COVID-19 and dealing with stress

COVID-19 has brought unexpected changes to all of our lives. If you’re feeling more stressed, you’re not alone. Recent studies have found that Americans are reporting higher levels of stress due to the outbreak.

While everyone reacts to stress differently, finding healthy ways to manage it can help you feel better. Dale Evans, coordinator of HonorHealth’s Body, Mind, and Spirit Program, shares tips to help you deal with stress:

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness helps you be present in the moment by focusing your awareness and acknowledging all sensations of your body, mind and feelings in a calm manner.

Try these mindfulness practices:

  • Deep breathing: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale your breath for 4 seconds, then hold your breath for 4 seconds. Do this for 5-10 minutes and notice how you feel compared to when you started. As you feel more comfortable, increase the length of seconds that you are breathing in and out and holding your breath.
  • Grounding: Connect the action of walking to the present moment by bringing your attention to the sensations of your feet and legs as your heel touches the ground, then the base of the foot, then the toes, and when they lift. You can actually say to yourself, "heel, foot, toes, lift."
  • Open Awareness: To do this, notice your senses one by one – sight, sound, taste, feeling, smell. See what is around you, listen to the sounds, taste the air or whatever is in your mouth, feel the warmth, coolness or breeze on your cheeks, smell the air.
Take a coloring break to help reduce stress. Download this free coloring book from HonorHealth.

Reduce stress with coloring

Take a coloring break to help reduce stress. Download this free coloring book.

Download

Practice emotional resilience

Taking steps to look after your wellbeing can help you deal with pressure and reduce the impact that stress has on your life. This is sometimes called developing emotional resilience, or the ability to adapt and bounce back when something difficult happens in your life.

Try these emotional resilience practices: 

  • Practice being straightforward and assertive in communicating with others. If people are making unreasonable or unrealistic demands on you, be prepared to tell them how you feel and say no. By honoring yourself, you will help reduce your feelings of stress.
  • Use relaxation techniques. Give yourself a brain rest and do something that makes you feel wonderful like a taking a bath, praying, writing in a gratitude journal, doing a guided meditation, listening to music or doing deep breathing exercises. Honor yourself and set time aside to do it.
  • Develop your interests and hobbies. Find an activity that's completely different from the things causing you stress. This is a great way to get away from everyday pressures. Some ideas include, coloring, doing a craft, completing a puzzle, cooking new recipes or starting a virtual book club. 
  • Journaling (writing your thoughts) is a healthy practice for your mind and spirit. It can also be used as a tool for stress management to reset or de-stress your emotions. Writing down thoughts, dreams, feelings and ideas is a healthy and beneficial practice for overall wellness. Writing also helps you get to the heart of the matter by getting whatever you’re dealing with off your mind and onto paper.  

Maintain your physical health

Taking steps to look after your physical health can help you manage stress and lessen the impact on your overall mental health.  

  1. A good night’s sleep will increase your ability to think and deal with difficult situations that may occur during the day. It will also reduce stress and sleep disorders. Try these ideas to help you calm your mind and fall asleep:
    • Listen to a guided meditation or practice breathing exercises like diaphragmatic breathing and breath counting.
  2. Being physically active can reduce depression and stress levels that will prevent some of its damaging effects on the body. Try:
    • Going for a walk or doing chair squats, wall push-ups, lunges, yoga poses, calf raises, crunches, planks, and stretches.   
  3. Healthy eating will help keep your immune system strong. Try to incorporate these foods and lots of water into your daily diet:
    • Fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy grains, and 64 ounces of water or more each day. If you’re eating more canned food right now, look for low-sodium options. 

Give yourself a break

Being kinder to yourself may reduce the pressure you feel in different situations, which will also help reduce your stress.

  • Reward yourself for achievements – even for small things like finishing a piece of work or making a decision. This will reinforce those good habits! Take a walk around your neighborhood, read a book, treat yourself to food you enjoy, or simply tell yourself “well done.”
  • Get a change of scenery – you might want to go for a drive, a walk, or have a coffee with a friend over video.
  • Solve conflict, if you can. This sometimes can be very difficult when speaking to a manager, colleague or family member about problems in your relationship. By talking with them, you can find ways to move forward.  
  • Forgive yourself and others. This will help release stress, and you will feel free from the pressure you have been carrying around. 

Redirect negative thoughts

Lastly, remember that positive thinking has power. Medical and scientific research suggests that the things you can touch, taste and measure frequently take a backseat to what we perceive or believe to be real. In other words, our personal abilities and potential for wellbeing are shaped by the negative or positive ways we think. 

Honor yourself with positive self-talk. Making positive self-statements can help you think more rationally and calmly. Tell yourself “I can handle this. Tough times don’t last. I know what I really want for myself.”  

If you, or someone you care about, is feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others, the CDC recommends:

For the most current information

Our top priority is the health and safety of our patients, employees and visitors. HonorHealth is working closely with public health officials to stay up-to-date with the most current information and guidelines related to the Coronavirus. Visit our dedicated Coronavirus page for the latest information.

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