Anxiety and stress about the coronavirus are already taking a toll on our mental health. Feelings of isolation, worry about finances and fears about the state of the world are at all all-time high. As things around us feel more uncertain, here are a few stress relief tips that can help you stay on top of your mental health and combat negative emotions.
1. Create Routine
The lack of structure we have right now can make all the days run together and feel the same. We can start to lose motivation because it feels like we have too much time and no sense of what to do with it. Or you may feel like there’s not enough time and space with family always home and childcare responsibilities.
Now more than ever, it will help to create a routine for yourself and your kids. Daily routine gives us an anchor, it allows us to feel like we have a sense of control in a situation when we feel out of control. Waking up at the same time every day is a very helpful cue to your brain. You may want to take a shower or eat breakfast at around the same time as well. Plan time for exercise, whatever that looks like for you. Try to give your day as much structure as possible. This routine helps us with stress relief.
2. Schedule Worry Time
Practice consistently making time each day to let yourself worry and plan. Scroll through the news, acknowledge anything you are worried about and make plans for addressing any issues. Choose a time that is far enough away from your bedtime so that your brain has time to settle before you go to bed. You can even send a reminder to yourself daily, so that you know when your worry time will take place. And give yourself a place to make notes. The idea is to minimize worry by scheduling it into your day. After your worry time is over, put the news aside and remind yourself that it’s not time to worry right now and move onto other things. Your brain will eventually get used to this new routine and it will start to be able to let worries go more easily. Scheduling worry time is a stress relief strategy that really works.
There has never been a better time to start meditating. Many of us are feeling anxiety and worry, unlike we have experienced before. Apps like Headspace are offering free content. But yet we are still finding excuses not to meditate. See my post on why people don’t meditate even though they should: https://dcmetrotherapy.com/2019/04/17/why-people-dont-meditate-even-though-they-should/
If you are struggling with how to start, consider when in your day you would like to build in a few minutes and add it to your schedule. You can find 5 minutes in your day, I promise. There are many apps out there that offer guided meditations for free, my favorite is Insight Timer. Meditation is hard when we are first starting out, but over time, our brains settle into it more and more. When we meditate regularly, we can feel the stress relief benefits of meditation.
4. Change the way you think
Are there any positive things about being quarantined? It may be hard to find them, but push yourself to think about it. Not having to rush anywhere and not being over-scheduled are a few benefits to our current situation. If you have ever wanted to spend days in your pajamas, now is your time to do it. It helps to look for what is positive when things feel upended in our lives.
When we experience a threat, our brain activates the fight or flight response and the systems in our body react accordingly. Practice noticing when you are thinking negatively or having stressful thoughts and consciously redirect your mind elsewhere. What are you looking forward to most when this is all over? Let your mind go to a positive place as often as you can. When this feels the most difficult, that is when we need this practice most. Our brains are wired to protect us from danger and have an inherent negativity bias. It is normal to feel an increase in vigilance right now. But don’t lean into it. Instead, actively practice finding something positive to focus on.
The impact of this pandemic on our mental health has the potential to be significant. Now is the time to start practicing good habits to help you with stress relief. And if you need help, many therapists are practicing virtually and coverage for mental health services has been expanded. A few apps that could be helpful at this time: Youper, Woebot, Moodkit, Insight Timer and Breathe2Relax