6 Ways To Help Ease Your Stress During Covid

By Holly Bieler
Updated on 31. Aug. 2020

For many people around the world, the last few months have been some of the most anxious in recent memory. Jobs have been lost, daily schedules upended, to say nothing of having to suddenly deal with and actively mitigate the constant threat of viral infection. Fortunately, there are small things you can do to decrease your stress levels. Read on for our top 6 tips on how to do just that.

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There is plenty to be anxious about these days, that is, and with everything going on, it’s understandable that taking the time to manage your stress levels might fall to the bottom of your to-do list. However, it’s never been more important to take your stress seriously. While it might seem like a mental problem, long-term stress can actually lead to a host of health issues, from heart disease and high blood pressure to depression. The good news is that in many cases, small adjustments can actually make a big impact on your stress levels, not solving them but helping make them more manageable. Below are 6 tips to do just that.

1. Exercise

This one is obvious, we know, but we can’t emphasize enough how important exercise is when you’re going through a stressful time. This is because exercise literally changes your brain chemistry. Even 20 minutes of low-impact exercise can lower your body’s stress hormones and increases the availability of important anti-anxiety neurochemicals like serotonin and endorphins, as well as neurochemicals which help level out emotions, keeping dramatic dips in mood at bay. 

2. Breathe

Again, this one might sound obvious, but taking a deep breath to relieve stress is more than an old wives’ remedy. Indeed, deep breathing actually physically rewires our bodies, making it easier to relax. This is due to our complex nervous systems, which operate under two branches-- the sympathetic nervous system, which gets the body ready for stressful situations (“fight or flight”), and the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the body recover from stress. When we take deep breaths, our diaphragm activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which produces a relaxing effect.

3. Examine your stress

If you’ve ever been to therapy, chances are you’re acquainted with the term “intrusive thoughts”. This is a term widely used in psychology to characterize recurring delusional, negative, fatalistic, or invasive thoughts which patients’ minds continuously return to and which cause them stress. While you might not think your stressors fall under this umbrella, it’s an instructive concept in that it helps you examine your stress from a distance. Next time you’re suffering from a stressful thought, take a moment to examine it objectively. You might be stressed that a parent will contract COVID-19, for instance. Instead of going down the rabbit hole of what would happen if they did, try to examine this stressful thought and its merits objectively instead. Are there specific reasons why you think your parent will contract COVID? I.e, is there any empirical evidence to suggest your stress is merited in this moment? Many times you’ll find that your stress is based on “what if”, fatalistic thinking, instead of actual reality. If this is the case, remember that stressing about the possibility of something will do nothing to help lessen the possibility of it occurring. Being stressed about it, on the other hand, will have a real physical impact on your body. Try to let it go immediately.

4. Make time for family and friends

It’s tempting to isolate when you’re anxious, more so than ever during COVID-19. However, making time for family and friends is a great way to help relieve stress. Studies have shown that spending times with friends or family actually results in the body releasing natural stress-relieving chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin. Any sort of engagement with someone you love, be it a socially distanced picnic or a Facetime, will have the same result.

5. Invest in some essential oils

This one might sound like an old wives’ remedy too, but a warm bath in some essential oils or even a new scented candle can actually have a significant effect on stress. Studies have shown that certain scents can have a powerful effect on stress. Lavender, specifically, has been shown to interact with our gamma-aminobutyric acid, inhibitory neurotransmitters which help relax the brain and quiet nervous system activity. Lemon, bergamot, and jasmine scents, among others, have also been shown to provoke similar relaxing effects in the body. 

6. Get help if you need it

Depression and acute anxiety can emerge at any time; just because you’ve never suffered from them before doesn’t mean you might not be suffering from them now. And if you are, there are tons of resources available, from medication to therapy, that has helped many people reclaim their lives from anxiety. If you feel like your stress has become unmanageable, don’t be scared to begin researching a therapist or psychiatrist. Phsychologytoday.com has a good directory of therapists all across the country if you’re having trouble finding one, while psychiatry appointments are available for free on many health plans.

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