The COVID-19 pandemic can take a toll on our mental health. Information overload, stay at home guidelines, and safety concerns can overwhelm our thoughts, leading to anxiety, stress, and depression. As we navigate through these difficult times, it’s important to know about coping strategies that help reduce stress and promote mental well-being. Here are five practical ways to help you destress and take charge of your mental health.
1. Prioritize exercise
It’s not a secret that regular exercise increases your overall physical health, but did you know that it can also help you destress and boost your mental health? Virtually any form of exercise, from getting your blood pumping through an aerobic exercise to gentle morning yoga, can lower your stress levels. Here’s how exercise works to reduce stress:
- Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that, when released, help decrease pain sensations and boost feelings of euphoria.
- Physical activity has meditative qualities. Whether you are engaging in an intense cardio workout or practicing Pilates at home, physical activity can help distract your mind from stressors so you can focus on other things.
- Exercise helps reduce stress hormones like cortisol. While cortisol plays a crucial role in our body’s function, high levels of the hormone can lead to stress, high blood pressure, and cognitive problems.
If working out from home seems like a challenge, we covered a few ways you can stay active at home during the Coronavirus. Remember to consult your primary physician before you start any exercise program.
2. Take news and social media breaks
Most of us want to stay up to date on all of the developments of COVID-19. However, overexposure to negative news can send our stress levels through the roof. Also remember that not everything that’s said about COVID-19 is necessarily true. If scrolling through news feeds has you feeling especially blue, you are not alone. In fact, some reports suggest seven out of ten U.S. adults think that taking a break from the news is necessary for improving mental well-being.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends taking frequent breaks from social media and news outlets when you are feeling overwhelmed. Turn off your phone or schedule media blackout times throughout the day to give yourself a break.
3. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a stress-reducing technique that encourages you to focus on your present state, without judgment or feeling overwhelmed. Think of mindful practice as a self-assessment of your physical, mental, and emotional states without allowing negative self-criticism to creep in. As you become more aware of what you are feeling and how you react to stressors, you become more capable of controlling your reactions to stress.
Some studies suggest that practicing mindfulness can calm the amygdala, a crucial factor in our brain’s stress response. While mastering mindfulness is a lifelong pursuit, even one week of mindful practice has shown to significantly reduce stress levels. While there are a variety of ways to practice, you can start with simple meditation techniques or 1-minute exercises you can do from a smart device.
4. Connect virtually with loved ones
During this difficult time, we need the support of our friends and family. In fact, having a strong support network is shown to help people deal with stress more effectively. Yet, with stay at home recommendations and social distancing guidelines, seeing our loved ones can seem impossible. That’s why it’s important to remember that social distancing doesn’t mean you have to stop being social altogether. You can still connect with those most important to you through virtual hangouts over video chat software like Google Hangouts, Zoom or others. Here are some ways you can connect with friends and family during the Coronavirus:
- Try a video chat instead of using the phone. Being able to see one another face-to-face has positive effects like reinforcing a sense of community and togetherness.
- Plan a virtual movie night. Suggest a fun film for everyone to watch. Pick a date and time and watch it together. You can even live chat during the film or plan a video chat to discuss it later. Not only will this activity help distract from the stress, it will give you and your loved ones something to talk about and engage over.
- Organize an online happy hour. You can come up with a fancy new cocktail or mocktail for everyone to make at home. Invite your group to video chat and talk about their day.
5. Take your health seriously and schedule a Telehealth appointment
Stress can express itself through physical and mental symptoms, from aches and pains, to digestive issues, to cognitive problems. If stress is interrupting your daily life, it’s important to talk with your physician.
While making a trip to the doctor might not always be possible, virtual visits are becoming more and more readily available. Telehealth appointments can be done from your tablet or smartphone, allowing you to talk to your practitioner in real time about your health concerns from the comfort of your home.
Northwest Primary Care is currently offering Telehealth visits to help you stay in charge of your health during the Coronavirus. If you would like to schedule a virtual appointment with one of our skilled practitioners, call 503.659.4988 Our team will help you decide if a Telehealth visit is best for you.