The last year has been a relentless stacking of stressor upon stressor. The pandemic, the loss of family and community members, new school/childcare challenges, remote work, isolation, political conflict and upheaval are just a few of them. Here are a few things you can do to help bring calm to the chaos:
Disconnect from your work. For some, working at home has led to more work hours or a sense that work and home life have become one. You no longer have that commute time to decompress and detach a little from your job. Where can you set firmer boundaries with work? You could let coworkers know that you will be unavailable after a certain time or stop checking email after work hours. Find ways to disconnect and recharge.
Exercise – Exercise helps burn off stress and promotes feelings of well-being. How can you begin an exercise regimen? Team up with a friend and get outside together or compete against each other via an app. Ring Fit Adventure on Nintendo Switch is an excellent choice.Do you need guidance on how to exercise properly? Many classes and trainers are offering classes online at this point.
Sleep – Even before the pandemic, people were not getting enough quality sleep. What can you do to improve yours? Disconnect from electronics early enough to allow your brain to calm down. Make changes to your bedroom environment (such as blackout curtains or a white noise machine) to promote better sleep. Avoid drinking alcohol for a significant time before going to bed. Research has shown that two drinks can reduce the quality of your sleep by 24%.
Meditate – I know this isn’t for everyone, but I highly encourage you give it a try even for 5 to 10 minutes a day. Apps like Headspace, Calm, Ten Percent, or even YouTube can be useful to get you started. Mindful meditation can help release stress while reducing obsessive thoughts and self-criticism.
Connect with others – Isolation feeds anxiety and depression. In the first part of the pandemic, people were proactive in reaching out to others, but as it wore on, the attempts petered out. Pick one or two of your established relationships and invest more in them. Cut some time out of that Netflix binge and call that friend. Be more consistent about doing so by setting aside time each week to reach out. This is sometimes a more difficult task for men as male friendships are more often driven by doing activities together. Women tend to process feelings and experiences as a part of their friendships, which was easier to continue when in-person gatherings were not available.
Accept yourself and look ahead – It’s easy right now to feel inadequate and powerless: You could always be more productive at work, parent a little better, reach out more to others be more politically active, etc. Give yourself a break. The permission to be imperfect will create space for you to move forward when you’re able and ready. Things may feel bleak right now, but they will change. We lose sight of that hope when we’re anxious or depressed.
Reduce social media consumption. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like tend to leave you feeling inadequate, left out, scared, or angry. If you need help, you can limit access and use times in your cell phone settings or download an app that will help. You could also leave your phone in the bedroom while you hang out with family.
Reduce alcohol and drug use. Alcohol consumption has increased dramatically since last March. It’s not hard to imagine that illegal and legal drug use has increased as well. These are short-term solutions that perpetuate or create their own problems. What are some healthier coping options? What is a reasonable target to start reducing intake? Small sustainable steps lead to change.
Reduce stress or boredom eating. Have you put on the COVID “19?” When we’re limited in what we can do outside of our home, overeating is easy. Noticing this behavior can help push ourselves to eat in a more balanced way and develop healthier coping mechanisms like exercise or meditation.
Macramé – when you feel like your life is tied up in knots the best thing to do is to knot up some fabric in a crafty way to externalize the tension and take control in some metaphorical way. Just kidding, I’m not going to recommend macrame unless you feel like you have unresolved issues from the 70’s. Google search images of “macrame 70s” for a laugh if you need one though. I will say that some kind of creative outlet like visual art, music or cooking can be a great way to relax and take care of yourself.
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