For starters, try checking the news only twice a day, call your family, and make your bed every morning. Here are all the ways experts are coping with the coronavirus pandemic!
There are many chances that you won’t contract coronavirus and get sick with the disease it causes, COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel some negative effects from everything that’s happening in the world, especially when it comes to your mental health. All you have to do is scrolling through your news feed to feel anxious and stressed as you watch the pandemic spread around the globe.
However, it’s not just you that’s freaking out: 80 percent of Americans reported being very concerned about this pandemic, 29 percent said their emotional wellbeing is suffering, and 22 percent reported that their mental health worsened in the last week due to concerns about the coronavirus, in a new public poll from the news website Axios.
Expect those numbers to rise quickly as the effects of school closures, business restrictions, social distancing and the overloading of the medical system are only beginning to set in, says Cliff Young, president of the global marketing research firm Ipsos, U.S. Public Affairs. “America is just now coming to grips with the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak,” he says.
This is an overwhelming event for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you are helpless in facing the uncertain days ahead. To help you cope with all the stress and anxiety, health and wellness experts share what they are doing to deal with their own stress and anxiety.
“I’m only checking the news twice a day”
Coronavirus-related news seems to change by the hour, keeping you occupied on your news feed, but while this may feel productive in some ways, it will only increase your stress level and anxiety. You need to find a balance between staying informed and staying sane, says W. Nate Upshaw, MD, a clinical psychiatrist with NeuroSpa TMS in Tampa, Florida. “I stay up-to-date on the latest information about COVID-19 by checking the CDC and local news twice a day, rather than all day long,” he says.
“I go out in the sunshine every morning”
Drinking your coffee outside in morning sunlight is one of the most effective ways to boost your mood and the effect lasts all day, Dr. Upshaw says. “I take a walk outside in the sunshine, first thing every morning,” he says. “It releases stress, I get exercise, fresh air, and it’s a great start to my healthy daily routine.”
Additionally, sunlight has many other health benefits, including improving your immune system, which is very important when it comes to fighting off a virus.
“I check in virtually every day with my loved ones”
Isolation, which is an essential part of “social distancing,” can quickly lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. However, thanks to the advanced technology, we have the tools to stay in touch with our loved ones: Texting, Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, and social media apps were all made for the purpose of connecting people.
“I stay connected to my world and my family and friends through technology,” says Lisa Yee, a certified personal trainer, life coach, and yoga teacher in San Diego, California. “Talking to them helps me stay calm through the chaos and be optimistic during this crisis.”
“I’m learning to play the guitar”
Simply listening to music is a great way to relax, but playing an instrument may have added stress-busting powers, according to a 2017 study published in Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain. Robert Williams, MD, a family medicine doctor and geriatrician in Lakewood, Colorado says now is the perfect time to take advantage of this effect.
“Personally, I find that learning new things or reviving old hobbies helps with stress and anxiety by keeping me mentally engaged and distracted from my worries,” he says. “During this time I have decided to learn how to play the guitar. I find it puts my mind at ease and also nurtures creativity.”
There are plenty of online tutorials that will teach you to play whatever instrument you may have laying around.
“I’m making my own ‘fast food’”
What you eat can have a big impact in your mood so Claire Siegel, a registered dietitian and founder of Nutritional Freedom, is making it a priority to eat nutrient-dense whole-foods meals.
“When you’re stressed it may feel easier to reach for convenience foods but you can make healthy food just as convenient,” she says. She makes time each day to prep the meals, preparing a variety of components including non-starchy veggies, a healthy carb, protein, and fat.
“My go-to right now is shredded chicken, sauteed bell peppers and onions that I can make into a burrito bowl or a stir fry, depending on what I’m in the mood for,” she says.
“I’m moving every few hours”
Exercising every morning will help you to let go of the bad feelings, however, the stress and anxiety can come back during your day. Thankfully it doesn’t take an hour-long sweat-drenched “workout” to bring back those feel-good brain chemicals, Siegel says.
“I’ll stretch, do a short YouTube video or take a walk around my neighborhood,” she says. “Being sedentary and spending too much time in my head can cause me to feel disconnected but even a little exercise is an amazing stress reliever.”
“I’m cleaning my bedroom”
“My motto is clean house, clean mind,” says Venus Nicolino, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, California.
It makes sense: you should try to make your home a clean and happy place, considering that you’re going to be stuck indefinitely quarantined in your house. You don’t have to do a full spring clean to feel good, simply making your bed or doing the dishes will make you feel instantly happier and less stressed.
“I’m looking around myself and asking, ‘What needs changing?’ ‘What mess lies underneath my bed?’ When we’re able to control our immediate environment, it helps us let go of what we cannot control,” she says.
“I’m meditating twice a day”
Meditation actions like a chill pill for your whole body and this is just one of its many science-backed benefits. “The longer I try to ignore, deny, or avoid the fear and anxiety of the moment, the longer I’ll hold onto these difficult emotions and will find it difficult to stay focused on positive things,” says Jill Sherer Murray, a journalist known for her TEDx talk “The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go” and founder of the lifestyle brand Let Go For It.
Her way to “feel all the feelings” without letting them overwhelm her is through transcendental meditation. “I meditate twice a day to stay present, and grounded in what’s real,” she says.
“I post my goals on a sticky note on my computer”
We’re all forced to spend much time on our computers these days considering that many people are now working from home, but it’s important not to get sucked into the endless news cycle.
“When I feel myself going down a dark rabbit hole, I look at it and it immediately lifts my mood,” she says. “We all had goals before this global pandemic hit and we can still keep working towards them. The key is re-focusing on what they are and how we’ll achieve them. Things are different now but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It forces us to become more effective problem solvers, to innovate, and use a shift in perspective to find powerful new ways of getting things done.”
“I take some really deep breaths”
Taking deep breaths is so overrated, and it is one of the most basic things that you can do and yet it’s amazing how many of us forget to breathe properly when we are stressed out, says Namita Kulkarni, a yoga teacher in India who writes a yoga travel blog called Radically Ever After.
“I start my day with a few minutes of a type of yogic breathing called Ujjayi breath (also called Ocean breath) to counter stress and fear in these highly uncertain times,” she explains. “Ujjayi breath works by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. It sets a peaceful, centered tone for the rest of my day and I’m less likely to be thrown into fear or panic with every news update.”