Stress and anxiety are running rampant during this time of quarantine. In normal times we experience stress, but the last few weeks have pushed us to a new level. The new stressors come from different sectors. It is no longer the traffic, the hustle and bustle of the workday, but now it comes from a place of fear that we might become infected with an invisible virus, and it can make you or your family really sick. There is anxiety around catching or transmitting Covid-19. Family and friends no longer get together; Passover, Easter, Ramadan religious celebrations have been canceled or are virtual; we don’t hug our neighbors or even shake their hand. It is all unfamiliar and all different. We don’t know how long it might last and what the world will look like on the other side.
According to a recent Gallop Poll, eight out of ten Americans report they “frequently” or “sometimes” experience stress in their daily lives. That was before the Coronavirus pandemic. The study found work and kids are the two major stressors in our lives. Now work is tenuous or non-existent and the kids are home 24-7. Schools are closed through May, graduations canceled, and kids may be separated from their mothers for Mother’s Day.
Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and there is great fear that the money will not come back for a while. Folks cannot pay their rent, mortgage, or bills. Government is trying to help but when might that help arrive? The fear creeps into our sleep and folks lie awake worrying about when it will end and whether they will be able to weather the storm.
Life is so challenging as we enter the second quarter of 2020 and try to balance work, family, and finances. Everything is unprecedented.
I have spent the last forty years trying to eliminate stress in my life so here are a few tips I wanted to share that might be beneficial.
- Get enough sleep. Seven to nine hours of sleep is ideal for most adults. Go to bed earlier, turn off the TV and computer, avoid the constant news feed and, if possible during the day, fit in a short nap. If your fears start to interrupt your sleep, refocus your thoughts. Start to breathe deeply and follow your breath. Don’t get out of bed; just tell yourself to relax and surrender to sleep. Remind yourself that you cannot change your circumstances at this moment and the best thing for you to do is to get a good night’s sleep.
- Practice deep, conscience relaxation, scanning the body from the tip of the toes to the crown of the head, feeling where there is tension, worry or pain. Release it and let it go. Relax. Practice deep relaxation when you first lay down to sleep or in the middle of the day when the stress starts to build.
- Eat healthy food and fill up on fresh fruits and vegetables. An apple a day really does keep the doctor away. Try to moderate your sugar and alcohol intake. The more good food you put into your body the better you will feel.
- Exercise every day. Take long walks in the woods, get an abundance of fresh air, commune with nature, kayak, bike, or swim as often as possible.
- Meditate, sitting quietly, breathing deeply, becoming mindful of each inhalation and exhalation. Stop thinking. Concentrate on quieting your mind. Look online for a good meditation tape.
- Stretch regularly. Do more yoga, touch your toes, arch your back, and feel the way your body moves.
- Tune into gratitude and count your blessings. Silently recite as many different things you can think of to be grateful for every day. It might be family, pets, your creativity, your singing voice, any special gifts, fresh peaches, lilies, cherries, or watermelon. The list is endless. If you need a little help remembering those gifts, watch this beautiful video by Brother David Steindl-Rast and you can’t help but feel joy.
- Put on some great music and sing and dance like no one is watching. Convince someone to dance with you even if only on Zoom or Facetime.
- Call a friend or loved one and check in with them to see how they are weathering the storm. Share recipes with friends, send each other the funny jokes from the internet, stay connected.
- Look for inspiring programs online. Check out great TED talks or music videos and share them.
- Take a long, hot, bubble bath and read some beautiful poetry or a funny book.
- Laugh out loud, with an extended belly laugh for 60 seconds without stopping.
There is still much joy in life and although sorrow surrounds us, life rebounds. Just like the spring, the leaves come out and flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing, butterflies are visiting the flowers, and the birds are singing.
There is only one person who controls the stress and anxiety in your life and that is you. Take responsibility for ensuring the pressure and fear doesn’t get in the way of your health or happiness.
Be safe, be well, take care of yourself.