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Overcome stress and anxiety during COVID-19 times

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

We continue to talk about the impacts of coronavirus in our lives. We talked about living our best lives in the middle of COVID-19, tips for working from home and the role of leaders in the middle of these challenging times. Today I want to talk about anxiety.

It's totally normal and ok to feel overwhelmed, stress, scared or even feel anxiety right now. I can guarantee you; you are not the only one feeling that way.

Today I want to share some times to help you cope and manage with stress and anxiety in the middle of the COVID-19 quarantine.

1. Limit Your News Intake and get your Information from reliable sources.

Let's be realistic most people are over consuming news these days. In our aim to stay informed we have become "obsessed" with the news. Maybe that is a little of an exaggeration, but the reality is that we are consuming more news than what we typically consume. And to keep things real, most of the news we are consuming are negative. We are surrounded by bad news, no matter where we turn to look at. All this is fueling your stress levels and anxiety.

Limit the news you consume. That doesn’t mean you can’t stay updated at all, but you may want to limit your news intake to no more than a few minutes once or twice a day.

There is a lot of misinformation going around right now and social media users don’t always take the time to fact check what they’re sharing, make sure that you are always going to reliable sources to stay informed. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) are good places to start for updates and advice. You should also look to your local government, your family physician, and trustworthy news organizations that strive for accuracy and adhere to sound journalistic ethics.

2. Focus on the good.

As we said, we are surrounded by bad news everywhere. When we immerse ourselves in the negatives of current situation is very easy to get stressed out, to feel overwhelmed and, while we can't deny that the current situation is really scary and challenging for many, there are also countless examples of people coming together and helping one another. Our community is coming together like never before, and that is something we need to also focus on and celebrate.

Think for a minute: What are some good things that have happened to you as a result of the current situation? maybe you are spending more quality time with your family, maybe you have been able to slow down and appreciate fresh air more than even before, maybe you have been able to reconnect with an old hobby or started a new one or a new project that you were putting off for a while because you did not had the time.

One daily practice that helps me focus on the good is my gratitude practice. Every morning I write down the 5 things I am grateful for happened in the last 24hrs. I have been doing this for a little over a year now and starting my day with gratitude helps me stay more positive and more present and mindful throughout for the day. I go through my day looking for things that bring me joy.

I also started a challenge recently to post in social media one picture every day of one positive thing that has happened as a result of the COVID-19 quarantine, and every day I invite at least three other people to join the challenge. Officially, I am challenging you too right now.

3. Change your mindset and perspective.

Mindset is everything, I have always believed that. I love this infographic showing how we can should shift our perspective. Identify the root cause of your stress and anxiety and shift your internal narrative around those things. Here are some examples.

4. Maintain and establish a Routine.

I've talked about this before, but I feel is so important that I will address it again today. Try to stick to your normal activities as much as you can. Wake up and go to bed at the same time you normally would, maintain your regular meal schedules, and adapt any other daily activities where needed so you can create a new consistent routine for yourself. Maintaining your daily routines can provide a sense of stability that can help you better cope and manage stress and anxiety. 5. Focus on the things you can control.

It’s natural to be concerned about what may happen if you or someone in your family gets sick, if you lose your job, or your pay gets reduced, or your 401K goes down. The truth is, these are things you can't control or it's not helpful to worry about before they happen.

Focus on the things you can control like practicing social distancing or following the hygiene recommendations. Also work on a contingency plan. Developing a plan can provide a peace of mind, and putting one together can help you put these worries to a side.

  • Write down specific worries you have about how COVID-19 may disrupt your life. If you start feeling overwhelmed, take a break.

  • Make a list of all the possible solutions you can think of. Try not to get too hung up on “perfect” options. Include whatever comes to mind that could help you get by.

  • Focus on concrete things you can problem solved or change, rather than circumstances beyond your control.

  • After you’ve evaluated your options, draw up a plan of action. When you’re done, set it aside and resist the urge to go back to it until you need it or your circumstances significantly change.

6. Give yourself some grace.

It’s OK to not be perfect, to not be able to be in the moment with your children or partner all the time, not to be able to focus all the time. You are not alone. Be kind to yourself. Think what you would say to your best friend is he/she is the one struggling with these situations.

7. Practice self-care.

Find ways to relax and unwind daily. This might look differently for different people.

It can go from adding a yoga routine to your day to taking a relaxing bath. Maybe for you means reading a book, meditate for a few minutes, go out for a walk, or starting a journal.

Keeping a journal is a very common recommended practices to help cope with stress and anxiety. If you have never journal before and don't know where to start here are some ideas:

8. Stay connected with family and friends.

We can still socialize while social distancing. Phone calls, FaceTime, and Skype are all still great ways to connect. Reach out to your family and friends on a regular basis to check on them and talk about anything. Make it a priority to stay in touch with friends and family and don’t let coronavirus dominate every conversation.

Get creative, leverage technology to stay connected. Every Friday at work we are doing wine down Fridays via Zoom. Last weekend we did a 4-way video call with my family through WhatsApp. Every morning I join a virtual gym with friends via Zoom and we get the opportunity to connect, chat and keep each other accountable. I am also thinking about scheduling a happy hour book club with friends and a family game night all using video conferencing tools that are available for free.

Social media can be a powerful tool—not only for connecting with friends, family, and acquaintances—but for feeling connected in a greater sense to our communities, country, and the world. It reminds us we’re not alone. That said, be mindful of how social media is making you feel. Don’t hesitate to mute keywords or people who are exacerbating your anxiety and log off if it’s making you feel worse.

9. Stay busy and distracted

The worst thing you can do is do nothing. Keep your mind occupied, stay distracted through the day. Take time out for activities you enjoy. Read a good book, watch a comedy, play a fun board or video game, make something—whether it’s a new recipe, a craft, or a piece of art. It doesn’t matter what you do, if it takes you out of your worries.

For those working from home, my one word of caution is to stay away from filling up all your time with work. I am saying this because while we should be grateful for the fact that we have a job, there are many people who can't say that, many people have lost their jobs due to the current situation, for those working from home right now we ran into the risk that because we are home and we have to practice social distancing, we can gravitate to work to fill up all time. You need to change pace and scenery; you need to do more than just work. Do your best and give your absolutely best at work but also allow time to disconnect every day and enjoy time connecting with others, enjoy time doing things that bring you joy, enjoy time recharging and taking care of yourself.

10. Get outside and stay active.

A little sunshine and fresh air can go long ways. Even a walk around your neighborhood can make you feel better. Just be sure to avoid crowds, keep your distance from people you encounter, and obey restrictions in your area.

Staying active will help you release anxiety, relieve stress, and manage your mood. While the gym and group classes are out, you can still cycle, hike, or walk. Or if you’re stuck at home, look online for exercise videos you can follow. There are many things you can do even without equipment, such as yoga and exercises that use your own bodyweight.

Here are some FREE resources to help you stay active while staying home:

  • Beachbody on Demand, offering 14 days FREE membership to hundreds of workout programs. This is what I personally use every day for my workouts.

  • DownDog App has made all their apps completely free until April 1st. You can choose from hundreds of at-home yoga, HIIT, Barre, and 7-minute workouts.

  • This article from Glamour lists 31 of the best free fitness apps to try.

11. Dance it out

One great way to reduce stress, get energized and change your mood is to dance it out. Put some music and dance. So, dance like no one is watching, because that is the reality, the good thing about being home in quarantine is that no one is watching. Try Amazon music with your Amazon prime subscription, Spotify or Apple music.

12. Stay organized and keep your house organized

There is enough uncertainly and chaos happening outside your home, keep the inside organized, predictable and clean. That can help create an environment where you feel safe and comfortable. Try to define your spaces in a way that allow you to shift your perspective and your state of mind. I talked about this in my article on tips for working from home. Define your workspace, try to avoid eating and working in the same space for example.

If you want to take this one to the next level, here is a 30 Day Cluttered your Home Challenge you can consider.

13. Help others and don't be afraid to ask for help.

Sometimes finding a sense of purpose in helping others can bring us inner peace and help us cope with our own stress and anxiety. Think about who in your immediate circle of family, friends and co-workers can use some help with something or think beyond your immediate circle.

Here are some ideas on ways you can help others:

  • Look after yourself, to look after us all – flatten the curve!

  • Check in on elderly neighbors.

  • Reach out to people in self isolation.

  • Donate to nonprofits helping to respond to COVID-19—and your other favorite causes as well.

  • Volunteer for organizations that are providing critical services in your community.

  • Fundraise for people financially impacted by quarantine measures.

  • Share positive news and acts of kindness with your community.

  • Don't do panic purchases, leave some left for those coming after you and those who don't have the financial liquidity to buy things upfront and stock up.

On the other hand, don't be afraid to reach out for help. Don't be afraid to reach out for help. Asking for help does not make you weak, it makes you human. Just think about asking for help from this perspective: asking for help is a win-win, you get the help you need and you give others the opportunity to feel fulfilled and find a sense of purpose because they were able to help you.

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