April is Stress Awareness Month. Given the recent circumstances, it is likely that you or someone you know is experiencing a whirlwind of emotions. Working from home, stressful work environments, and of course, social distancing and the coronavirus all influence our mental health. During these uncertain times, it is easy to feel anxious, stressed, and scared. However, there are certainly ways that you can focus on your mental health to ease these negative emotions.
Take a Break from the News
Although it is incredibly important to remain in the loop about what’s happening during this time, it can also consume you. Whether you’re scrolling through social media or watching the news, there is a constant influx of scary information. There comes a point where consistently filling your brain with news about the current happenings may unknowingly be causing you stress and anxiety. Limit the amount of time you spend watching the news so that you are aware of what’s happening each day, but not letting it consume your mind.
Regular exercise is important for managing stress no matter the circumstances — with or without a pandemic. Although you don’t have access to your typical gym, try going for a jog or a walk to get your blood flowing. Aerobic exercise releases endorphins, which in turn can help reduce stress. Not only does exercising itself reduce stress, but it can also improve your ability to sleep. Additionally, spending some time outside is a good way to get out of the house, while still practicing social distancing.
Check-In with People
Just because we can’t all be together, doesn’t mean we can’t be there for each other. Luckily, we live in a world where we are constantly connected through technology. Have a group call with your friends or family! A virtual happy hour seems to be a common trend these days. Through apps like Zoom, Facetime, and Skype, we can be more connected with out-of-town friends than ever. Even chatting on the phone with a friend, parent, or grandparent will likely boost your mood. It’s important to check in on loved ones during these times because everyone is coping in their own way. Now more than ever, you have the time to pick up the phone and call your loved ones.
Try to Maintain Sleep and Eating Habits
While practicing social distancing, it is likely that you will feel bored. Boredom often leads to snacking when you aren’t actually hungry. Additionally, stress can also impact your diet, potentially causing you to emotionally eat. During this time period, it’s important to try to maintain a healthy diet. By keeping healthier snacks on hand, when you get the urge to snack, it will be on something nutritious. Maintaining your sleep schedule is also important. It’s easy to think, “I’m not going anywhere tomorrow, why would I go to bed at a decent hour?” However, lack of sleep can negatively impact your health and your emotions. Ensure that you are getting enough sleep to stay happier and healthier!
Increase Your Sense of Preparedness
Although this situation makes you feel a lack of control, try to focus on what you can control. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, increasing your sense of preparedness may help you feel that you have more control over the situation. By practicing social distancing, hand washing, and cleaning, you may feel better knowing you are taking steps of prevention. Additionally, making sure that you and your family have a supply of food and other things you may need increases your sense of preparedness. It is easy to feel discouraged and worried, however, it’s important to frame this as something that we can all get through together. The US Department of Veteran Affairs also recommends the following:
- Make a plan for when you’re feeling stressed to give you a sense of control in the situation
- Combat negative emotions of stress, fear, and anxiety by staying busy physically and mentally
- Engage in positive coping behaviors
- Accept the reality of this situation, but think of it as “a challenge to be met”
It is obvious to say that this pandemic has turned our lives upside down. It is also easy to say that most of us have never experienced anything like this, which only adds to the stress, fear, and anxiety. While April is Stress Awareness Month, there is no better time to take care of your mental health during these difficult times. Connect with loved ones, exercise, and do what you need to in order to take care of your mind and body.
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