4 Ways to Reduce Stress During COVID-19
Are you stressed? Perhaps a more pertinent question would be, “How stressed are you?” According to a study conducted on behalf of the American Psychological Association, “Almost 8 in 10 Americans (78%) say that the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress.” The same article mentioned, “Around 7 in 10 Americans (72%) report that this is the lowest point in the nation’s history that they can remember.”
Certainly, we are all adapting to a new way of life. Parents are learning to juggle working from home while schooling their kids. Essential workers are putting in long shifts to provide needed services, often at risk to their own health. People of all ages are becoming familiar with (and in some cases fatigued over) video conferencing tools, in order to stay in touch with their friends and families. To say that many are stressed is an understatement.
What can be done to stay sane during these difficult times? Read on for four practical suggestions that can help you combat stress.
1. Breathe properly.
There are several reasons why proper breathing through the nose is beneficial. The Breath Effect notes, “Unlike air coming in via the mouth, air coming in the nose must travel through two narrow passageways. This resistance to the intake of air slows things down, giving you a nice, deep, slow breathing pattern. The nose provides around 50% more resistance than the mouth does.” And that’s important because our bodies require a balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide and breathing too fast can be harmful. Hyperventilation, anyone?
Another benefit of nasal breathing is that it increases nitric oxide, which is produced in the sinuses. According to LVI Global, nitric oxide affects every organ in the body, and can improve blood flow to the organs. It can also lower blood pressure, which tends to go up when we’re stressed.
2. Get adequate sleep.
Sleep is often overlooked as a stress-reducing method, which is a shame because the Sleep Foundation estimates that about 30 percent of the general population complains of sleep disruption.
Although many factors can negatively affect sleep quality, one culprit of poor sleep is that many people use blue-light emitting devices (i.e. cell phones, computers, TV) before bed. Harvard Health says, “While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light at night does so more powerfully. Harvard researchers and their colleagues conducted an experiment comparing the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light to exposure to green light of comparable brightness. The blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).”
Some ways to improve sleep quality include: shutting off devices a few hours before bedtime, avoiding caffeine late in the day, and trying to go to bed the same time every night.
3. Avoid watching too much news.
While it’s certainly important to stay informed, watching too much news (especially from disreputable sources) can increase anxiety. This is especially true right now, as we’re bombarded with almost exclusively negative topics.
Jacqueline Bullis, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in McLean Hospital’s Center of Excellence in Depression and Anxiety Disorders recommends, “Determine what information is helpful in learning ways to stay safe (such as how to wear face coverings when in public) versus what is unhelpful and can lead to more anxiety (such as looking up the number of new cases every day).” She also says, “Be selective about media. Stick to trusted sources, such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
4. Exercise regularly.
This is not a new thought: exercise can help decrease your stress levels. Erica M. Jackson, Ph.D., of ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal, notes, “The exact physiological mechanisms to explain how exercise improves stress have not been delineated. Human and animal research indicates that being physically active improves the way the body handles stress because of changes in the hormone responses, and that exercise affects neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin that affect mood and behaviors (9,11). In addition to the possible physiological mechanisms, there also is the possibility that exercise serves as a time-out or break from one’s stressors.”
While everyone is different and schedules vary, the MayoClinic recommends getting
“at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.”
In conclusion, if you’re feeling stressed, know that you’re not alone. Understandably, these are challenging times. And while we may not be able to remove the causes of our stress, these four practical suggestions can help you cope with it more effectively.
Any other stress-reducing tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!