Stress Management: Our emotional, mental, and physical health can be harmed when we experience stress. During a pandemic, many factors can add stress to a person’s daily life. It is important to learn to manage this stress and protect our health daily. Below are examples of some stress management skills. Not every idea may work well for each person. Do not lose hope! You can try each skill a few times. Then continue ones that best fit your needs.
Try Slow Breathing: When we feel stressed or anxious, our natural physical response is to breathe faster. We may also have headaches, chest pain, tiredness, dizziness.
- By slowing our breathing and taking breaths from the stomach rather than our chest, we send a message to the brain that we are relaxed and calm.
- The brain tells the rest of the body, like the muscles and the heart, to slow down and the whole body begins to relax. Being calm and relaxed is important when trying to manage your stress.
- Here are some instructions for slow breathing:
- Try to relax your body. Relax your muscles, shake out your arms and legs, making them floppy and loose. You can also roll your shoulders back or tilt your head side to side.
- You want to breathe at a rate of 10-12 breaths a minute. Breathe three seconds in and three seconds out. If counting while breathing is too much, try to breathe as slowly and as purposefully as possible. For a more details, follow along with the video below to practice.
- This video guides you through slow breathing.
- Use and practice slow breathing regularly when you feel anxious or stressed. The main goal of this is to slow your breathing down. Find a way that works for you, even if it means you are not counting by threes or not breathing from the stomach. Find what helps you calm your breathing and body.
Seek Calming: This can help with racing emotions or when you feel numb. Examples of ways to calm down include:
- Yoga: a practice that creates a union between the body, mind, and spirit. It includes breath control, simple meditation, and specific body positions. These are healthy, relaxing, and reduce stress.
- Here is a quick video that explains yoga and its benefits. YouTube also has many videos that can lead you through a yoga practice.
- Body scan meditation: Body scanning involves paying attention to parts of the body from your feet to your head. You bring awareness to every single part of your body. You notice any aches, pains, tensions, or general discomfort to become more aware of the places that are causing you stress. Click here to check out a quick body scan example.
- Visualization: picturing positive images, ideas, symbols, or using positive thoughts to help calm the mind. This could be sitting on your couch, laying down, or any position that makes you feel the most relaxed. This guided visualization can help you practice.
- Resources and how-tos for some skills can be found in this.
Practice Mindfulness: meditation where you focus on what you sense and feel in the present moment, without judgement. Mindfulness can be practiced in multiple ways. Some are slow breathing (mentioned above), guided imagery, or other relaxation strategies that help a person reduce stress. Meditation is explained through this short clip.
Use Grounding Techniques: like reality reminders, bring your thoughts to the present moment. This can prevent you from worrying about the future or feeling sad about the past. This is like mindless meditation, where you can separate yourself from things that upset you. Grounding skills include bringing awareness to your five senses. This article provides some examples and steps for grounding yourself in the present.
Reduce Screen Time: Now more than ever, screens are a constant. We use computers, phones, and TVs for work or as a break from work. Staring at a screen can cause eyestrain, headaches, overall discomfort, and lower focus in the long-term. By reducing the time spent looking at a screen (both for work and relaxation) we can relieve stress. It also can remove a source of anxiety and depression.
Spend Time Outdoors: Take a walk outdoors and take in nature. It is proven to:
- Lower blood pressure and reduces stress-related hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline.
- Improve mood by decreasing feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger.
- Improve focus by giving your mind a break with time to refocus.
Write a Gratitude Journal: Writing thoughts of gratitude focuses on the good things in life that we may take for granted. By using a gratitude journal on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, we stay aware of sources of happiness around us. These everyday things can bring gratitude no matter how small or large they may be. It also helps you reflect on your successes and allowing yourself time to think about what you are thankful for.
Normalize Stress Reactions: Emotional reactions to stress, especially during the pandemic, are normal. They are a part of our everyday existence. Rather than knocking yourself down for being angry, sad, or anxious, take a step back to think about why you feel that way. Give yourself credit for making it through each day. You should be proud of yourself for simply existing right now!