Stressed? Worried? Wishing you could sail away into the sunset?
If you are like me, your email inbox has been flooded by communications from companies detailing their responses to the coronavirus.
The challenge that this outbreak represents to you, your family, friends, and colleagues is likely not similar to anything you have experienced before. All of us currently find ourselves having to process our way through uncertainty, understandable anxiety and heightened stress. At some point though, hopefully sooner rather than later, the world will return to what we refer to as “normal”. Throughout history, people have always risen to meet whatever challenges have been thrown their way — usually emerging stronger than ever.
I want to take a moment to share with you some optimism and actions you can take to remain self-empowered and cope with the day-to-day challenges we are all currently dealing with, but, before I do here is how I see stress and worry defined:
What is Stress?
People often use the word stress interchangeably with anxiety, feeling anxious, fearful, nervous, overwhelmed, or panic. Stress is a biological response that is a normal part of our lives. It is a physiological response usually connected to some kind of external event or circumstance, like the coronavirus we are currently dealing with. In order for the cycle of stress to begin, there must be a stressor.
What is Worry?
Worry is a state of intensified concern over uncertainty of actual or potential problems. It is what happens when your mind dwells on negative thoughts, uncertain outcomes or things that could go wrong. Numerous studies have shown that worry not only puts a strain on our mental health, but on our physical health, as well. Too much worry can lead to anxiety, which can have a lasting impact on health and happiness. For instance, research has shown that anxiety can take a toll on your sleep, tax your immune system, and even affect your risk of dying from disease.
All that being said, we have good reason to remain on top of conditions that cause stress and worry in our lives. Here are 18 practical and easy actions you can take starting today:
Exercise may not completely make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you may be feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you deal with your situation more calmly. Try taking a walk, go for a run, work in your garden, or clean out the garage. Personally, I love dancing in the kitchen, you can ask my husband. Exercise and movement is a way for your body to release endorphins, and recover from the increase of adrenaline and cortisol.
2. Adjust Your Sleep Habits
One effect of stress is that it can cause sleep deprivation. Frequently being in a heightened state of alertness can delay the onset of sleep and cause rapid, anxious thoughts to occur at night. Insufficient sleep can then cause further stress.
Sleep is a powerful stress reducer, when you follow a regular sleep routine it calms and restores the body, improves concentration, regulates mood, and sharpens judgment and decision-making. You are a better problem solver and are better able to cope with stress when you’re well-rested.
3. Drink Herbal Tea
There are hundreds of different herbal teas you can drink, all with varying tastes and benefits. These benefits can range from treating a cold to relieving stress, to anti-aging properties. Try these stress and anxiety reducing teas: Chamomile, lavender, peppermint, Ginger and Passionflower. It is amazing what a hot cup of tea can do, don’t forget to take the time to appreciate the aroma.
4. Add Essential Oils & Candles to Your Environment
Using scents to treat your mood is called aromatherapy. Several studies show that aromatherapy can decrease anxiety and improve sleep. It is thought to help activate certain receptors in your brain, potentially easing anxiety. Try adding a few drops of oil into your bathtub water, into a basket of dried flowers, and into an aromatherapy diffuser.
Here are a few scents I have found calming:
- Orange blossom
Whether they’re in oil form or a candle, scents like lavender, chamomile, and sandalwood can be very soothing.
5. Keep a Journal
One way to handle stress is to write things down. You can focus on what you’re stressed about, you can focus on problem solving, and you can write about what you’re grateful for.
Sometimes when things feel overwhelming it is difficult to identify what is going well. At the end of every day, try writing down 3 things that went well, or for which you’re grateful. Keeping a journal with a focus on gratitude may help relieve your stress and anxiety especially if you focus your thoughts on what’s positive in your life and finding solutions for the things you can control.
6. Take Control
The feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and anxiety. If you remain passive, your stress can get worse. The act of taking control is self-empowering and is a crucial part of finding a solution to a given situation.
Changing a situation such as the coronavirus may not be possible for you personally. You may not have total control of the situation, so get clear on what you can and can’t control. Then focus your energy on what you can control, the actions you can take to ease the impact, and accept what you can’t.
Spend time on self-education to learn new skills. Take online courses you’ve been interested in but have been putting them off. Complete those home study sessions that can help you achieve your career or personal goals. Many businesses are transitioning to increased remote work, and moving events onto digital platforms, this being the case, they could be more receptive to supporting you financially to attend online professional development and training.
8. Take Advantage of Teleworking and Telecommuting Opportunities
Sometimes you have a choice to work from home. When dealing with stressful situations, you may find working from home is just what you need and where you have the most control. However, if you haven’t done it before, you will discover working in your home environment requires a unique set of skills. Teleworkers or virtual employees have additional challenges created by not being in a centralized office setting.
The Hubbard Online Learning Institute offers many online programs. With COVID-19 on the rise and people starting to work from home, the institute has released our Telework and Telecommuting eLearning course free for individuals should they feel the need for training on the differences of working from home.
To access this course yourself, use the following link:
9. Connect with People
A good network of support including friends and family can help you get through stressful times and help you see things from different perspectives. Being part of a friend network gives you a sense of belonging and self-worth, which can help you in difficult times.
One study found that for women in particular, spending time with friends helps release oxytocin, a natural stress reliever. However, both men and women benefit from friendship.
When practicing social distancing, connect with friends and loved ones through video chats, phone calls, texting, and email. It really helps to feel the strength of your connections to your friends and loved ones, even though you may not be with them in person.
A free app you may want to try is Google Duo video calling which works on Android and iOS smartphones, tablets, and computers. It allows you to connect with your friends and family as well as do face-to-face group calling with up to 8 people.
For more information: https://duo.google.com/about/
10. Find Humor
It’s hard to feel anxious when you’re laughing. In the long term, laughter is good for your health can help improve your immune system and mood. Try watching a funny movie or a game show, read a humorous book, or communicate with a friend or relative that makes you laugh. Sometimes all you can do is laugh.
11. Chew Gum
This may sound funny but, for a super easy and quick stress reliever, try chewing a stick of gum. One study showed that people who chewed gum had a greater sense of wellbeing and lower stress. One possible explanation is that chewing gum causes brain waves similar to those of relaxed people. Another is that chewing gum promotes blood flow to your brain.
12. Practice Prayer and Meditation
Many studies have shown that daily prayer has a profound impact on your physical health. There are a few reasons for this. Daily prayer has been shown to lower stress rates, which positively impacts many aspects of your physical health: from your blood pressure, to your heart rate, to your immune system.
Whatever your religion may be, daily prayer and meditation are calming and wonderful ways to cultivate strength during challenging times.
13. Listen to Soothing Music
Listening to music can have a very relaxing effect on the body. Slow-paced instrumental music can induce the relaxation response by helping lower blood pressure and heart rate as well as stress hormones.
Some types of classical, jazz, and Native American music can be particularly soothing, but, simply listening to the music you enjoy is effective too. I am a huge fan of smooth jazz, two musicians I recommend to listen to when you need to calm down and “chill” are:
Peter White, an awesome smooth jazz and jazz fusion guitarist. He is my number one stress releasing musician. Here is what one of his fans had to say, “He makes life worth listening to, no matter how rough your day is, Peter can take you somewhere to chill. My mind and body thank you Peter.”
Paul Hardcastle, a multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist. Paul’s tune entitled “No Stress at All” is wonderful. When I listen to the sounds and sway to the rhythm of this instrumental, it takes me back to sitting on the lanai looking at the Kaanapali Beach at sunset in Maui, Hawaii. One of his fans had this to say about Paul, “Where ever you want to be at, take Paul Hardcastle with you, his music will babysit your moods”.
Nature sounds can also be very calming. This is why they’re often incorporated into relaxation, spa and meditation music. Experiment, find out what nature sounds and music provide you with the level of comfort you are looking for.
14. Try Deep Breathing
Mental stress activates your sympathetic nervous system, signaling your body to go into “fight-or-flight” mode. During this reaction, stress hormones are released and you experience physical symptoms such as a faster heartbeat, quicker breathing and constricted blood vessels.
The goal of deep breathing is to focus your awareness on your breath, making it slower and deeper. When you breathe in deeply through your nose, your lungs fully expand and your belly rises.
Try breathing in for 4 counts and breathing out for 4 counts for 5 minutes total. By evening out your breath, you’ll slow your heart rate which should help calm you down and allow you to feel more peaceful.
15. Find Comfort from Your Pet
Having a pet may help reduce stress and improve your mood. Interacting with pets may help release oxytocin, a brain chemical that promotes a positive mood. Having a pet may also help relieve stress by giving you purpose, keeping you active and providing companionship — all qualities that help reduce anxiety.
16. Limit Your Worry Time
Give yourself a worry “budget,” an amount of time in which you allow yourself to worry about a problem. Set aside a designated “worry time”. Instead of worrying all day, every day, designate a 20-minute period of time where you can think about your problems. Penn State researchers found in a study that a four-step stimulus control program could help seriously stressed people take control of their anxieties.
Step One: Identify the object of worry.
Step Two: Come up with a time and place to think about your worry.
Step Three: If you catch yourself worrying at a time other than your designated worry time, STOP, then make a point to think of something else.
Step Four: Use your “worry time” productively by thinking of solutions to the worries.
17. Stick to Credible Sources of Information
Stick with sources of credible information, so you can avoid misrepresentation. So as not to overdose, if you want to stay informed, try getting regular updates from credible sources in the morning and check again briefly toward the end of the day. There’s no need to stay tuned in 24/7 — it can actually make your anxiety much, much worse.
Ultimately, there are two ways in which stress and worry go away: When Circumstances Change or When You Change.
18. Emerge Stronger
Emerge from stress and worry stronger as a result. You may have developed new skills, became a super creative problem solver, are more resilient and self-empowered as a result. Taking words from Kelly Clarkson’s song, Stronger, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger.
Although stress and anxiety may arise in your workplace and personal life, there are many simple ways to reduce the pressure and emerge stronger. I hope these tips help you with the source of your stress and worry. Exercise, scents, music and meditation can all be beneficial. According to Dr. Luana Marques, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, “In some ways, anxiety is what happens when you’re dealing with a lot of worry and a lot of stress.” Let’s all work to reduce them.
Let Us Hear From You!
We pray for everyone’s health and safety during these turbulent times. Let us hear from you. Tell us which of the tips and recommendations you find most useful and why? Share with us, based on your personal experiences, advice you would offer to others to manage their worry, stress or anxiety?
“And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.” __ Author Unknown
Stay Tapped In……
Women’s Self-Empowerment Strategist
Author of Empowering Yourself to Embrace Change, Experience Leaves Clues, and the Upcoming Book: TAP IN: Elevating Women’s Self-Empowerment
A Dynamic and engaging speaker, Dr. Myra Hubbard is available for Keynote Presentations, Conferences, Retreats, Training, and Consulting engagements. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-481-2268.