10 Ways to Reduce Your Stress Level During COVID-19
Long-term stress can be very harmful to your mind and body.
Posted April 20, 2020
We are born into the world to connect, for survival. We are social creatures. However, with COVID-19, we are told that we must practice social distancing, and as a result, many people are experiencing stress and a loss of safety.
Fear of the unknown can increase your stress and anxiety. However, prolonged stress can compromise the immune system and your body’s ability to fight infection, making you more susceptible to viruses. The body’s fight, flight, or freeze response, which protects us from danger and threats, can wreak havoc with our body and mind long-term.
Stress may cause you to become anxious, sad, depressed, angry, helpless, and unmotivated. Long-term stress can cause heart disease, high blood pressure, worsen chronic health diseases, disrupt your sleep habits, increase alcohol or drug use, and weaken your immune system. Here are 10 ways to reduce your stress level:
1. Limit your exposure to the news. Take a break from watching, listening to, or reading the news. Put down your phone. You can quickly become addicted to what is going on, overwhelmed, and upset, which will only add to your stress. It is one thing to be informed; it’s another to be watching and listening to what is going on all day long.
Limit your time on social media as well. Unplug. There is only so much that is in your control. Give your mind a rest.
2. Make sure to get enough sleep. Sleep provides the brain and body with the opportunity to repair, restore, and rejuvenate. Seven to nine hours of sleep per night is recommended for optimal functioning. If you are having problems sleeping, try taking a hot bath before bedtime, listening to some relaxing music, and making sure the room is cool and dark.
3. Practice self-care. Our electronic devices need to be recharged frequently. However, we seldom take time to recharge our own batteries, which often results in burnout, a compromised immune system, and illness.
Make it a point to slow down and take time for yourself. Go for a walk and get some fresh air. Exercise is good for you, both physically and mentally. Listen to music or watch a movie to take your mind off things for a while. Take a break and a step back from the reality of what is going on. Do something that you enjoy.
4. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Don’t try to comfort yourself with junk food. A healthy, nutrient-rich diet can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Healthy carbohydrates in moderation are an effective mood stabilizer, as they aid in serotonin production. Avoid excess amounts of caffeine and sugar.
5. Reframe your thinking: Practice positivity, and see the glass as half-full, not half-empty. Focus on the good things in your life; be grateful for what you do have.
6. Practice mindfulness. Stay in the present; don’t worry about the future and things that are beyond your control. Noticing the surrounding sights and sounds will help you stay present and in the moment.
7. Take your emotional temperature throughout the day; monitor your feelings. If you feel yourself becoming stressed, try some grounding techniques, such as taking slow, deep breaths or paying specific attention to the sights and sounds around you.
8. Stay connected via text, phone call, Facetime, or Skype. You are not alone. If you need emotional support, reach out to friends, family, or a mental health professional.
9. Meditation quiets the mind and reduces stress. Meditation is an extension of deep breathing in which your attention becomes focused, and your mind becomes quiet. It can be done inside or outside, anywhere you can relax without interruption or distraction. The purpose of meditation is to stay in the moment, to stay in the present, which will bring your nervous system back into balance and produce a feeling of calmness.
10. Avoid self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. Alcohol is a depressant, and while a little might take the edge off, excessive amounts will only make you feel worse. Learn to develop more adaptive coping skills, as listed above.