Stress Relief During a Crisis
Stress, anxiety, grief, and worry are all understandable responses to a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are steps you can take to manage these feelings. Here’s a list of 12 stress relief activities to help you through these challenging times.
Stress and fear are elevated in times of uncertainty, and that’s why it’s important to stay informed. Be discriminating about the news sources you follow, as information is often sensationalized and negatively skewed, especially on social media. Set a time limit for yourself on how much you’ll consume – e.g. 30 minutes, two to three times daily.
Stick to a routine
Create a schedule for yourself that is varied and includes time for stress relief activities and self-care. Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time. Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth. Put on some bright colors — it’s amazing how our attire can boost our mood.
For stress relief, try to get outside at least once a day, and for at least 30 minutes. If you’re concerned about contact, try first thing in the morning or later in the evening in less crowded areas. If you’re high-risk and need to stay in, open the window and turn on the fan. Fresh air will lift your spirits.
Find time to move
Exercise is a great way to relieve stress because it stimulates your body to release endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormone. Try to do some form of exercise every day for at least 30 minutes. Take a free online exercise class on YouTube, or try stretching, calisthenics or yoga for stress relief.
Eat well-balanced meals
Stress can lead to the unhealthy behaviors of eating too much or eating too little. Be aware of your reaction and try to moderate it. Stay hydrated throughout the day – a rough guide to how much water to drink is to halve your body weight and drink that amount of water in ounces.
Reach out to others
At least once a day for 30 minutes, try to connect with other people. Use FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, phone calls or texting — this is an opportunity to give and receive support. And let yourself be helped if you need it. When you’re feeling down, your instinct may be to withdraw. Sometimes for the best stress relief, all we need is a sympathetic ear. Turn to someone you trust or seek out a professional counselor.
Spread the positive
Regain a sense of control by finding ways to give back to others. Support your local restaurant by ordering takeout. Make a donation to a charity. Check on your neighbors. Or support a cause you’re passionate about by becoming an online volunteer. Many large organizations such as the United Nations, Red Cross, and Smithsonian Institute offer online volunteer opportunities.
Sit with yourself
Unlike other stress relief exercises, meditation is about stillness. It’s a popular practice with people from all walks of life, and has been proven to bring about a sense of peace and balance. Download a free meditation app like Calm or Headspace and begin with short guided sessions. Meditation may look easy, but regular practice is needed to be effective and build your brain’s resilience.
Our emotional brain is very receptive to the creative arts. Find something that helps you express your feelings in a creative way. It could be writing, drawing, singing or crafting. Many people find stress relief in music, either by playing an instrument or by listening to it. Even if you don’t consider yourself creative, you can write in a journal to get your feelings out.
Giggle. Chuckle. Snort.
See if you can find some lightness and humor in each day. It’s the best stress relief for any situation. Even if you don’t much feel like it, put a smile on your face. It will lighten your mental load and cause positive physical changes in your body. Watch a comedy, read a funny book, have a laugh — and share the sunniness with a silly rhyme or joke sent to a friend.
Take a bite out of it.
There’s no map or formula for what we’re all going through, and it can feel overwhelming. To manage the anxiety of the unknown, try breaking the future into chunks — whatever is doable for you: whether it’s an hour, a day or a week at a time. Set a milestone for when you’ll allow yourself to worry, and move through the stress, one piece at a time.
And remember. This too shall pass.
Remind yourself that this is temporary. While it feels like what you’re going through is endless, it too shall pass. Write an encouraging note to yourself every day and put it up where you can see it. You’re doing your best. Give yourself grace during this challenging time, and you’ll soon be feeling safe, busy and connected as things slowly return to normal.