Tips for Effective Stress Management and Self-Care during the COVID-19 Outbreak
Manage Stress/Cultivate Ways to Increase Your Sense of Calm
Be thoughtful about managing your intake of news. We certainly understand that people need to know what’s going on in the world, but the amount of information we take in can quickly become overwhelming. Each of us has our own saturation point and we need to know the signs that we are getting close to that place and redirect our energies/time to other activities that will hopefully be a bit more calming and centering for us.
Breathe – sit in a comfortable place and take a few deep breaths. Counting to 3 as you inhale, pause, and count to 3 as you exhale.
Meditation is an effective practice for staying grounded, calm, and clear. If you have an established practice, be sure to keep it up right now. If you don’t, there are a number of helpful phone apps that can get you started (e.g., Headspace, Insight Timer, Calm, etc.).
Stay Connected with Important Others
Even though we need to maintain a safe physical distance (> 6 feet) from one another right now, it’s important to remember that emotional connection is critical for well-being and actually helps to increase immune functioning.
We can still remain social, but we must temporarily shift our modes of contact to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Increase your skill set for virtual communication and reach out to colleagues, friends, and family by telephone, text messaging, FaceTime, Zoom, Webex, social media platforms, etc.
Uncertainty is scary. Human beings like to predict and control more than is practical or realistic. Trauma and crisis are the moments that remind us of how little control we really have over the world around us.
It’s very easy to be swept away in negative or catastrophic thinking when things feel out of control. If you find yourself grappling with thoughts that are upsetting and/or making you feel worse about yourself or the current situation, it’s best to combat those with more positive or optimistic thoughts. This is actually harder than it sounds. A simple approach is to imagine what you might say to a friend or loved one who is struggling with the same set of thoughts. We are often better able to offer a compassionate or hopeful response to another person than we are to ourselves.
If you aren’t well, please take the time to focus on taking care of yourself and getting better. Healthcare providers tend to be better at caring for others than they are when it comes to caring for themselves. Pushing on when you are under the weather runs the risk of keeping you sicker longer and possibly sharing that illness with others.
Don’t forget the basics: strive to get adequate sleep, eat nutritional food, be active and get sufficient exercise, and stay engaged in the world around you.
Establish a Healthy Routine
Pandemics and home quarantine are uncharted territory for most of us and it’s easy to feel that everything is different/not normal. One thing that helps us to stay centered is to reassert as much of our usual routine as we can under the circumstances.
Focus on what you can control – the ways that you take care of yourself, how you set up your local environment, who you contact, etc.
Laughter and Joy
There is joy and humor to be found even in our most challenging moments. Indeed, we may need to work a little harder to find it, but it’s there.
Be intentional about setting aside time for enjoyable activities, i.e., anything that helps you feel good and/or restore yourself. That can include spending time outside in nature (6 feet away from others), reading a novel, playing music, gardening, doing an art project, cooking, playing board games, watching movies/TV, calling friends/family, snuggling with your pet, etc.
When times are hard, it’s easy to focus on what is difficult, scary, or upsetting to us. That’s a natural part of the process involved in defining and addressing a problem, but we must be sure not to get stuck in that place of negativity.
One practice that has been shown to have a positive impact on mood and well-being is spending a few minutes every day reflecting on some of the things for which you are grateful. They can be as simple as the tree blooming in your yard, the time saved from commuting while we shelter at home, your dog’s cheerful enthusiasm when you enter the room, etc.
Please stay current and follow local guidelines regarding face covering, social distancing, and hygiene practices.
Websites/links with useful information on mental health, coping and resilience during COVID-19:
- American Psychological Association
- Centers for Disease Control
- Greater Good Science Center
- Mental Health America
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Institutes of Mental Health
- Psychology Today on Self-Care and Social Distancing
- Psychology Today on Self-Care Planning for COVID-19
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- World Health Organization
- Dr. Yellowlees Facebook Live interview