Hardly a day goes by without a client or friend calling me to talk about the unusually high level of stress and anxiety they’re experiencing right now. It’s not a coincidence. Researchers and mental health professionals are sounding alarms because stress and anxiety are at all-time highs. It’s due to what some are calling a “perfect storm,” which includes the coronavirus pandemic, levels of unemployment, financial crisis, civil unrest, and protests against police brutality across the nation and globe.
During times such as these, it is crucial to pay extra attention to your mental and physical health, practice self-care, and balance your intake of news and social media with intention and mindfulness. But how? My top suggestions include alleviating anxiety and stress, dealing with burnout, getting outside, practicing mindfulness, and connecting with your community.
Manage anxiety and stress
Research shows that anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder in the U.S. (affecting about, oh … 40 million adults). There are millions more who experience low levels of anxiety but haven’t been diagnosed. Most of us – even those who are consistently upbeat and optimistic – are feeling it.
Anxiety can show up in lots of ways, ranging from full-blown anxiety attacks and sleepless nights, to a decline in productivity, overall health and/or relationships.
According to the Anxiety and Depressions Association of American (ADAA), it’s important to have coping strategies in place for when you start feeling stress or anxiety.
Their suggestions include:
- give yourself a time-out
- eat well-balanced meals
- take deep breaths
- identify triggers
- seek help
I would also add that it’s important to set aside regular electronic-free time throughout each day – that means no news and no social media. Find out more suggestions, tips and information about stress and anxiety on the ADAA website.
Battle the burnout
As I’ve discussed before, burnout is serious business. It was declared an official medical diagnosis in 2019 by the World Health Organization and continues to affect us in a variety of ways. In today’s workplace and societal climate, burnout can be even more pronounced and stem from a number of additional things, like:
- adapted work schedules
- working-from-home stressors
- constant chatter on social media
- daily onslaught of breaking news
- COVID-19 stress or illness
- living in close-quarters with multiple family members or roommates
Recognizing burnout is key. Read this article to find out more about warning signs, contributing factors, and ways to battle it.
Meditate and practice mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness are game-changers and serve as highly effective ways to manage stress, depression, and anxiety. Even better, they’re fantastic for preventative mental and emotional health care. Studies have also shown them to improve heart rate variability, which is a marker that indicates how well you manage stress.
I honestly don’t know how I would have coped with 2020 so far without daily meditation and mindfulness practices. That’s why I also teach yoga and continue to lead regular classes for my neighbors outside and on my lawn (while practicing safe social distancing, of course).
Here are eight of my favorite meditation and mindfulness apps that you can use any day, from anywhere.
In addition, check out these mindfulness tips that can be practiced in and out of the workplace.
Get outdoors and exercise
Whether it’s a peaceful walk, a quick run, or simply stretching in your own backyard, spending time outdoors and with nature can improve your mood and reduce levels of cortisol (your stress hormone).
Here’s one of my favorites that you might want to try. It’s a Japanese practice of nature therapy called shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, and it’s proven to reduce anxiety and stress, as well as fatigue and confusion. But don’t worry, it doesn’t involve rolling around naked on pine needles. Rather, it involves visiting a spot outdoors where you can unplug, breathe, walk, or sit peacefully and be intentional. To find out more, see Forest bathing: What it is and why you should try it.
Here are some other ideas:
- Turn your backyard into a gym. Use bodyweight for effective workout movements, find that old jump rope, or improvise with the equipment or tools you already have.
- Take phone meetings outside, and pace the perimeter or walk around your neighborhood while you talk.
- If possible, take your laptop and cell phone outside for a few hours each day while you do your thing. If mornings or evenings are cooler, adjust your schedule accordingly. It’s amazing what regular fresh air can do for the body, mind, and spirit.
- Take advantage of the plentiful exercise videos and tutorials readily available online and for free.
Connect with your community
Some of us are feeling isolated and alone. Others are feeling aimless, and contemplating the point of doing anything at all. Time seems to matter less, days run into weeks, and in one way or another, we are all struggling. Remaining connected and in touch with your community is important, and is about more than just your zip code. Here are some examples.
- Regularly check in with your closest friends – the ones you can confide in and be real with – no matter where they live. Get real and talk about what you’re feeling. Listen. Cry, scream, laugh and sort it out. When we recognize and name it – depression, sadness, fear or confusion – it has less of a hold on us and we can cope, recover, and conquer.
- Touch base with neighbors. When you see that eclectic couple from down the street taking a walk – the ones you’ve never met – step out on your porch to say hello. Check on the elderly, start a conversation with people living alone, organize a social distance gathering, and connect with others in your immediate area.
- Schedule meetups. Now is the perfect time to plan individual or group video calls and catch up with old college pals, former colleagues, relatives or long lost friends. Make appointments and get them down on your calendar, so you’ll have something to look forward to.
If you need to learn more about working remotely, grappling with keeping your team connected, or other ways to cope during these challenging times, check out these additional resources. In the meantime, hang in there. We’re going to be okay.
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