The impact of COVID-19 has been abrupt, changing our lives in ways most of us could never have imagined. Venerated department store, John Lewis, is temporarily closing for the first time in its 155-year history – particularly noteworthy given that it remained open through both World Wars and the Great Depression.
In uncertain times, it’s only natural to feel stressed. But it’s more important than ever to take positive steps to manage stress and anxiety. Emotional stress not only feels bad, it can weaken the immune system and damage the body, causing high blood pressure, heart problems, and other ailments.
Here are seven ways to manage stress and anxiety:
Recognise the good
At a time when bad news seems to predominate our news feeds, taking time to recognise the good things in our lives is one of the keys to managing stress. Make it a daily practice to write down three things you’re grateful for. This can be something as small as being grateful for today’s sunny weather, or something bigger like having a job where you can still work from home. When you start to feel anxious, read your gratitude list.
Developing the habit of regularly recognising the good in your life can boost your immune system, improving physical and mental health, and bolster your mood during stressful times.
When you’re working from home, it can be tempting to stay indoors. There’s no Starbucks or lunchtime sandwich run to get you out of your chair. And even when you do take a break, it usually involves more screen time. But recent research by Cornell University reveals that taking even 10 minutes to stroll or sit outside can improve your mood and focus and even lower blood pressure and heart rate, reducing stress hormone levels. Taking a break to breathe the fresh air and enjoy the sunshine can relieve stress and even energise.
Schedule a virtual coffee
Working from home can be isolating, especially if you’re accustomed to seeing your colleagues every day. Set up a few virtual coffee breaks to catch up and enjoy some small talk. Staying connected with co-workers is more important than ever, and it just takes a little effort to bridge the physical distance that working from home creates.
With news updates 24 hours a day and readily available in the palm of our hand, reports on COVID-19 can be overwhelming. Schedule some “media free” time in your day, so you aren’t stewing all day in negative news. Instead of watching the news, catch up with a long-distance friend you haven’t spoken with in a while or put on a feel-good movie or program.
Listen to music
Many of us have seen how Italian citizens are singing, playing instruments, or even DJ’ing from their balconies. It isn’t surprising at all that communities are turning to music. Science has long established that music can calm – patients who listen to classical music during surgery have lower blood pressure – as well as uplift your mood. Just think about the last time your favourite, upbeat song started playing. Whether it’s quiet or up-tempo music, put on some tunes that will raise your spirits.
Study after study has shown that meditation can reduce stress and improve mental, and even physical, health. If meditation has long been on your list of things to try, now is the perfect time to give it a try. Women’s Health shared a list of the top 12 meditation apps for 2020, which names the top three as: 1. Headspace, 2. Calm, and 3. Insight Timer. All have free versions, so it’s a great place to start.
These are trying times, and we’re all concerned about what’s going on today and worried about what’s yet to come. But now, more than ever, is the time to be kind. Performing small, kind gestures not only helps others, it can also reduce our own stress, according to Yale and UCLA research. Cabin fever can make people cranky, so try to be understanding of short tempers or other annoyances. Show kindness by reaching out to neighbours who may need extra help.
Practice gratitude, maintain your human connections, be kind to yourself and others. Together, we can get through this.