We live in scary, uncertain times and for many of us this means a high level of stress and fear.
As natural as these reactions may be, chronic stress and anxiety pose their own threats. Chronic stress has been linked to many serious health problems and has also been shown to weaken immune function, which none of us currently need.
For this reason, we have compiled a list of 13 measures that you can cope with during this time. None of these things cost money, and you can do them all at home (or at least in your neighborhood).
13 ways to deal with stress and find peace yourself
Try one of these tactics the next time you feel lost in counterproductive thoughts.
1. Take a few deep breaths
If you're like most people, you're likely to respond to feelings of emotional stress by taking shorter, shallower, and faster breaths. This means that your body receives less oxygen, which in turn affects your ability to think and function clearly – and this can make this tangle of emotions worse.
If you take a few deep breaths, your body's oxygen supply will be replenished. As a bonus, you get a few moments to pause, which can also help you calm down.
If you feel stressed, stop and take a slow, deep breath through your nose. Then exhale through your pursed lips. Do this several times until you feel calm.
There are different variations of this exercise. So play around until you find something that works best for you.
2. Try a grounding technique
If stress and anxiety threaten to overwhelm you, try one of these grounding techniques. They work by pulling you away from your fear-generating thoughts, most of which either stay in the past or think about the unknown future, and bring you back to the present.
One technique that is easy to remember is the technique of the five senses. Here's how: Stop for a moment and think about what all your five senses are experiencing at this very moment. What do you hear? What do you smell What do you feel on your skin? What do you see? What do you taste
If you find that your thoughts are getting out of control, take a minute to do one of these exercises and hopefully you will feel better quickly.
3. Limit your online time
Many researchers have found a strong correlation between heavy use of social media and a higher likelihood of anxiety and depression. The same applies to your smartphone.
This is also the case when a global pandemic hangs over our heads. So imagine how much more intense this dynamic is at the moment if every push alarm on our phone could bring messages about another border closure or an emergency measure by the federal government.
Mix the relentless flood of news about these unprecedented events with the stress of watching political arguments in comments, sorting the nuggets of truth out of the fire hose of misinformation, and hiding the increasingly panicked posts from family and friends and you have a recipe for many, many fears.
Incidentally, this is not an argument for total abstinence from the use of social media, smartphones and the Internet. These things can be of great value to our lives, especially now more than ever when we need both the social connections and the critical information they bring us. (Not to mention deliveries of groceries and supplies with social distance!)
Even good things can be bad for us if we don't limit our consumption. So if you find that online activities cause a lot of stress, there are a few parameters you should set.
One way is to give yourself an hour each morning and evening to check. Another option is to set up hours without a phone after a certain amount of time. A third option is to take a few minutes to turn off your phone's warnings and notifications.
None of which work for you? Here are seven more ideas you can try.
4. Spend time in nature
The sun rises in North Shore Park in St. Petersburg, Florida. There are many places where you can watch a sunrise or sunset while practicing social distance. Chris Zuppa / The Penny Hoarder
Sometimes the cure for your ailments is right on your doorstep.
Researchers have found that staying in nature can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression. It appears to reduce the level of cortisol released in response to stress, and the prefrontal cortex – also known as the area of the brain that is active when you think repeatedly and negatively – shows less activity. You are not entirely sure why this happens, only that it happens.
City dwellers (and everyone else who doesn't have access to green spaces due to social distance and restrictions) still have good news for you: researchers found that hearing soothing sounds outdoors or looking at trees and others Green can have the same effect as time to spend in nature.
So start a playlist of sea sounds, take a look at some photos of Canadian forests and feel your stress slowly go away.
5. Write down your feelings
Journaling is one of the most common strategies for dealing with mental health problems for a reason. Researchers say writing down your feelings can help you understand them better. Instead of moving around the body and mind in a confusing swirl of stimuli, feelings become understandable, clearer and easier to handle.
Would you like to try this, but are not sure where to start? This post contains seven good prompts that you can try.
Meditation has put a lot of pressure in the last few years as a unified solution for everything from lack of concentration to fear to increasing your productivity.
But what makes meditation so effective in a time like this is that it helps you develop awareness of your own thoughts. This is the first step to manage them more effectively. If you have the ability to get carried away by your fear-generating thoughts, you can also redirect them in a way that is more productive and useful for you.
So you want to try meditation but are not sure where to start? Try one of these five free meditation apps and use the guided meditations. Try to meditate at least once a day for a few days and see if it works for you.
7. Drink some water
Do you feel anxious? Stop what you're doing, go to the fridge, pour yourself a glass of water, and drink it down.
Researchers have found that drinking water can reduce a person's stress and anxiety. Our body is mainly made up of water. When we're dehydrated, we don't work as well as we could. So if you panic, take a moment to drink a cool glass of water and see if that helps you calm down.
8. Learn a new skill
You've probably noticed that your friends' lists are full of posts about people just starting baking, gardening, or cross-stitching. There is a good reason for this: learning a new skill can occupy your brain so thoroughly that there is little room for rumination, which can lead to fear and stress.
Researchers have found that learning a new skill can be a great buffer against stress in the workplace, and this also applies to our daily lives.
So if you want to learn to play a new instrument, do carpentry or knit, now is a good time to do it. You increase your mental health and learn a new skill. This is definitely a win-win situation!
9. Reach out to friends and family
Part of what makes social distancing so difficult is that our need for social connection is firmly anchored in our DNA. Close social relationships – and the associated collaboration and resource sharing – have survived us as a species for so long.
The health risks of loneliness are known at this point: it can suppress your immunity, lead to a greater inflammation of your internal organs and also make you vulnerable if you get into a crisis and need help.
Thanks to technology, we have many ways to stay connected even though we are stranded in our homes. Set up a group chat with a group of friends and exchange fun memes. Schedule video chats with friends and family with or without quarantine.
Or you can simply pick up the handset.
"The cure for everything is salt water – sweat, tears or the sea," wrote the author Isak Dinesen in the 1930s.
Training is a quick way to keep yourself sweaty, and it has the added benefit of flushing your body with endorphins, the hormones you feel good with. Here you can learn more about the very well documented connections between exercise and stress reduction.
You don't have to go to a gym to exercise. All you need is a bit of space and you can do a full body workout. You can do yoga (and in fact, many local studios now offer live streaming classes, so check your region!). You can even go for a walk, which is probably the most underrated form of exercise at this time of SUPER INSANITY HARD CORE HULKSMASH WORKOUTS.
All you have to do is find something you enjoy doing, at least three or four times a week. What you end up doing is less important than being consistent, whatever you do.
11. Troubleshoot your house
It doesn't matter whether you are KonMari-ing or a Swedish death clearer or "hint at your path to happiness" – the psychological benefits of debugging are well documented. Your home is your haven more than ever, but it's hard to feel restful and comfortable in a cluttered home.
Take some time every day to deal with clutter. This can mean everything from setting up a new organization system to pushing garbage into a box and hiding in the garage until you feel like dealing with it.
When the clutter disappears, your home becomes quieter and more relaxing, and who doesn't want a quiet, relaxing home at a time like this?
12. Create a schedule
After several days of social distancing and working from home, it can look as if time has become a meaningless construct. What day of the week do we have? What time is it? Why am I still in my pajamas at 2pm? Has it really been four days since I washed my hair?
One of the most troubling things about what's happening now is that many of our previous structures have disappeared, making us feel confused by everything we previously knew and understood.
A simple way to do this is to establish a daily routine for yourself. This way, you can prioritize the things you need for yourself while eliminating the need to make your decisions from scratch. (Decision fatigue is real.)
Take some time to make a schedule for yourself (and for your children, if any), and then do your best to stick to it. It will help you create a sense of normalcy in a world other than that.
13. Get enough sleep
Sleep and stress are closely related. If you are stressed, you cannot sleep. If you cannot sleep, you are more prone to stress because your coping skills are exhausted. It is an evil cycle that can be difficult to break.
If you have trouble sleeping at night, try the following tricks:
- No screen time an hour before bed.
- Limit your caffeine intake earlier in the day.
- Do not drink alcohol before going to bed.
- Exercise during the day.
- Write down what bothers you.
If none of these work for you, check out these 20 ways to help you fall asleep.
Things are very difficult for many of us right now, but if we take care of ourselves primarily, we are in a much better place to take care of others. And if we can take care of others, we'll do it together.
Caitlin Constantine is the deputy editor-in-chief of The Penny Hoarder.
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