Managing stress has taken on a new level of importance since this whole virus situation has begun. Fortunately, useful stress management tools can be practiced anywhere and anytime. Listed below are 4 tools that you can start exploring while you are following the ‘stay at home’ and ‘physical / social distance’ recommendations. These are not my original ideas, they are standard recommendations for achieving mental, emotional, and physical wellness. One helpful tip – be like a scientist and experiment with these methods. Try using them at different times of the day, outside in your yard or in a ‘socially distant’ area in the sun, and/or different areas of your living space. Even if you are not living in a home right now you can practice these tools to improve your ability to cope and improve quality of life.
Stress Management Tools
- Belly Breathing: Also known as Deep Breathing, learning to use and practice Belly Breathing is on the easier end of stress management techniques. Find a comfortable place to sit or lay down with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Take a minute or two to get settled and then begin. Inhale through your nose to a count of 4 while allowing your belly to expand. Place your hands on your lower belly and just notice it. As you exhale, allow your breath to exit through your mouth by dropping your jaw open. Noise is something that you may notice, noise from your breath in your throat and in your mouth is important.
- Count to 15: I remember being told to count to 10 when I was a kid, for anger, for impatience, or even when anxious. There is a scientific reason for this tool. Counting forces us to use the front part of our brain that helps with reasoning and decision making. This front part of the brain, when activated, helps take us out of the emotion center which is being used when we are overwhelmed with stress.
- Mindfulness Activity: Mindfulness practices are very useful to manage stress. Just like any other skill it takes practice and time, think of when you were a child learning to tie your shoes for the first time. It must have seemed impossible, but chances are you can tie your shoes with ease now because you’ve had years of practice. Same idea with Mindfulness. Examples: washing dishes (pay attention to water sounds, soap smells, how your hands feel), walking barefoot on grass (pay attention to textures, smells, sounds, colors), drawing circles on paper (pay attention to the pressure on your hand, sounds, colors).
- Socializing with Technology: Using Skype, Zoom, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, or any other variety of face-face programs has been an incredible resource for coping with this pandemic. The ability to see a friend, co-worker, family member, or any one else when we are essentially unable to physically be with them is invaluable right now. There is something about human to human interaction that we just need and cannot do without. Suggestion: put on music and sing a song together, move to the rhythm of your voices and the sounds.