These are very uncertain times as we are faced with a host of issues which we have never encountered. Terms such as quarantine, containment, and social distancing which were not in our daily lexicon are now commonly discussed. This is unfamiliar territory, which combined with a drastic change in how we are used to living has resulted in a great deal of uncertainty, anxiety, and stress. Each day, the increase in cases and the barrage of information has the potential to bring with it a feeling of despair, as the narrative continues. With these circumstances, and myriad events beyond your control continuing to spiral, it is understandable that your general anxiety and stress levels will rise, and if left unchecked, could manifest itself in a host of problems and have adverse effects on you and those around you as you struggle to cope in these trying times.
However, there are absolutely some steps you can take to help alleviate this anxiety, reduce your stress levels, and keep your health – both mentally and physically – in check. Here is a list of actions, that if implemented, will assuredly help you and others you encourage to take these steps, get through this crisis.
1. Mind-set – The first thing to do is to get your mind right. Towards this end, it is a matter of acceptance, awareness, and action. You have to accept the situation for what it is, be aware of what is going on, and take action. Instead of emotion-based actions, be pro-active and commit to taking the necessary steps to help deal with the myriad issues and concerns you face. If you are committed to doing so go to number two below and continue down the list.
2. Perspective – It is important to keep things in perspective, in spite of much of the doom and gloom you read about and her about. This current crisis, while a wake call, is not Armageddon. Humankind is resilient. We will get through this just as we have with other events. We have the best and brightest minds in the world working on solutions to help mitigate the current crisis. Even though our resources are being stretched thin, by working together and accepting personal responsibility, the measures we are taking will ultimately yield results. We will emerge from this crisis with lessons learned and be more pro-active in the future as there is no other choice.
3. Unplug – You want to be aware of what is transpiring and be informed. However, a constant barrage of news reports throughout the day, some of them rife with outlandish or sensational statements, is a source of stress. Limit your time with the news and online reporting as constant monitoring of these reports and obsessing over them can become compulsive and is counterproductive. You can periodically check for updates but stay with trustworthy sources such as the CDC, WHO, State and local sources. At the same time, if there is someone in your life who has such a negative outlook that it affects you, limit or avoid this source of stress as well.
4. Take Control – We are all creatures of habit. We have our routine which provides a sense of structure and order in our lives. With many of you, this is now not the case, as your schedule has been altered, in some cases, drastically altered. Rather than waiting for something to happen, make something happen. Establish a routine and a schedule for yourself, focusing on those things you can control. Put aside times for tasks that need to be completed, projects which need to be finished, or items on that to-do list. Be diligent, practice appropriate measures to keep you safe such as physical distancing, washing your hands, and wearing a mask when advisable. If exercise is a part of your daily routine stick with it and exercise at those times you normally would do so, helping you get back into your rhythm. Taking these steps will provide you with a sense of control, providing a sense of normalcy, while keep your mind occupied, and your attention elsewhere.
5. Exercise – Exercise is medicine, with both mental and physical benefits. Any type of exercise can help rid the body of stress. Depending upon your circumstances you have a range of options such as walking, running, aerobics, cycling, yoga, swimming, or strength training. If you are stuck at home, look for exercise videos and online exercise programs. Adapt your routine to the prevailing conditions and schedule the time to do this. Maintaining or adding this routine will keep your mind occupied, help you maintain your rhythm, enhance your mood, and help break the cycle of negative thinking.
6. Diet – What you eat has an impact on your health and your ability to handle stress. Be mindful of what you eat and how much you eat. Try to avoid convenience food, watch your intake of carbohydrates, limit your sugar intake, and be moderate with caffeine and alcohol. By eating a more nutritious, well-balanced diet your will feel better, be more relaxed, and sleep better.
7. Sleep – When you sleep your body and mind recharges itself. Depriving yourself of sleep is a stress inducer as it raises stress hormone levels. Being tired and sleep deprived also inhibits your ability to pay attention, increases your irritability, and erodes your self-control.
8. Relax – Take the time to do the things you enjoy. Reading a book, watching a movie or series, or playing a board game are just a few of the things you can do. Whatever is done, it should be something you enjoy which helps you take your worries off things and enhances your ability to stay calm.
9. Avoid Unsocial Distancing – While the intended effect of social distancing is to keep our physical presence to one another limited, it is having the unintended effect of many feeling isolated and alone. We are social creatures; thus, isolation and loneliness can add to our stress and depression. While you may not be able to be physically present, there are a host of venues to stay connected. Make the time to connect with people you haven’t talked to in a while and stay in touch with your friends via telephone, Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, etc. to counteract these feelings. If also gives you a chance to communicate with others and express your feelings, which can lift your mood, and is a form of therapy.
10. Have Faith – The axiom “You can’t have a positive life with a negative outlook” applies here. Avoid dwelling on potential negative consequences or looking for the downside of every situation. Look at this as a challenge which you will get through, take the lessons learned, build on them, and move forward with self-confidence and resolve.