Expert panel: How to cope with stress during the pandemic

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By Minuca Elena

It’s already been a year since the pandemic has started. During this time, many of us have been isolated at home, not being able to travel, forced to physically distance ourselves from other people, even from family and friends.

We’ve also been living in fear of not getting infected with the Covid-19 virus and many people have lost their jobs or went bankrupt.

It’s not easy to cope with stress in these circumstances but it’s necessary. We reached out to 22 psychologists and spirituality experts and asked them the following question:

What are some healthy habits that people can adopt to cope with stress during the pandemic?

We received amazing tips that we hope will help you as improve your physical and emotional state.

Shelly Wilson

Shelly Wilson

Healthy habits that we can adopt to cope with stress include being present, adaptable and flexible as well as conscious breathing and clearing the triggers.

Being present involves living in the moment rather than focusing on the future or dwelling in the past. Being adaptable and flexible reminds us to go with the flow rather than being resistant to change, especially when presented with challenges.

As humans, we can intentionally choose healthy practices or habits rather than feeling stuck in patterns.

Conscious breathing is another healthy habit that is easy to incorporate in our daily lives. We breathe naturally and autonomously, which means our bodies know what to do and how to do it.

Anytime we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, we can focus on breathing in peace, love, ease and compassion as we exhale the fear, worry, doubt and stress.

Two to three times a day for 2-3 minutes or whenever you feel led to do so, take a moment to pause in order to clear your mind and open your heart as you breathe.

Lastly, in those instances that you feel annoyed, bothered, or triggered, in that specific moment, state aloud or in your mind, “This bothers me. This is affecting me. I feel annoyed and stressed. I am feeling overwhelmed.”

Express whatever wordage that would apply. In doing so, you are choosing to recognize and clear the energy at that moment rather than allowing it to build.

Nate Battle

Nate Battle

When life takes a turn into the lane of uncertainty, whether gradual or sudden, the resulting impact is usually an increase in your level of stress.

Beyond the immediate adrenaline-fueled response, what happens next is far more within your sphere of influence and control than you may be aware.

It often boils down to a matter of choice. You can choose to allow the uncertainty of things you don’t control to negatively impact you or decide to do something about it.

Coping with stress is in and of itself a choice. Even the word itself implies taking action to deal with and face matters. Life is about decisions. You get to live with the consequences of your choices.

While there are some stress-causing circumstances you have zero control over, you CAN reduce and eliminate other stress areas in your life. Developing this proactive effort as a habit will enable you to handle better what life throws your way. Make it a habit to:

Make a Mental Shift

Adversity and uncertainty provide excellent opportunities to make a mental shift in your mind. You can choose what you will accept, allow, and give permission to be in your life, in contrast with those things in which you will no longer put up.

While there is seldom anything you can do about events, trauma, problems, and issues that have already occurred, you CAN change your response to and acceptance of them.

You are better off to accept and even embrace the unchangeable as if you choose it than to resist it.

Besides being filled with negative emotions, resistance leads to a dead end and, in the end, changes, nothing. Accepting things for how they are, lends itself to focusing on coping strategies and promoting problem-solving skills.

In other words, it can strengthen you mentally, which in turn reduces your level of stress.

For the controllable items, like cleaning your home, decide to pack up those things that no longer serve you, are toxic and unhealthy for you, or simply disturb your peace. Then, for the stuff you can, discard it.

No, you cannot (legally) bag up badly behaving and toxic people, but you can remove and distance yourself or establish boundaries that you will not cross, nor allow them to cross.

Go on an emotional diet!

Decide to let go of the emotional baggage of the past. Emotional baggage is like carrying extra weight on your body.

It is highly unhealthy because it makes your vital organs work harder, causes you to be less agile, and you need to work harder just to move. All this causes excess stress on your mental and even physical health.

Like with food, extract the learnings (the beneficial nutrients) from past challenges, adversities, crises, and upsets, then discard the rest that is not healthy.

Maintain your momentum by practicing thought-stopping; when a negative thought occurs, stop it in its tracks, and replace it with a positive thought – then repeat, often!

Practice the Self-care act of Healing

The stuff in your life that you don’t want in it anymore has probably caused wounds of some type. You must heal from your wounds to grow forward.

There is a saying that goes – “You need to heal from the people the wounded you, so you don’t bleed on the ones that didn’t.” Decide to practice self-care and healing as your top priority, leaving behind the bad while embracing yourself, every moment of life, and the good things to come.

Live in the present

There is no shortage of sayings and slogans that speak to living and being present in the moment. There’s a reason for that – it works! Anxiety is usually an indication you are worrying about something that has not occurred yet – in other words, the future.

Conversely, depression is an indicator you are rehashing something that has already happened – the past.

Life is meant to be lived one moment at a time. Yes, it is prudent to PLAN for the future, but try to avoid moving into that future residence before you’ve closed on it.

As you know, now more than ever, the future is no more guaranteed than it is predictable. Let the challenges that belong to tomorrow wait to be dealt with when and IF they arrive.

Chill!

Yes, an urban term with many meanings, but also sage advice. Break from your routine and do something for yourself, perhaps even by yourself. Something that you enjoy, it may be new to you, or maybe a creative project you’ve not done in a long time.

For example, paint by numbers, gardening, assembling a model airplane/car, playing an instrument, or even just walking outdoors, intentionally looking for the beauty and overlooked in nature in your surroundings.

The objective is to do something positive that will require your full attention and focus while consuming your mind. Besides taking your mind off the crud that causes mental anguish and stress, it has many positive health benefits.

It can be a natural stress reliever in promoting calm and reducing anxiety. It promotes growth, problem-solving, and motor skills and even improves your memory – the right kind. Say safe & be well!

Shelley Meche’tte

Shelley Meche’tte

Some healthy habits that people can adopt to cope with stress during the pandemic include:

CRY!!: I know this may sound crazy, but stress needs a healthy release. When we do not allow ourselves to release the tension, heartache and frustration that has come with enduring a global pandemic, it is only a matter of time before all of those emotions burst.

Before reaching that boiling point, take some time to just allow all of the stress to flow…through tears. Don’t try to stop them. Don’t try to make sense of them. Just let them be.

Your body knows when you’re done, so don’t rush. Once those feelings have been completely flushed out…take a deep breath and give yourself permission to rejoin the uncertainty of the world again.

TAKE A WALK: Taking a leisure walk is a great way to relieve stress or clear your head. Walking away from what is causing stress allows us to refocus, mainly because we are taking in new scenery.

Removing ourselves physically from high tension/emotional situations creates better decision making opportunities. It helps us release frustrations in a healthier manner, so that we do not inadvertently spew our pain upon others.

INCLUDE YOUR CIRCLE: Don’t be fooled. We ALL need others in our lives, who love and support us. This includes having a solid circle. Many times, when we are going through, we do not make use of this circle. We walk through tough times alone. STOP THAT!

Make it a habit to stay connected. Don’t retreat from your circle when you feel like throwing in the towel. Instead…turn to them, especially during the more difficult times. Having them in your corner will help to strengthen you and show you the beauty in life.

Carlee Myers – Stress Less

Carlee Myers

One thing we are all coping with right now during this pandemic is navigating things that are outside of our control.

Whether we are worried about the political realities we are facing, if our loved ones will get sick, if the kids will be going to school, you name it, we are all having to deal with a lot of circumstances that are simply out of our hands.

With that in mind, the first step I would recommend in order to manage stress right now is to start looking inward and identify what spirituality means to you.

Here at The Stress Less Company, we define spirituality as the undefined thing that leads us from a state of struggle to a beautiful state of mind. Now, what you choose to connect to can be anything.

You may believe in what we think of as being more traditional such as God, or it can be something more unique and personal to you like the concept of nature, a higher self, or the greater good.

Identify whatever resonates with you, and from there, start engaging in a daily practice of connection to it because when we give ourselves this space to connect to a power greater than ourselves, it helps us to let go of the worry we feel about things outside of our control.

We can’t control other people or global health crises, but we can release these things to the care of that power greater than ourselves so we can have the mental, emotional and physical energy to focus on what is within our control.

One great way to start a more regular spiritual practice is through a process called auto-writing. Think of auto-writing as a form of written prayer. To do this, sit down with a piece of paper and start by writing down your name followed by a colon. Then, write out a question or concern you need guidance on.

Once you have written down your question, write down the name of whatever your spiritual thing is (ie. God, universe, nature, higher self, etc.) underneath your question.

Take a few moments to breathe and connect inward with yourself first, then wait for the answer to flow through your hand and onto the page.

The key is to let it flow out of you, if you feel yourself thinking about what you are writing, it’s not your higher power talking! Through this process, you will find your answer.

It may not always be the answer that you want, and it may not come as clearly as you’d like, but it will usually be the guidance you need to move into a more peaceful and abundant state of being.

Supriya Blair – Dr. Blair Psychology

Supriya Blair

1. Take inventory of your time and energy.

Are you setting daily priorities every day? Are the activities you are engaging in leading you toward meeting your goals or are they zapping your time and energy? The human tendency is to act out of habit; the pandemic affords us an opportunity to be intentional about what we do and why we do it.

2. Choose one self-care activity each for emotional, physical, spiritual, and emotional wellness.

It is important to note that stress is subjective. What might be stressful for one person might not be stressful for another.

An important reminder: stress is not a status-symbol. When you care for yourself, you give yourself permission to rest and rejuvenate. You give yourself permission to step away from the monotony of achievement and productivity. Rather, you might become proficient in a new art: the art of tender loving care.

3. Laugh.

Laughter results in a biochemical process of reducing stress and releasing feel-good hormones. Laughter also conveys a sense of wellbeing and ease.

Though the pandemic is hardly a laughing matter, finding small ways to create connection through humor can help alleviate a sense of heaviness, overwhelm, and compassion fatigue.

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