Stress

COVID-19 Stress: Five Simple Strategies for Better Self-Care

Boost your energy, momentum, and connections.

Posted May 18, 2020

 Maggie Chen.
Simple Strategies for Self-Care
Source: Getty Images--Yothin Sanchai: journal; Westend6: jump; Kristina Kohanov: cat; ArxOn: berries; Tom Grill: shoes. Graphic design: Maggie Chen.

Coronavirus stress got you down? Self-care is key, and simple and straightforward is essential. Below are five simple strategies. Try one for a week or more. Then add another on top of it. Before you know it, you’ll have more momentum and energy—for yourself, and others, too.

1. Start Your Day with Energy

With just a bit of planning the night before, you can wake with energy and anticipation for starting your day. Start by sending a note of thanks or encouragement to a friend or family member. Doing something to help others is a win-win, with benefits for them and for you. Maybe it’s knowing you’ll have a few minutes for meditation, yoga, or stretching to care for your body. Perhaps it’s a spiritual practice that energizes you or a few minutes with your favorite author or artist.

Then add some energy with berries—blueberries, blackberries, strawberries—whatever kind you like. Not only will they brighten up your cereal, oatmeal, or smoothie, they’ll deliver antioxidants, nutrients, and other health benefits as well. But before you let them tickle your taste buds, smell them, savor them, and their colors and textures. Try a bite with your eyes closed. Enjoy your coffee or tea in a similar way and see how your senses change. Yes, small and simple strategies—and great ways to start your day with health and energy.

2. Move for Momentum   

Especially when it comes to movement, easy is good. If you’re not in a regular exercise routine, walking is a great place to start. While you’re at it, chat with a friend on the phone or facetime. Walking can also benefit your creativity, as shown by researchers at Stanford.

If you’re in great shape and crave a high energy workout, then run the stairs in your home or apartment building. Jump rope, do on-line yoga, Pilates, or whatever gets you in the zone. Perhaps this is a perfect time to challenge yourself with a new workout routine or an energizing exercise goal. Tell others to build emotional support. “Buddy up” with a trusted friend to share workout plans, goals, and success.

For even more benefits, track your daily movement. See your success grow. Know you’re building both momentum and muscle.

3. Let Melodies Shift Your State

When we hear a familiar melody, life is predictable—at least for a few minutes. A soothing sense of safety can unfold. For even more good feelings, sing along. The simple act of singing, alone or with others, has been shown to have positive effects on our mood and well-being.

Did you ever have a favorite song that helped you get through a break-up?  Exactly. Enlist the help of your favorite melodies to help your feelings flow. As the feelings flow through us, they no longer rule us.

Music can add a beautiful melody to the rhythms of life. It can help you energize or relax, whichever you are needing this very moment. Go ahead, give yourself permission—put on your favorite tunes, and start singing away the stress.

4. “Take in the Good” and Journal

To help us survive, our brain circuits are wired to focus on risk and threats: “Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive,” as Rich Hansen, Ph.D., notes. His work supports the value of noticing the good—moments of safety, pleasure, and connection—and taking it in for a dozen seconds, or more. This helps bring balance, ease, and calm. And it’s something totally under our control.

Journaling is also a very simple strategy with positive effects on stress and well-being. Try journaling about your feelings, and include three things you’re grateful for several times a week to give a boost to your well-being. Perhaps it’s gratitude for your health, time in nature, or the fact that you were able to help someone. You can take these practices to work by starting meetings with kudos and thanks. Call out kindness and generosity when you see it unfolding in real-time. Journal about them as well, and see them spread.

5. Connect and Celebrate

Social bonds are an integral part of our self-care. To know we are not alone, to feel seen and heard, and to contribute to others—are essential to being human. Connecting in this way helps us co-regulate, and combats loneliness which can be so detrimental to our physical and emotional health. Of course, share the tears and struggles, and also the big and small moments of joy. Maybe it’s simply a zoom birthday party or happy hour.  Or the arrival of warmer weather, a healthy body, or an exciting new recipe. How about a zoom call to brainstorm what to celebrate next?

In a recent NYT article, author and professor, Adam Grant shared a very personal story about the power of connection. When in graduate school he found himself isolated and lonely during a winter break. He chose to e-mail the top 100 people in his life, telling them what he appreciated about them. As their responses poured in he felt connected. And you don’t, as he notes, have to send 100. One a day could be a simple and effective aid to self-care. 

These are just five simple strategies among a multitude. Pick just one that appeals to you. Practice it for at least a week to help build the habit. Track it. Eventually layer in another. Before you know it you’ll have a tasty, no-calorie cake of self-care, one you can enjoy every day. Do it for yourself. And know that others will benefit from your increased energy and well-being.

References

Dossey, L. The Helper’s High. Explore, 2018 14;393-99.