With emotions high during the Covid-19 pandemic, feeling stressed may be your new normal.
You may feel overwhelmed, have a lack of focus and concentration, have worrisome thoughts that cloud your head or be aware of tension in your neck and shoulders.
This may lead to trouble sleeping, turning to food or alcohol for self-soothing or even worsen feelings of depression or anxiety.
At a time when we want to turn to others for help, we are also social distancing, leaving many to feel more isolated than ever.
And yet, each one of us has the power to better manage our stress levels.
I want to give a shout out to our psychologists at the Center for Lifestyle Medicine for helping to guide our current telehealth practice (and this blog) with behavioral targets for stress management that are doable at home.
Here are some tips to guide you:
1 – Build your own Recharge and Recreation Toolbox
Daily, turn your good intentions into a plan by making time for the things you know will make you feel better and bring more calm and balance into your life.
Engaging in self care is now more important than ever.
Connect virtually with friends and family on the phone or through face time, Skype or Zoom.
Schedule time in your day to do things you enjoy such as listening to music, playing with a pet, meditating, reading a good book, writing in a journal, engaging in a hobby you enjoy, playing a game or taking a bubble bath.
Try some great apps for relaxation such as Insight Timer, Calm and Headspace.
Include movement in your toolbox such as taking a walk outside, doing a virtual exercise or dance class, using home exercise equipment for aerobics or resistance training, stretching or doing yoga.
Limit screen time at night to help you relax before going to bed; this will increase your chances of getting enough hours of restful sleep – so important for both your emotional and physical health.
2 – Promote feelings of productivity and gratitude
Feeling stressed and frantic can have you moving through your day without feeling you accomplished much of anything.
Instead, make time for an activity that brings you a sense of accomplishment, which may be doing something as simple as organizing a drawer to downloading a meditation app on your phone to cleaning out your pantry to make more use of food items you don’t even know you have.
If you have children at home, make this a family affair by organizing a play room or child’s work area for home schooling.
Putting limits on behaviors that are unproductive, such as watching too much TV, stress eating or drinking too much alcohol, will help you maintain your energy level and positive focus.
You can manage stress eating during this pandemic.
Remind yourself of the aspects of your life that you are most grateful for such as having a roof over your head, food on the table and family members and friends who care about you.
3 – Get professional help – virtually
If you’re having trouble managing your stress level on your own, reach out to your primary care or mental health provider as telehealth ‘visits’ by phone or through video chat are now being conducted across the country.
If stress eating is a problem or you’re having trouble putting together a home exercise program, you can check to see if you qualify to have telehealth ‘visits’ with a registered dietitian nutritionist or a physical therapist.
As the Covid-19 Pandemic is adding stress to all of our lives, I hope this blog is a reminder that we cannot ‘wish’ stress away.
Stay safe and be well!
Robert Kushner, MD