Naturally you want to know how to relieve stress, stay sane and protect your mental health in this crisis. As a stress expert, this is what I recommend:
Breathe. Just 2 minutes of mindful deeper, slower breathing helps you physically calm down. (After all, you wouldn’t be breathing calmly if there was a threat, right?)
Exercise. It doesn’t have to be gym-level. 15 to 30 minutes a day of activity to raise your heart rate also raises serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels…and your mood.
Get Out. Yes, social distancing. But 15 minutes of sunshine a day (weather permitting) helps us produce our own vitamin D, which helps our cognitive processes and minimizes depression.
Control Clutter. Clutter sucks energy. That’s why it’s a core element of feng shui. Staying on top of it helps us maintain a sense of control and calm.
Nutrition. Smaller amounts (200mg-ish) of caffeine help dopamine flow more freely in our brains so we’ll be more motivated. Omega fatty acids reduce cortisol levels. Green vegetables and whole grains replace magnesium depleted by stress. Complex carbs, especially with vitamin B6, help us produce serotonin. Citrus and anything else with tryptophan helps because we can convert it to serotonin.
Routine. Stick to your normal sleeping, eating, and hygiene schedules as much as possible, and keep a to-do list to remind yourself of ways you can fill your time.
Passive (?) Entertainment. Get out your list of movies you wanted to see. Passive entertainment is a great distraction, but it can be more engaging if you’re looking at color themes, lighting choices, cinematography, or other technical aspects.
Learn. Read, watch YouTube videos, practice a new skill. Keeping your brain in active learning mode for a while each day bumps up your dopamine and keeps you motivated.
Maintain Social Connections. Video chat, make a call (like in the old days), or meet up in an online game. Reinforcing our connections keeps us grounded.
Information Control. Knowledge is power, until it’s overwhelming. Know when you’ve had enough so you can seek out something more positive. Don’t limit social media, but limit how you use it.
Aromatherapy. It’s been working for over 7000 years. It bypasses the fight-or-flight response – it’s that fast. Vanilla, lavender, and chamomile are good for stress. Fresh-brewed coffee or tea, or citrus can lift spirits.
Get Creative. Find a creative outlet. Or check out a museum or gallery offering visual tours. Viewing art for 40 minutes can reduce cortisol by over 30%.
Listen Up. Music with a rhythm of 60-70 beats per minute decreases adrenaline and increases serotonin. Ideal as background music. If you play an instrument or sing, practice!
Offer to Help. We’re in this together, but there are those who can’t do much right now. Pull weeds for your neighbor. Share your knowledge and tutor kids. Put together a free webinar or master class. Helping others reduces stress and our sense of isolation, and boosts dopamine.
Pet the Pets. Got furry ones? Spend quality time with them and you’ll trigger a boost of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for feeling good and bonded when we’re with a good friend or loved one. It does the same for our pets, who pick up on our stress.
Rate Your Day. Start a journal and rate your stress or mood every day. But while you’re at it, list three things you’re thankful for or happy about. Every. Damn. Day. It sounds trite and cliché but it does improve mood.
Guided Visualizations. I’m recording two of them and hope to have them available shortly. One is general stress relief and relaxation, the other is to help us remember to stop touching our faces! If you’d be especially interested in either of these, please let me know and I’ll prioritize it. Email me at email@example.com or message me on Twitter @AdinaWollam.