I also like simply taking 3–5 slow, deep breaths in and out through the nose.
5) Get organized. In the chaos, whether you are home too much or too little right now, keeping the house perfect is not likely. However, keeping the edge off the mess can help keep the edge off the stress.
6) Practice gratitude. When I had to go to the grocery store, I was not annoyed by things that were out of stock. I was grateful that there was still plenty of food to be found. I hadn’t even realized my previous lack of gratitude in this area.
7) Limit media. It is important to stay connected and know what is going on as much as possible. It is also important not to get lost in the depths of dire predictions and guesses. I try to check reputable sources once a day for updates, and avoid all media and social media at least 2 hours before bed.
8) Help someone else. I was listening to this podcast today about the ways that kindness to others helps us deal with our stress. (Dr. Chatterjee also has a great book about stress reduction if you’re looking for more in depth information and practical solutions.)
9) Get some help. We don’t like to ask for help, but now is the time if you need it. Look into options in your area for help with health, mental health and financial assistance as needed.
10) Meditation. I have to admit, this is not my forte, but there is a lot of evidence that it helps. Here’s one book that introduces the concept, and there are lots that are more about how to do it.
12) Move. Exercise, stretching, soft tissue work, moving to clean. Whatever it is, you will feel better with regular movement. If you are lost without being able to go to the gym or your normal yoga class, take advantage of many online options right now. If you’re looking for something different and want to take advantage of this time to learn to move better, I would recommend starting with this blog post, or consider this virtual set of classes (and if you sign up for the membership with BE-WELL2020 before April 1, the membership is $9/month for 3 months).
13) Stay connected. Yes, we need to be sure that we are keeping our physical distance to slow the spread of this virus.
However, we have the tools to be able to keep in touch or reconnect with people in all sorts of different ways. I’m hearing of people having a chat and coffee over video messaging, people are actually saying hi in the streets (while passing at a 6 foot distance) and even *gasp* using their phones to call people! It’s a great excuse to check in with people you haven’t talked to in a while. At this time of stress and physical distance, we need to have social contact in other ways as much as possible.
14) Laugh. Even if you can’t laugh, find something that makes you smile. I love getting on YouTube and spending a few minutes looking for videos that crack me up. Or looking at zoo video feeds of sea otters, or pictures or videos of puppies, whatever it takes.
While we don’t know how long this will last, we know it will end and some point. The better we manage our stress, the better we will be able to help ourselves and others with physical, emotional, and financial recovery on the other side.