March 31, 2020
Safety precautions and shelter-in-place orders are quickly becoming the new normal, and COVID-19 updates have taken over every news source, including our social media. We are inundated with infection rates and hospital photos from all over the world, every minute of the day.
We are right to take this very seriously, and it is critical to stay informed. Still, too much information can keep us in an unhealthy state of constant stress. Stress can affect your sleeping patterns and eating habits, aggravate chronic health conditions, weaken the immune system, and more. In fact, chronic stress can negatively affect nearly every body system.
You need a mental break from COVID-19.
Taking care of your overall health is one of the most important ways you can fight the virus. Here are a few ideas to help you take your life back from the COVID-19 stress.
If your job allows you to work from home, you may already be operating under a “normal” schedule to maximize online time with co-workers. But even if you are not working, setting a schedule for yourself and your household can give your days a sense of normalcy. In the face of so much uncertainty, that little bit of predictability can be comforting. Make a schedule for house chores, meals, exercise, learning, naps, crafts, family time — whatever feels right. Stick to your plan and check off completed tasks. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment with each checkmark, and a little positive reinforcement like that can help alleviate stress.
Regular exercise combats stress and strengthens your immune system. Not to mention, it can help fight weight gain from stress overeating. Add activity to your schedule and make it a priority. If you can, try to plan some outside time. A walk outside can give you some much-needed vitamin D and fresh air. If outside is not an option, many web sites are providing free online workouts or maybe this is the time to try Salsa or Hip Hop.
Social media can feel like both a blessing and a curse at times like this. Focus on the blessings: friends, family, community organizations, games, music, literature, and so on. But don’t be afraid to filter out the people, pages, or affiliations that bring you more stress than comfort. Some social media apps have options to hide or filter out specific people or posts while still remaining friends or followers. You don’t have to allow negativity or inaccurate information into your life.
Connecting with family and friends (from a distance, of course) is more important than ever. A sound support system always improves your health and well-being; at a time like this, it’s essential to take care of one another. It’s hard being physically separated, but we have so many ways to connect. We can call, write, email, text, video call, even sit in our car in a friend’s driveway and talk from a safe distance. Even a quick call to make sure a friend, neighbor, or family member is weathering the isolation can make such a big difference in the recipient’s outlook And yours!
Stress management techniques like yoga, deep breathing exercises, meditation, or journaling, for example, can help you process your reactions and emotions and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Managing your stress can also keep you healthier by lowering your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Long-term stress can lead to elevated cortisol levels, which can cause health problems like anxiety, depression, heart disease, weight gain, and difficulty concentrating.
Ask yourself what else you can do besides worry? If you’re sheltering in place, take a look around. Do your cabinets need organizing? Could your closet use a good cleaning? Is there a book you want to read, a movie to watch, a new recipe to try. This is a great time to nurture ourselves with healthy delicious meals. Keeping your body and mind occupied with positive, productive activities will help you stay healthier and happier.
We can’t control what’s going on outside our homes, but we can control how we react. We can choose to be kind, to be careful, and to focus on the good around us. Take care of yourself!