It’s no surprise that during a global pandemic, stress is on the rise everywhere. Unfortunately, stress comes with a million symptoms and long-lasting effects. When our minds are stressing out, that anxiety can cause physical problems with our health including migraines, changes in weight, fatigue, and even stomach issues. And that’s just the short list! If you want to stay on top of your mental and physical health, combating your stress levels with a bit of daily self-care is the way to go. Here are a few self-care strategies for coping during a pandemic.
Get into the Habit
While we are all stuck in quarantine, creating and maintaining habits is very important. While many of us are able to make small trips outside of the home, there are still many others who spend the majority of their day inside the four walls of their home. It can be mind-numbing. It is likely that you, along with most of the world, lost track of a daily routine and habits early on in the pandemic. Being home all of the time lends itself to working in your pajamas, taking unscheduled naps, and watching way too much Netflix.
How to Fix It
- Create a routine. Get up, take a shower, get dressed, make coffee, eat breakfast, etc. You had a schedule and a routine before the pandemic hit, and there’s no reason to not have one now. You’d be surprised at how much more productive you’ll feel when you switch your pajama bottoms for a pair of jeans.
- Keep a work space. Are you working from home for the first time, or for the first extended period of time? Creating a work space is essential. It may be easier to work from your couch while the TV plays in the background, but it’s only inviting in unnecessary stress. Take your laptop to your kitchen table, your den, or even a real office if you have one. Designate this spot to be “yours” for as many hours as you can during the day (those of us with families know that’s not always possible for a full 8 hours) and get the job done.
- Move around. Without the trek to and from the office, up and down stairs, or back and forth from the grocery store twice a week, we’ve all been moving a lot less than we did before the pandemic. This can lead to all sorts of problems with your mental and physical health, so do your best to put aside at least 30 minutes a day to get your body moving. Take a walk outside (if you can do so while maintaining social distance) or choose an at-home workout routine on YouTube.
Break Out of Overwhelm
Day after day after day of being stuck indoors with the sound of the news playing in the background is no way to live. The pandemic is overwhelming. Trying to homeschool your kids and work from home is overwhelming. Trying to stay informed when the information is changing on a daily basis is…you guessed it, overwhelming. This can turn into a downward spiral of stress, anxiety, and depression so once you feel like things are too much, break the pattern.
How to Fix It
- Make a big change. One way to jolt your system out of overwhelm is to drastically change something. You can do something as small as dying your hair a new color or cutting your own bangs, or you could go even bigger by switching up your furniture in your living room and doing a massive decluttering. Whatever change you decide to make – commit. No one’s going to see your too-short bangs for weeks anyway.
- Unplug. While hard for most people, separating yourself from the Internet and the news for a bit is important for your mental health. Of course, staying updated and informed is very important during a time like this, so don’t do anything drastic like canceling your Internet services. Instead, take a few minutes once a day to review any new information or updates that have come out about COVID-19 or anything else you’ve been worried about. Then, leave it alone. It’s best to choose reputable sources like the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the World Health Organization which are absolutely in their element when handling a global pandemic.
- Talk to someone. Stay in touch with your friends and family. If you can speak to just one other person (outside your house or job) a day for more than fifteen minutes, you’ll notice a big change in your stress and anxiety. If this isn’t an option, or if you feel like you need more support, dial up a therapist. Most therapists have telehealth capabilities and are usually covered under your insurance.
Get the Right Advice
Every single person on the planet is going through this giant mess of a pandemic, and everyone has opinions about how to handle it. Some are choosing to ignore it altogether, some are panicking unnecessarily, but most of us are in the middle. The most important thing to remember is that you’re going to be getting advice on how to handle your mental and physical health from all directions. Take stock of this advice and be smart about which you choose to follow.
How to Fix It
- Choose reputable sources. This is it – it’s the only fix-it for this section. The sources you choose to get your information and advice from is essential. Be sure to pick sources that have a solid and time-tested background in the information they’re relaying. That guy you knew in high school who’s now working as a general contractor is not the right source for information on the pandemic and how it affects your physical and mental health. Get off of Facebook and dive into some of these other, better, resources.
All of these links will take you to COVID-19 specific information.
Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris
Dan brings in experts to discuss a wide range of topics. He has several weeks’ worth of podcasts dedicated to the pandemic and coping mechanisms for it.
The Happiness Lab
Yale professor, Dr. Laurie Santos has ten episodes on handling the quarantine and the pandemic that range from loneliness to helping others and yourself.
You may need to scroll a little longer through Gretchen’s collection of podcasts, but she has plenty of recent podcasts worth listening to about dealing with the pandemic stress and overwhelm.
From their website: “Headspace is meditation made simple. We'll teach you the life-changing skills of meditation and mindfulness in just a few minutes a day.”
From their website: “Talkspace is the most convenient and affordable way to connect with a licensed therapist — all from the privacy of your device. Send your therapist text, audio, picture, and video messages at any time, and they will respond daily, 5x/week.”
From the App Store: “What's Up? is a fantastic free app utilising some of the best CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) methods to help you cope with Depression, Anxiety, Anger, Stress and more! “
For even more mental health resources, check out this Radical Transformation Project list. It’s chock-full of great resources and hotlines.