Five weeks into self isolation post COVID-19 and I’ve started to notice stress levels increasing across the board – at work, at home, among my friends and family. So, I wanted to share all the little tips that I use to reduce stress in what is arguably one of the more stressful times in our lives. I know this list is long and I know that not everything will work for everyone. So, I’m sharing as many as possible in hopes that just one tip will relieve the feeling of anxiety that might be in your chest. Even if it’s just one very small thing.
This list is actionable except one item which I caveat below. Meaning, it’s really easy to try… unlike mental health homework that is often more challenging like assessing the deeper meaning or root cause. You can work on your mental health in parallel to this list but it’s a process and can take a third party to guide you through. While there are many services out there that can work through this with you for free right now too if you need it. The list below is just meant to capture things you can do today. I’m not an expert and don’t want to misguide. There are just the things that help me!
Personally, this is the most impactful method for me. I’ve been using this as a tactic every morning before my day job for over a decade. I’m honestly just a better person when I do a morning workout. There is a list of free workout classes in my COVID highlights on Instagram if you’re finding workouts challenging while gyms are closed. Barre, yoga, a run, whatever. Find your thing. A workout can be as simple as taking a walk outside on your lunch break! Or doing 20 squats or push-ups when you refill your cup of water throughout the day! Save a few workout videos on Instagram for this purpose or do a few moves on a conference call where you don’t have to speak or be on video.
I could have called this section “yoga” but I see the act of stretching as being separate and distinct from what some would argue is working out. I shared yesterday my tips for preventing and coping with migraines and stretching is on that list too. Stretching gets more oxygen to your brain for a clear mind and more stress-free mood. Just do a few moves wherever you feel your tension most or when you feel it building up. Mine is my chest, upper back, and hip flexors. While you’re on a call or in between tasks, stretch your upper body at your desk. While you’re watching TV or on your lunch break, tackle your legs.
I think we all know that healthy eating is good for us. However, there are certain foods that can help even more than that salad you had for lunch. There are several science experiments focused on the mind/gut connection. You can actually change the way your brain works and communicates with your body. Salmon, dark chocolate, Greek yogurt, bananas, oatmeal, blueberries, and nuts all impact how your brain works in different ways and can help reduce stress. Freshly just sent this article out today if you want to know more.
So much of stress is managing your mind. As I alluded to above, I’m not best equipped to walk you through a complete mental overhaul. And I’m the first one to admit that meditation isn’t my strong suit. But it’s worth a shot. You have extra time right now, right? Even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Download the Calm app on your phone for easy techniques and tips to help clear your mind and for breathing. Matt has used this app regularly over the last few years.
Watch your favorite comedy or sitcom, scroll through Instagram for memes, whatever gets you to literally LOL. Get a laugh in as much as you can. If you need another source, I’m happy to loan you my sarcastic husband. Kidding. But if you have an idea of something we can do, send me a message or email!
Make time for things that bring you joy. Identify them and block out your calendar. Workouts, read a book, gardening, Netflix, data night in, playing with your pet, a virtual museum tour (there are a lot of these!), or one of these 10 things to do at home. Block it out even if it feels silly or menial. It will help you force yourself to make it happen.
Connect with your friends and family on a Zoom call. Schedule it later in the week and/or over the weekend to give you something to look forward to. Celebrate a birthday, have a themed party (with decorations), wear costumes, or just a simple happy hour. Catch up on the latest but also talk through your struggles. It also helps to use your friends and family as your sounding board. They’re probably going through similar emotions right now too if it helps validate what you’re feeling.
Set and stick to your boundaries. Be mindful of when something brings you stress as well as the things you have on your place. Don’t sign up for more than you can handle. Be honest with yourself. We’re all feeling it right now! Take advantage of the flexibility and grace going around right now. I know at our company, every supervisor and manager keeps stressing that they are willing to be more flexible with mid day workouts, days off, and free resources.
Music has the ability to trigger emotions of all kinds. What is better than singing out loud to a really good song? Since you have more time at home, maybe make a kick ass playlist. Whether it’s your favorite 90s jams (have you been watching my skincare stories every week?) or some Enya, Spotify is a free way for you to explore your creative side. If you don’t have time for that, they have a bunch of pre-made playlists like this one called Work From Home.
This will be the one bucket where I talk about mental health overall. I’m condensing it into one item even though there is a lot here. Depending on who you are, you can leave or take this one.
Practice positivity. Maybe repeat an affirmation every morning, engage in positive self talk, state what you’re grateful for every day, or actively make a list of positives in your life right now. Personally, I’m cognizant of any negative energy around me and I try to correct it. I also focus on the positives of this quarantine (like we are saving money by not having a home of our own!). The reality is this isn’t perfect for anyone. But I’m choosing to focus on the positives. Acknowledging the negatives but not dwelling on them for too long is another part of it.
Recognize you can’t control everything – don’t try. You can only change the way you ingest information and your reaction to it. Stressing out about the things you can’t control will only make you feel hopeless, resulting in guess what, more stress! Focus on what you can change.
Accept that what is going right now is only temporary. It’s okay to feel the way you feel. It’s okay to worry and be scared. Allow yourself to feel those things. You’re feelings are valid. But, they’re temporary too. They will pass. Remind yourself that this is not forever. This is just now.
Be present. Similar to remaining positive, live in the now. Take this opportunity to focus on things that bring you happiness right now. Enjoy the perks of being able to do your laundry on a conference all. Enjoy the downtime and take advantage of the break in your schedule.
If you haven’t dabbled in essential oils, now might be the time. A welcome bonus is it makes the space you’re in smell amazing. I used to diffuse lavender and eucalyptus or peppermint in my office to keep me calm but focused throughout the day. You can read more on what each essential oil does for you on from wherever you choose to purchase. I’m a DoTerra girl!
This is a new one for me (I was a skeptic) but I definitely have been converted. I’ve shared this on Instagram a little but I’ve been using Equilibria for about a month now. I originally started using it to help me sleep better (and after a month I can finally say we’re almost there!). However, I’ve noticed a side effect of CBD is I feel more calm and balanced throughout the day. I love that anyone who purchases from Equilibria gets a free call with a dosage specialist to help you figure out what you should take when. I had a few people reach out for a discount code so I emailed them to see if they’d be willing to give me one and they did! Use code JENNACOLGROVE for 15% off. I’ll write a full blog post on this soon!
Has there been anything that you’ve used in the past to help you manage stress? Please share with us!