The COVID-19 pandemic can cause stress and anxiety as it is disrupting normal life for many people all at once. Below is a curated collection of ideas (with plenty of links to additional resources) to help you ease some stress, even for a minute or two where you can find a moment to just breathe and enjoy some quiet hygge moments.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
You can use this physical distancing as a way of changing your mindset from one of being on the go to one of slowing down, appreciating the moment, and allowing more space in life. Try to shift the narrative from ‘being stuck at home’ to ‘I’m doing my part to stay safe, healthy and protecting others’. It’s important to remember that isolation is not a punishment but a form of altruism. With this mindset, you can practice being kinder in your self-talk, empathetic toward yourself and others, and experience more moments of happiness throughout your day.
PRACTICE SERIOUS SELF-ACCEPTANCE
Give yourself what psychologists call “radical self-acceptance”, accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question or guilt. Acknowledge that you are doing the best you can in a very difficult situation. Practice radical self-love and go easy on yourself. YOU GOT THIS!
CREATE A ROUTINE
When working or studying from home, setting a routine is important as it will help you feel productive. Setting an alarm, getting up at a regular time, doing chores, keeping the house tidy, having some physical activity, and spending time alone are all important. Resist the temptation to stop your morning routine or evening chill-out . Keep things as normal as possible, just like they were when you were going to the office or school, and you’ll keep your well-being in check.
Try communicating face to face with FaceTime, Skype or Zoom. Phone calls, texting and emails also work! Whatever mode you choose, connecting with other people to get meaningful and emotional support is crucial. Try having game days with others using virtual tools like the ones suggested in Oprahmag.com, People or the House Party App. This is important for your children as well and you can set up virtual play-dates with friends daily via the same tools including Messenger Kids. Get creative with kid friendly ideas like virtual games, dance parties, craft parties, museum tours and even virtual sleepovers.
GET FRESH AIR AND SUN, EVERYDAY
Get some Vitamin D. If you’re able to, get outside and soak up some sun. Vitamin D has an important role in regulating your mood, as well as strengthening the immune system. Yes, you need to maintain a minimum distance of six feet from others but walking nature is one of the most powerful things we can do for our bodies and brains to survive and thrive. If possible, seek out parks, walking trails and forested areas to get your dose of sunshine. Try geocaching to keep the kids engaged while exploring the outdoors. If going on a walk isn’t an option, perhaps sit out on your porch, balcony, or backyard. If you don’t have a private outdoor space, even sitting by an open sunny window can help.
CREATE A SELF-CARE COMFORT BOX
A self-care kit can be a collection of items and tools that help to soothe you. Self-care tools can involve a sensory component (seven senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, movement and comforting pressure). Some ideas for each of the senses: a soft blanket or stuffed animal, hot chocolate or tea, photos of vacations, comforting music, lavender or eucalyptus oil, candles, silk eye mask, eye pillows, cozy socks, lip balm and a weighted blanket are all wonderful. A journal, inspirational books, embroidery kits, knitting supplies, mandala colouring books, bubbles to blow and blowing watercolor on paper through a straw are visually appealing as well as work on controlled breath. Hygge in a Box also makes for a great self-care box. For kids, help them create a self-care comfort box as well (often a shoe-box or bin they can decorate) that they can use on the ready for first aid when overwhelmed. In addition, check out these 100 Activities for kids to do while at home and Outschool which offers great classes for kids.
CREATE YOUR OWN COZY NOOK AND PLAN FOR ALONE TIME
Social distancing isn’t easy for anyone, but it can be especially tricky when multiple people live together; you’re going to need your space and time apart. Right now, personal space is at a premium, especially when there are several members at home. It is important that people can retreat to their own area for work and for relaxation. Create a nook or corner that feels particularly cozy and include an assortment of favourite items in the space, like your favourite books, a cozy blanket, a candle, and a houseplant. For children, help them identify a place where they can go to relax when overwhelmed. You can make this place cozy by using blankets, pillows, cushions, scarves, stuffed animals, beanbags, tents, and “forts”. Maybe hang up fairy lights if you have for that magical feel. Will feel like indoor camping. Everyone needs their own special place to go to be alone.
LOOK FOR GOOD NEWS STORIES AND BE A HELPER TOO
There are so many heartwarming stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in truly incredible ways. Find purpose in helping the people around you. For example, email, text or call to check on your friends, family members and neighbors — especially those who are elderly or unwell. If you know someone who can’t get out, ask if there’s something you can do, such as collecting groceries or prescriptions, but always be sure to follow the WHO and your government recommendations on social distancing measures. You can find ways, big and small, to give back to others with some great ideas suggested here.
STAY HYDRATED AND EAT WELL
This one may seem overly obvious, but stress and eating often don’t go hand in hand. When stress arises, we often find ourselves over-indulging and emotional eating or on the flip side forgetting to eat all together. Work hard to find a healthy balance of getting mostly greens and proteins with some comfort foods and some treats mixed in. Drink lots of water and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new! Bringing out the crock-pot, blender and pressure cooker is a great plan. Check out some online cooking classes as well.
START YOUR SPRING CLEANING
Spring is closely associated with the life-changing magic of tidying up and clearing out, aka spring cleaning. There’s just something so liberating about cleansing ourselves of material things that we don’t need or want. It is also a great time to clean out the yard and get it ready for summer. Research also shows that a deep cleaning improves productivity, increases focus, improves health, reduces stress and makes you happier. If we have a cluttered mind, it is difficult to live authentically, wholeheartedly and accept simplicity.
MAKE TIME FOR EXERCISE
We all know that exercising is good for your body, but it also provides impressive benefits for your mind and overall well-being. Resist the temptation of turning into a couch potato which feels so easy to do right now, but deep down you know it’s the worst thing to do. You don’t need to sign up for an intense online Boot Camp, anything that gets your body energized will help you feel better. Moving your body for a minimum of 30 minutes a day is what is usually recommended and getting your heart rate up is even better, don’t we all love a good sweat? Do whatever you can, you’ll feel accomplished afterwards and a bonus is that you’ll have a better night’s sleep. There are dozens of free online resources to try from yoga, Pilates, Zumba and really anything in between. Try Pop Sugar Fitness on YouTube or these No Equipment Online Fitness Classes.
SLEEP HYGIENE PRACTICES TO GET A GOOD NIGHT’S REST
Sleep problems are common. And right now, many are losing a proper night’s rest. Getting a good night’s sleep can improve your mental well-being and help you to better manage your anxiety. The good news is that there are things you can do to improve your sleep. To list a few: Power down bright lights/screen time at least an hour before bed. Stick to a similar bedtime every night – even on weekends. Find the right temperature for your bedroom. No big meals or workouts too close to bedtime. De-stress through meditation, stretching and deep breathing.
PRACTICE MINDFULNESS, EVERYDAY
These are trying times and right now, much of the personal time that used to be part of our daily routines — commutes, going to the gym, kids’ activities, time alone at home, going to the store — is not available. It is critical that we be intentional about creating space to recharge and incorporating mindful practices into your daily routine to help calm anxiety and build healthy coping skills. Deciding to set time aside each day to practice mindful activities is a great place to start – morning mindfulness can help set the tone for the day whether its through deep breathing, meditating, exercising or simply having a cup of coffee with a candle flickering while sitting there and just being in the moment. Taking five minutes to do that before the day begins is even more important now because this is not our typical routine and we’re feeling very out of sorts. Free Mindfulness Resources to Find Calm and Nourish Resilience During the COVID Outbreak.
KEEP YOUR MIND SHARP
Keep your brain active! There are dozens of ways you can help keep your mind sharp and brain nourished: Read a Book. Reading is beneficial on many levels. When you read, not only do you get lost in the pages, but the act of reading itself builds connections within the brain that make it more active. Paint, Draw or Doodle. Whether it’s a masterpiece or a simple doodle, the activity itself is an excellent workout for the brain and a good way to clear your mind. Learn Something New. Learning something new is one way to keep your mind on its toes and continually introduce new challenges. Whether you’re learning a new language or improving your computer skills, ongoing education is a safe bet to stay sharp, and interested. Check out online courses like those offered on Udemy for ideas. Do Puzzles. When you challenge and stimulate yourself intellectually, you exercise your brain and increase your mental capacity. Brain Games like crosswords and Sudoku are popular choices, but puzzles of all kinds are helpful.
GET HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT
As stated on the Mayo Clinic’s website: “Hoping mental health problems such as anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms. If you have concerns or if you experience worsening of mental health symptoms, ask for help when you need it, and be upfront about how you’re doing. To get help you may want to: Call or use social media to contact a close friend or loved one. Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community. Contact your employee assistance program, if your employer has one, and get counseling or ask for a referral to a mental health professional. Call your primary care provider or mental health professional to ask about appointment options to talk about your anxiety or depression and get advice and guidance. Some may provide the option of phone, video or online appointments”.
ABOVE ALL, REMIND YOURSELF DAILY THAT THIS IS TOO SHALL PASS
It may feel like this will never end. Please take time to remind yourself that although this is very unsettling and may go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a chapter in all our lives that will pass. We will return to feeling free, safe, busy, and connected in the days, weeks and months ahead. Look at the bright side – literally, it’s spring, the snow is melting, the sun is shining and for that, we have a lot to be grateful for!