The pandemic has been nothing short of stressful. The uncertainty and anxiety we’re all experiencing is, well, unprecedented (I’m sure we’re all tired of that word). There are many different types of stress you could be experiencing, such as personal stress from isolation, cultural stress from what’s going on in your community, or financial stress from job loss or reduced hours. Even if you feel like you’re pushing through and coping with the daily stresses, they could still be affecting your daily life in ways you may not have realized.
Relax your shoulders, unclench your jaw, and breathe
Our bodies hold onto stress in many ways that impact our health. When we’re anxious, we tend to get tense and rigid. The pandemic has brought on more anxieties than we’re used to, which means our brains are almost constantly on alert. Tense muscles are ones that are ready for the “flight or fight” response, even though there is no emergency it needs to be prepared for. If you’re noticing that you are more on edge than usual, take a few minutes out of every hour to relax through deep breathing, stretching, or going for a short stroll.
You can’t sleep and spend the day in a fog
Your head hits the pillow and your mind is reeling. You can’t seem to turn it off at the end of the day, so you’re left with a poor night’s sleep. Stress and anxiety impact your sleep cycle because of hyper-vigilance, or the idea that your body isn’t ready to rest. You wake up in a brain fog that doesn’t go away and you’re more irritable than normal. What gives? Help your brain slow down and avoid social media, watching or reading the news, or anything else causing you unnecessary stress for a couple of hours before bedtime. Read a book you enjoy, spend quality time with your family, or call a friend instead.
Focus? What’s that?
Stress and anxiety contribute to a lack in focus because our brains are thinking about anything but what it needs to. The pandemic is a constant, as well as anything happening as a result of it. In short, our minds are busy thinking about the threat and uncertainty of these times instead of the work you need to get done, the phone call you need to make, or the grocery shopping you need to do.
Have patience with yourself during this time, no matter how frustrating it may be. Try to create a routine that gets you in the right brain space for a task. For example, maybe you always make a cup of coffee and walk around a green space before sitting down at your desk. Maybe you like to listen to your favorite pump-up song before you begin your workout, or a calming playlist before beginning a stressful work task. Whatever your routine may be, keep it consistent so your brain is ready to focus on the next task at hand.
Not all coping strategies work for everyone, so try a few to see what’s best for you. Maybe you start writing a gratitude journal entry every morning. Or, you start practicing living room yoga instead of going on a long walk every other day. Maybe starting screenless Saturdays helps you slow down and appreciate the little things that bring you joy. Despite the uncertainties, creating and practicing your stress and anxiety management techniques will help you come through these unprecedented times healthier and happier.