“I am so overwhelmed.” “I don’t have time.” “My partner and I are both trying to work from home and we have to take turns talking on the phone.” “I don’t have privacy, so it can be problematic with my clients.” “I’m worried about my parents.” “I’m worried about my children.” “I’m trying to work and home school my kids at the same time.”
“I am so stressed out.”
Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” And these are demanding times, indeed. The Covid-19 virus and social distancing measures have created additional demands on our already complicated and busy lives. Workloads have increased, remote meetings are more common than ever, and worries about our jobs and finances seem overwhelming to many. And when everyone around you is stressed to some degree or another, it can potentially magnify your reaction.
Moreover, people have different reactions based on their backgrounds and unique personal make-up. For example, individuals may experience the additional strains we face today through anxiety, anger, lethargy, or sadness. In addition, when we’re interacting with people remotely, the plethora of different responses can exacerbate distress.
Symptoms of stress can be depression, changes in eating patterns (overeating or under eating), sleep disturbances, losing your temper, mood swings, or feeling profoundly exhausted or discouraged.
While everyone is different, professionals in the mental health field consistently recommend the following tips to reduce your response to stress:
- Focus on social connections. Isolation cause feelings of loneliness and can potentially lead to depression. With Covid-19’s social distancing measures in place, it is important to still find ways to connect with other people—even if it’s virtual. Even highly introverted individuals or those driven by work should seek out ways to interact with others beyond the work environment. For example, book clubs, online game time with friends or family, or taking online interactive courses are great ways to maintain social connection.
- Exercise. Health professionals consistently recommend that exercise is very effective way to reduce stress. While there are limitations during the Covid-19 crisis, there are still plenty of ways to exercise responsibly—consider online classes, or walking, running, or cycling outdoors.
- Maintain daily structure. Though it can be challenging, it’s critical to create and maintain a daily routine while social distancing measures are in place. A timetable and schedule can help keep days structured, less stressful, and more productive. For parents with children at home, it can help to create a schedule together to manage school work, playtime, and other activities.
- Have virtual hangouts. Fortunately, modern technology allows people to transcend social distancing by providing a way to connect to family and friends virtually. Using meeting platforms like FaceTime or Zoom can provide restorative and fun ways to have coffee or tea with friends, share a meal with family, create a virtual playdate for children, or even play games.
- Take up a new hobby. The internet has a world of information to help you start a new hobby or activity. YouTube is a great start, but there are plenty of platforms with various lessons in subjects like art, music, cooking, photography, sewing, gardening, and more.
- Practice Mindfulness Meditation. Like exercise, meditation and mindfulness have been utilized as great stress reducers even before Covid-19. Mindfulness meditation focuses one’s complete awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting all feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations. These techniques have long been used to quiet the mind, calm oneself, and reduce anxiety and stress. There are several websites, online guided meditations, and apps to learn how to meditate effectively.
- Practice yoga. Yoga has been studied and verified to reduce stress and be restorative the both the body and the mind. Whether you’re a beginner or expert, there are many online sites and apps to guide you through yoga sequences.
- Take a walk in nature. Nature walks have been found to positively contribute to our physical and emotional wellbeing. While you may not have mountains or beaches nearby, a walk in the park, if possible, and being away from cars and concrete can help you calm yourself and reduce stress. If social distancing measures make going outdoors difficult, watching nature videos or listening to nature sounds can also be a soothing way to relax.
- Engage in self-talk. Talking to yourself about what is important and reality-based is another way to reduce stress. Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT), for example, employs self-talk as one of the techniques to improve mental health. This includes changing one’s negative thoughts to positive ones.
- Be easy on yourself. Mental health professionals recommend that you ease up on self-criticism. Increased screen time will not matter in the long run. Sleeping late, meals from cans, and messy houses are acceptable. Practice self-kindness, and kindness to your partner, children, and other people in your life.
If coping with Covid-19 and social distancing proves to be too challenging, you might consider seeking mental health support. Most mental health professionals have gone online to deliver virtual therapy or Teletherapy sessions. Check your insurance to make sure they will cover Teletherapy.