Its 2:45pm. As I’m typing this, the President is about to declare a national emergency to speed the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Sporting and entertainment events have been postponed. Disney World is to close. Stores are rationing toilet paper purchases and world governments are preparing for the worst. It’s no surprise that we’re stressed. So what can be done in the next five minutes to reduce — and prevent — stress in our lives? To help us all cope, I’d like to share 7 helpful ways to manage and reduce stress.
We all face stressful situations throughout our lives, ranging from minor annoyances like traffic jams to more serious worries, such as a loved one’s grave illness. We can’t avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them.
Tip #1: Exercise
It might seem contradictory, but putting physical stress on your body through exercise can actually relieve mental stress. Even if you’re not an athlete or you’re out of shape, exercise can still be a good stress reliever. It’s because exercise lowers your body’s stress hormones — such as cortisol. So try to find activities that you enjoy doing, such as walking, dancing, swimming, rock climbing, or yoga. The point is that you’re active.
Tip #2: Meditate
According to the Mayo Clinic, a few minutes of meditation per day can help ease anxiety. During meditation, you focus your attention and quiet the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing you stress. Guided meditation, guided imagery, visualization and other forms of meditation can be practiced anywhere and at any time. You can also try deep breathing anywhere.
Tip #3: Laugh Out Loud
A genuine belly laugh is good for the soul, and the stress levels. It lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, and boosts brain chemicals called endorphins, which help your mood. Lighten up by tuning into your favorite sitcom or video, reading the comics, or chatting with someone who makes you smile.
Tip #4: Find Sensory Inspiration
Look back to pleasant memories from your past? How did they make you feel? Harvard Health recommends simply imagining vivid sensations when stress strikes. The memory of your baby’s face will have the same calming or energizing effects on your brain as seeing a photo. When you recall a strong sensation, you’ll never be without a quick stress relief tool.
Tip #5: Take a Walk
I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth repeating: Doing something as simple as taking a walk can be a fantastic stress reliever. Taking a walk allows you to enjoy a change of scenery, which can get you into a different frame of mind, and brings the benefits of exercise (see Tip #1). So whether you just need to take a stroll around the office to get a break from a frustrating task or you decide to go for a long walk in the park after work, walking is a simple but effective way to rejuvenate your mind.
Tip #6: Connect with People
A good support network of colleagues, friends, and family can ease your troubles and help you see things in a different way. The activities we do with friends help us relax. In addition, talking things through with a friend or loved one will help you find solutions to your problems.
Tip #7: Be Aware of Your Alcohol Consumption
Even though it may seem to reduce stress initially, alcohol often makes problems worse. Researchers have found that alcohol takes a psychological and physiological toll on the body and may actually compound the effects of stress. In short, if you’re seeking to reduce stress, it’s not the answer.
When anxiety arises because we’re facing a distressing threat like the new coronavirus, we need to focus on what tends to work for us to ease anxiety — that, plus doing a little bit more of some actions and a little bit less of others.
We’re all on this journey together. News about the virus will likely grow worse, then grow better. Listen to public health experts who can help us navigate the path ahead. Take sensible steps that can help us all: get your bearings, practice good hygiene, use calming strategies that work for you — and maybe try something new. Making healthy, reasonable choices about what to do and what not to do will make a big difference in being able to stay as safe and as well as possible.
If there’s a calming activity that helps you with stress relief, I’d love to hear it at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please be sure to subscribe to my newsletter to receive more helpful tips like these straight to your inbox each Friday.