Globally, we are now living in challenging times with everyone impacted by COVID-19 one way or another. It is on the news everyday, which may create more anxiety for some people. So, what can you do to manage your wellbeing through all of this? Here are seven tips to help you manage your stress and anxiety to maintain your wellbeing and self-care.
- Keep things in perspective. It is important to put the news that we read in perspective and maintain a positive outlook to manage our stress and anxiety. Perhaps a new perspective to consider! You have so much power in how you think, perceive things and behave. In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), you recognize that your thoughts become your feelings, which become your behaviour. This happens instantaneously. Essentially, you are your thoughts and feelings – they are interconnected and directly connected to your behaviour and actions. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, which means that what you focus on tends to become reinforced and turn into your reality. Therefore, you have the power to choose how you respond. How are you perceiving and responding? Are you choosing to see and focus on the positives?
- Get the facts. It is helpful to use credible sources that you can trust. HealthLinkBC has a webpage for information on COVID-19, how to protect yourself, your family and your community. They have a COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool. You may also find useful information from other local government or health agencies, such as Vancouver Coastal Health.
- Take a deep breath. Deep breathing activates our relaxation response and stops the fight-flight-freeze response, which is also known as the stress response. Deep breathing also helps to deliver oxygen to our blood. If you find that your chest rises when you breathe, you are not deep breathing, but chest breathing or shallow breathing. To practice deep breathing, start by relaxing your body. Breathe gently and deeply to your lower belly. You will notice that your belly will rise and inflate like a balloon when you inhale. Now exhale slowly and gently. You will notice that your belly will deflate as you exhale. Exhale completely. Keep repeating this. If you noticed feeling dizzy, stop because your body is not yet used to the amount of oxygen. Breathe less deeply. Never force your breath. Breathe slowly and gently. Your body will naturally adapt in its own time.
- Stay connected. Socially, it can be argued that we are already quite individualistic and disconnected as a society. Being socially connected is important in maintaining our health and wellbeing. Maintain your social networks with your friends, colleagues and family. Use your phone, video conferencing, and social media. Connecting with each other will prevent social isolation and is valuable for sharing feelings, strengthening our connections with our loved ones, and calming stress.
- Drink lots of water. Continue to eat healthy and drink lots of water. Water is essential for the kidneys and all the cells and organs in our body. Water delivers oxygen throughout the body. In fact, the blood is more than 90 percent water. Water also helps regulate our body temperature, digestive system and helps maintain blood pressure. Essentially, water helps flush out toxins and body wastes and hydrate your body. Drinking warm is even better for you for many reasons. It helps your arteries and veins to expand, giving more space for the blood to flow, it helps your circulation and is better for your digestion system.
- Get some fresh air and use gentle exercise to reduce stress. Walking helps to physically release cortisol, the stress hormones, from our body. If you can go out for a walk, maintain physical distancing of 2 metres apart and wear a mask if necessary. If you are limited to your place and have a backyard, take a walk in your backyard. If you are limited to your apartment, open your windows, smell the fresh air and use your available space to practice some relaxing exercise such as tai chi and hatha yoga. Do anything that helps to calm and reduce your stress, whether it is listening to music, dancing, drawing, journaling, meditation, etc.
- Seek additional help. If you are still feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and find that it is affecting you personally and professionally, consider connecting with a trained and experienced mental/emotional health or wellness professional. They can work with you to deal with extreme stress and how to manage adversity.
Stay healthy, well and safe!