Tips for Managing Stress During COVID-19 and Beyond
By Cynthia Brace
What’s happening in the world at this weird and wacky time can be extremely stressful.
Humans are social beings who need and crave interaction and for me (and maybe you too) …hugs.
While it’s great that we’re not so isolated that we can’t reach out on Zoom, Messenger or the old fashioned telephone, after a certain amount of time, it’s just not the same as being in the same room as someone.
That’s just one of the things to think about during this COVID19 pandemic. It’s a whole changing world that can cause not only stress but anxiety and depression.
While our bodies are designed to handle short-term stress (think of it as if someone honked their horn while driving and it startled you) we’re not designed for chronic long-term stress
Long-term stress is just that, stressful things happening in your life, regularly.
Consider what has happened to you over the last five years. Did you move, change jobs, care for someone not well, start or continue to build a business, have a high-stress job? How about doing most of those things AND go through a pandemic?
Talk about overload.
To be real, stress happens and will continue to happen (even when the pandemic is over), so you need to have ways to manage it.
There are lots of ways to do that (check out the post above for some), but let’s look at some specific ways to manage stress with what’s happening in the world today.
Take Time To Feel Your Emotions
While I’m big on gratitude and trying to stay positive, it doesn’t mean you should force yourself to feel those things all of the time. In fact, it’s counterproductive. You need to feel your emotions to acknowledge and release them.
Meaning it’s okay to take a moment and have a mental meltdown if you want. Cry, yell at the top of your lungs a few times (you might want to give your family a heads up before you do this one, so you don’t scare the pants off them), freak out and rant about what’s going on…..
…..And then breathe
Right from your belly. Breathe. Slowly in. Slowly out.
The emotional release and slow belly breaths will help relieve some of that stress pressure.
Take A News Break
While it’s good to be informed, dwelling on negative news will only cause you to be more stressed and negative. Taking a news break can help give your mind a break. Don’t worry about missing much. If something significant happens in the world, you’re bound to know about it pretty quickly though your friends or family.
Which brings me to social media. Are you on Facebook, Instagram or any other channel where YOU decide what shows up? Yes, we actually CAN decide what shows up in our social media newsfeeds.
You can hit pause for friends or unfollow people who only post about doom and gloom. You can also populate your newsfeed with laughter and happiness. How you ask? Is it magic?
Yes! It’s the magic and gift of choice of all the amazing possibilities out there.
I was finding my feed a bit lacking, so I joined a group called Cat’s Making Funny Faces. I know, weird, right? But I have to say it was one of the best ones I’ve joined. Every day my newsfeed is populated with these crazy or cute cat pictures or videos that literally make me laugh out loud. I’m sure they have one for dogs, too, if you relate more to them.
Try out a few new groups or positive people. If you don’t like them, you can always unfollow. Ah, the gift of choice.
Yup, I had to add a cute picture of my cat Chloe having a snooze.
Boundaries relate to work, your time, kids, spouses you name it. You need to be able to have some “Me” time to cut down on stress and take a break.
Just because you may be working from home doesn’t mean you have to be working at all hours of the day and night. Set your work hours and a routine that gets you into the work mode and after work mode.
Try getting up at the time you usually would to go to work, dress like you’re going to work. After your workday, shut your computer down and change out of your “work” clothes. This will put you in the mindset of “work” and “after work” and help you be more productive.
If you’re a parent, from what I know about kids, they do really well with a schedule. They like to know what’s going to happen and when. It can give them something to look forward to and provide a bit of structure. So beyond the school work, backyard play and other things you have them doing, schedule in some downtime. Maybe that’s giving them time in front of the TV so you can take a break as well.
If you live with a significant other and find that you’re both getting a little stir crazy with each other, it’s time to schedule your individual “Me” times. Give your significant other some space and do some things apart. Relaxing bath, reading, take a walk, paint by numbers, organize your closet, gaming. We’re back to the gift of choice again. Pick a fun activity to do on your own.
Be compassionate with others and YOURSELF.
If you find yourself thinking mean or negative things about yourself (I have time, I should do more, I’m so lazy, I’m not a great parent, spouse, partner), ask yourself if you would say those things to a friend?
If you said Yes, I don’t know how long you’d stay friends?
Consider talking to yourself (thinking thoughts) as if you were talking to your best friend. What would you say differently?
Maybe it would be “No, you’re not a bad parent for allowing your kids to watch some TV so you can take a break, I think you’re a superstar for everything you do.”
It may feel strange becoming aware of and changing your inner thoughts as if you were talking to your best friend, but it gets easier the more you do it. You may end up wondering why you were such a meanie to yourself.
Do Things To Help You Stay Healthy
It’s always important to have your health be a priority and some of the best things for your health are:
No matter what’s happening in the world, stress is going to happen, so one of the best things to do is manage it regularly, so you don’t burn out. One of the number one ways to do this is meditating. I know, I know, I just heard you say. Ugh, I can’t do that.
That is the reaction I get from most people when I talk about it to reduce stress, but after a short amount of time, it becomes one of the things most people won’t give up.
> You DON’T have to meditate for hours on end. Even 5 minutes is beneficial.
> There are lots of apps that can help with this. Check out my 10 Must-Have Tools to see one of the ones I recommend.
> You DO NOT have to empty your mind. Most people think they’re failing at meditating if they continually have thoughts come in, which is not true. It may take a little while to slow down your thoughts, but it will happen with practice. Notice I said ‘slow down’ thoughts and not stop.
We’re all going to have thoughts come in. The thing is to notice them, thank them and then send them on their way by returning to what your guided meditation is saying or focus on your breath.
Don’t get upset with yourself. Think of learning to meditate, like training a puppy. A puppy (like your body) wants to get up and move, bounce around and get things done because that’s what it’s used to doing. You have to lovingly say to it, “you’re safe, it’s okay, sit, stay.” Funny, I know, but it works. After a while, your body gets used to it and craves the time it gets to reset with meditation.
You’re Not Alone
I think one of the most important things to remember is that you’re not alone in what you’re thinking or feeling. You’re not alone physically or socially, even though it may feel like it.
Everyone is struggling in one way or another, BUT we’re all here for each other, so reach out. If friends or family don’t feel like enough, therapists are able to do sessions online. There’s so much freedom in talking to someone whose job it is to listen, give advice and support. They are there to help if you want it, lovingly accept it.
Know that it may take a bit of time, but this unusual time will end. The world might be different, but it doesn’t mean it will be all bad.
If you feel stuck with your health and wellness and want to see how you can be healthier and have more energy.
I’m Cynthia Brace a health & mindset coach, holistic nutritionist, author, educator, speaker, workshop facilitator, reiki practitioner, book worm with naturally curly hair and a passion for helping people get healthy, happy and vibrant (without it being hard or overwhelming).