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By Rebecca Fending
It’s no secret that the current pandemic has people stressed and stretched thin financially, emotionally and mentally. It can be hard to find your escape and inner peace with the ever-present onslaught of doom-and-gloom news reports and articles, but not impossible. Whether you simply need a break from your preferred news channel or need an excuse to dig your sneakers out from the back of the closet, these five tactics are great places to start.
Take a Break
Possibly the simplest and most immediate means of de-stressing is by removing your stressors. For many of us at the current time, that means shutting off our television, phone and tablets. An obsession with constantly keeping up with news surrounding coronavirus can drive you to madness. Although it’s a good idea to stay informed about the latest reports, that doesn’t mean that you have to stay glued to your screen throughout the day.
A good way to balance your sanity and staying up-to-date is by allowing yourself a max of two daily check-ins. Ideally, check for news in the morning and at night. This will ensure that you don’t miss any crucial bits of information either before you go about your day or before you end your day. Try not to check new reports too close to bedtime, otherwise, you could risk increasing your stress at the time when you need the least.
Be sure to be kind to yourself during stressful times. For some, this means a warm cup of tea on their back porch. For others, it means sitting down with a good book to escape the real world for a while. Whatever your preferred method is, be sure to allow yourself to indulge from time to time.
Breathe and Stretch
This may seem like a no-brainer, but taking the time to take a few deep breaths and a big stretch can transform your state of mind. You know that big stretch you take when you first wake up? The one that gives your body the pep talk it needs to roll out of bed and shuffle to the coffee maker? Well, there’s science behind why it feels so great.
That first stretch of the morning works as a way to get the fluids in our body moving back to where they should be. According to Luis Villazon, a science writer for Science Focus, we have the instinct to stretch because, “When you sleep, your muscles lose tone and fluid tends to pool along your back. Stretching helps to massage fluid gently back into the normal position.” Our bodies naturally want to get moving to help regulate the internal happenings, so it’s no wonder it helps push us out of bed and gives us a boost of serotonin in the morning.
Applying this same logic to stretches throughout the day can help not only re-align your muscles and joints, but also your mental health. Be sure to get up every 30 minutes to help loosen your body and your mind will follow.
Eat Your Way to Peace
Believe it or not, stress eating can benefit you; that is, as long as you choose the right foods. If you’re feeling out your sweet tooth, opt for dark chocolate for a way to get your antioxidants while combating stress. Dark chocolate also helps by reducing the number of stress hormones, such as cortisol, in your bloodstream.
Indulging in a moderate amount of carbohydrates can also help bring you back to a healthy state of mind. Not only do carbs help satiate any hunger (which also contributes to our body’s stress response), but eating high-carb foods helps produce more serotonin in our brains due to the typically “comfort food” feel they carry.
High in healthy fats and great for snacks or improving a meal are avocados and nuts. Both of these foods not only elevate a dish with their opposite textures, but they also contain vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids help to reduce anxiety and keep your full for longer which makes them both a great snack to have in moderation in between meals.
Exercise it Out
For many folks, exercising during a period of high stress works for several reasons: it gets your blood flowing, breathing regulated and helps clear your mind. Stress is felt throughout the body due to the traveling of stress hormones in our bloodstream. So, usually, when you’re mentally stressed, the rest of your body is, too.
Exercising produces endorphins within the body to help keep you from feeling physical pain. However, these molecules also act as mini mood boosters that can help lift you out of your stress. As little as five minutes of aerobic exercise can help reduce your anxiety and help you move forward, both literally and figuratively.
Another reason exercise can be so therapeutic is because it’s something you can control. Often when we stress over things it’s due to our own inability to control the situation. Being able to partake in smaller activities such as exercise can help remind you that when you can’t control the world around you, you can at least control your immediate environment and self.
While all of these are great ways to help reduce stress, be sure to do what works best with your body. If all else fails, try talking to someone. Whether it’s a casual conversation or a lengthy discussion on the current state of affairs, chatting with a friend or family member always helps ground a worried mind.