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How to Manage Stress in Difficult Times

By April 30, 2020 No Comments

We’ve all been dealing with a lot more stress than usual lately. Stress wreaks havoc on your emotional equilibrium, as well as your physical health. It narrows your ability to think clearly, function effectively, and enjoy life.

If you’re living with high levels of stress, you’re putting your entire well-being at risk. It may seem like there’s nothing you can do about stress, but you have a lot more control than you might think.

Effective stress management helps you break the hold stress has on your life, so you can be happier, healthier, and more productive. We put together some ways to manage that stress with tips and techniques that can be put to use immediately.

Exercise

When you’re stressed, the last thing you probably feel like doing is getting up and exercising, but working out regularly is one of the best ways to relax your body and mind and improve your mood.

Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good, and you can feel immediate effects in your mood and stress levels. So put together the perfect playlist, slip into some comfy sneakers, take in some fresh air and enjoy yourself.

So how much should you exercise every week?

Work up to 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise like brisk walks or 75 minutes of a more vigorous cardio exercise.

There are many different activities you can do for exercise that are fun:

  • Put on some music and dance like no one’s watching- Not only will the exercise help, but music is also a stress reliever. So, crank it up and bust out your best moves, or maybe work on some new ones!
  • Go for a walk around your neighborhood- Taking a walk is a great way to get some exercise and some fresh air. If you walk to a park, then you’re getting in some QT with nature. All great ways to relieve stress.
  • Workout to a YouTube video- Working out doesn’t have to be boring. There are so many videos out there for every type of exercise and for every fitness level. Looking for exercises you can do with low back pain? YouTube it! For some great workout routines check out Pop Sugar’s catalogue of videos. Go old school with Aerobics Oz Style, Richard Simmons, or some Tae Bo. For an extra fabulous workout get your groove on with Fitness Marshall. Who cares if you get all the moves right, just have fun!
  • Some of us prefer a bit of guidance when working out, and I personally can’t get enough of the one-on-one virtual training sessions. For some extra one-on-one help you can book a private virtual session with a pilates instructor, yoga instructor, or even a personal trainer to help you reach your individual fitness goals.

PRO TIP: Adding mindfulness to your workout will help you break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that often accompanies overwhelming stress. While you’re exercising, make a conscious effort to pay attention to your body and the physical sensations you experience as you’re moving.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being completely in the present moment. It can help combat the anxiety-inducing effects of negative thinking. It may also help increase self-esteem, which in turn lessens symptoms of anxiety and depression. Here’s a quick mindfulness exercise you can practice several times a day.

           Stand up and breathe. Feel your connection to the earth.

           Tune in to your body. Lower your gaze. Scan your body and notice physical sensations or emotions. Let go of any unpleasant sensations, emotions or feelings on the out breath. Notice any pleasant ones and let them fill you up on the in breath.

           Observe. Lift your eyes and take in your surroundings. Observe something in your environment that is pleasant and be grateful for it and its beauty.

           Possibility. Ask yourself what is possible or what is new or what is a forward step.

For further guidance and to learn more about mindfulness, book a one-on-one virtual session with a mindfulness practitioner!

Relax Your Muscles

When you’re stressed, your muscles get tense. You can help loosen them up and refresh your body by:

  • Stretching
  • Rolling on a foam roller
  • Book a massage
  • Taking a hot bath or shower
  • Getting a good night’s sleep

Get Some Sleep

Speaking of sleep – get yourself on a sleep routine and stick to it. While it might be tempting to throw normal routines out the window right now – doing the opposite and buckling down with your routine can go a long way to help fortify you to roll with the stresses you can’t avoid right now. Get your eight hours whenever possible.

Getting enough sleep can help you feel less cranky and overwhelmed, and more productive and creative. If you want all that, you gotta get to bed earlier! Turn off the screen(s), you can binge-watch your show and earn more XP tomorrow. Sleep experts suggest aiming for about 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.See you in the morning, sunshine!

Make Lists

Organize the things you need to get done. They’ll seem so much more manageable when you stare them down and have the ability to strike-through each item when it’s accomplished. Making a list can help you decide what’s actually important to do today so you don’t feel buried all the time. Added bonus? You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you cross things off as “done.” We can practically hear you saying “aaaahhhhh” already.

Laugh it off

Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress-causing hormones. Laughing tricks your nervous system into making you happy.

So put on some classic Monty Python skits like “The Ministry of Silly Walks.” Make silly faces with the family, have a staring contest, watch funny YouTube videos or some stand-up comedy routines– whatever gets your belly moving, try blowing off some steam with some laughs. Bonus points if you laugh till you cry!

Take a Break

You need to plan on some real downtime to give your mind time off from stress. If you’re a person who likes to set goals, this may be hard for you at first. But stick with it and you’ll look forward to these moments. Restful things you can do include:

  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques; try meditation, yoga, or tai-chi
  • Listening to your favorite relaxing music
  • Take a bubble bath
  • Spending time in your back yard gardening or just sitting and being mindful of what’s around you
  • Read a book for enjoyment

Deep Breathing

Stopping and taking a few deep breaths can take the pressure off you right away. Learning to focus on your breath can actually trigger your body’s relaxation response. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel once you get good at it. Just follow these steps:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position, or you can lie down.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Imagine yourself in a relaxing place. It can be on the beach, in a beautiful field of grass, or anywhere that gives you a peaceful feeling.
  4. Next take a deep breath slowly through your nose, filling up your chest and belly. Let your belly really puff out.
  5. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or nose, whichever) and repeat.

Make Time for Hobbies and Interests

You need to set aside time for things you enjoy. Try to do something every day that makes you feel good, and it will help relieve your stress. It doesn’t have to be a ton of time — even 15 to 20 minutes will do. Relaxing hobbies include things like:

  • Reading
  • Doing an art project
  • Play video games/phone games
  • Watching a movie/tv show
  • Doing puzzles
  • Playing cards and board games

Practice Gratitude

When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This simple strategy can help you keep things in perspective.

Seek out Social Support

This one is very important, especially now.  Spend time with those you enjoy. There is nothing more calming than spending quality time with another human being who makes you feel safe and understood. In fact, face-to-face interaction triggers a cascade of hormones that counteracts the body’s defensive “fight-or-flight” response. It’s nature’s natural stress reliever.

So make it a point to connect regularly—on the phone or over a Zoom call—with family and friends. Keep in mind that the people you talk to don’t have to be able to fix your stress. They simply need to be good listeners. We’re all in this together, and we’ll “get by with a little help from our friends”.

If you feel like you would benefit from speaking to a professional psychologist, counsellor, or coach book a one-on-one private virtual session with one of our qualified practitioners. There’s no shame in getting a little bit of help to become the best version of yourself.

Be Kind to Yourself

You might find yourself caring for so many people right now that you’ve forgotten to care for yourself. You might find yourself on your own and overwhelmed. Remember that you’re dealing with a lot right now and find some ways to be kind to yourself. Reach out to friends and family over the phone or through a video call. Take a warm bath. Learn a new skill. All of these things will help you better manage stress. Go Easy On Yourself!