There’s no question that Covid-19 is ramping up our stress. At times it feels like this ever-changing situation is one big stress test!
Fear, uncertainty, and worry are infecting us—way ahead of the virus. As our world gradually reopens it’s hard not to wonder what our new normal will be.
So, what does it take to maintain some measure of peace and calm—and still joyfully live our lives—during this pandemic?
Here are my top three tips to help you stay calm and carry on:
Tip #1 Spot and Shift Stressful Thoughts: Think of your mind like one big stress-catcher (like a Native American dream-catcher) and learn to talk back to your stressful thoughts. Try this as each one arises: spot it, pause, and choose a calmer way to think. Here’s an example:
- My original thought: Oh no, my son’s mother-in-law (whom he now lives with) has a co-worker who tested positive for the virus. Are my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson now more vulnerable?
- My calmer thought: They are all healthy and strong. They’re practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and washing their hands. My worrying about this won’t keep them safe.
Tip #2 Breathe: Once you spot your stress one of the quickest ways to counteract your body’s natural fight or flight stress response is to check in with your breath. Are you taking shallow breaths? Are you holding your breath? Here are some easy ways to use your breath to restore calm in the moment:
- Take a breathing pause: Breathe in for the count of five or six. Exhale for the count of six. A few rounds of deep breathing will immediately calm your parasympathetic nervous system.
- Try square breathing: To use this four-step practice you breathe in for the count of four, hold your breath in for the count of four, breathe out for the count of four, hold your breath out for the count of four, and repeat. The attention this practice requires also helps to divert your thinking from worry and fear.
Tip #3 Practice Gratitude: There is a growing body of research on gratitude which shows many positive benefits. In one study with college students, researchers found that students who were higher in gratitude were less stressed and less depressed. Here are a few gratitude tips:
- Keep your gratitude practice simple. Find a consistent time to help you practice gratitude every day. You could even think of one thing you’re grateful for each time you wash your hands!
- Jot your gratitude. Writing about gratitude has been shown to be especially helpful. Think beyond the obvious and aim to jot something different each day. In time you’ll find yourself feeling grateful for little things during the day that previously would have passed by without appreciation.
As we all face Covid-19 stress, it’s my wish that we discover how to joyfully live our lives while also staying safe. What works best for me is getting outside every day for some fresh air and a walk or bike ride. The outdoors always helps maintain my sanity and relieves my stress. What about you?
Mostly I’m over-focusing on what I can control (hand washing etc..) and under-focusing on what I can’t control (whether or not I’ll get sick).
And don’t forget that our immune systems function better when we are less stressed.
So, by catching and shifting your stressful thoughts, taking a pause to breathe deeply, and practicing gratitude you can choose to keep Covid-19 stress from infecting your life.
For more insightful advice from Jamie, please visit: