We encounter stressful situations every day, whether we are at work, school or home. However, these days, all of us, young and old are dealing with a different kind of stress caused by the changes to our lives due to COVID-19. This article will talk about how we can manage our lives during this pandemic, and create a less stressed home environment.
As a result of the pandemic, stay at home orders have upended are daily routines and more importantly our lives at home. Once our refuge from the outside world, our homes are now becoming places of work, school, and entertainment. Our home environment has changed, and due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, we do not know how long these changes will last. This uncertainty has added new stress to our lives.
Before we discuss how to manage stress, we need to understand what it actually is and how it affects us both physically, mentally and emotionally. Stress is defined by the Cleveland Clinic as “the body’s reaction to any changes that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses”. Most people typically experience heart pounding, quickening of the breath, tensing muscles, and sweating. You can experience confusion, nightmares, memory loss, changes in sleeping pattern and difficulty focusing. You may feel guilt, anxiety, irritability, fear, denial, worry, loneliness, and frustration. All these responses are normal, especially when we are dealing with an unknown outside force that can affect you, and your family’s well-being, in every sense of the word.
Now that we have recognized what stress is, how do we make our home a less stressful environment?
Accept the new reality. Don’t focus on how things were before the pandemic, but on the reality of today and how you can function under these new circumstances. The mind is very powerful and if we allow ourselves to become more mindful, we can create our own happiness within ourselves. Remember you have the power to make yourself happy, having a positive attitude is everything!
Mindfulness Meditation is a great way to reduce your stress. All you need is to take 10 minutes out of your day to sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Practicing this meditation can reduce stress, control anxiety, and induce a better night sleep. In addition, progressive relaxation techniques, where you tighten and release muscle groups from head to toe, can also be another method to release tension. There are plenty of apps that you can use that have programs to assist you with these meditation exercises. You can do these exercises by yourself or even as a family. It is never too early to start teaching kids on how to relax.
Adding structure to your everyday activities can be done by creating a routine to your new home lifestyle. Even though you and or your family are no longer leaving the house for work and school you still need to try to keep a schedule that you are familiar with. Schedule segments of the day to work in an undisturbed area. When you create your new routine, make sure that you balance your home and work life. Take advantage of the extra time you have now that you are no longer commuting to work and or taking your children to school. This is now a great time for you to learn that hobby or skill that you always wanted to learn.
Keep active, keep moving, exercise is an essential part in keeping both your mind and body healthy. When we exercise the brain releases serotonin, which is referred to as the happy chemical, as it is responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness. Walking is a great activity as it exercises both mind and body. It can be very relaxing when done at a leisure pace, or very energizing when walking at a rapid speed like a power walk. Practicing Yoga and Tai-Chi are excellent stress reducing activities. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something that keeps your body moving and makes you happy.
Eat healthy and well-balanced meals, as this will keep your energy up and stabilize your mood. Avoid turning to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Avoid news overload. Although it is important to be informed, too much information can cause anxiety, and feeling out of control, as we are just taking information without acting.
Don’t forget to laugh, laughter is the best medicine! When we laugh, we produce endorphins, which not only makes us happy, but causes health benefits that help protect the heart from heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. Read a funny book, watch your favorite comedy show or a funny movie. Remember, laughter is the best medicine.
Reach out to others for help. Even during this time, find a way to contact friends and family. Don’t be afraid to connect with your loved ones by following social distancing and communicating via social media, video conferences and phone calls. You can also reach out to online counselors, Psychologists, or your Family Physician through a telehealth conference, if your stress becomes unmanageable.
Remember we are all in this together. By utilizing these stress management techniques, you will become more empowered, enlightened, and be able to cope with the stress from this pandemic.
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