5 ways to keep your stress under control while quarantined

mindset stress Mar 17, 2020

These are scary times. I'm not here to offer you medical advice or breaking news on the COVID-19 virus. I want to talk about the mental difficulties many of us face, and how we can handle them in the healthiest way possible. With magnified stress, social isolation, looming unknowns, and big changes to our daily lives, it's more important than ever to take care of ourselves – and I mean more than washing our hands.

Here are six ways you can take care of yourself and your loved ones in the midst of this crisis.

1. Embrace creativity. Often, when things are in flux, people grab for safety. They want something they can control. Yet this actually a good time to think out of the box – because new ideas and opportunities can come from difficult times. Plus, opening your mind to creative thoughts will help ease your stress and keep you busy.

If you don't believe me, get this: Isaac Newton had to work remotely for a full year during the plague, and he was so productive then that he later called it his "year of wonders". In that time, he developed theories that would later be known as calculus, optics, and gravity.

2. Be mindful of your emotions. This is always good practice, as it helps us manage our feelings and make healthy, intuitive choices. But now more than ever, it's crucial to check in with yourself and be honest about how you feel. What is your mood? Where do you feel it in your body? Notice whatever comes up. Honor any and all emotions. Really feel them – and then let them go. Look at each one and determine whether it’s really serving you. If it's not, how you might direct that energy to something more productive?

Also, now is the perfect time to try (or continue) mindful meditation. Meditating has been shown to:

  • Relieve anxiety and depression
  • Aids in cognitive skills such as memory, learning, attention and concentration
  • Slow the cognitive effects of aging, keeping your brain young and agile
  • Physically change the brain. Recent studies suggests that it increases the brain’s ability to process information and emotions.

Give yourself a few minutes today to sit quietly, focus on your breath, and let go.

3. Change perspective. What have you been telling yourself about current events? Is it something like "This is the apocalypse" or "This is ruining everything"? If that sounds like you, try out a new perspective. "This is an experience to learn and grow." "This is teaching me something." "This is a time to truly honor my values and do the best I can." Choose one that feels right for you, and step into it fully. How does that feel?

4. Shift your focus. I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it: You feel what you focus on. For example, instead of obsessing over the scary news and all the unknowns, stop and play a game with your kids. Or pick up that novel you're halfway though. Do something calming or energizing, something that makes you happier than browsing through news reports for the hundredth time. You'll feel better, and from that happier place, you'll be more able to deal with uncertainty.

  1. Be kind to your body. Eat nutrient-rich, unprocessed foods. (Take this time to learn to make those healthy recipes you've been saving up – like this one for vegan Caesar salad!) Make sure you're getting quality sleep. Get some exercise (more on that in a second). Taking steps like these have exponential benefits, from boosting your immune system to alleviating stress. Even if you feel tempted to reach for the comfort food or scroll through your phone until two a.m., remember that those little choices – like choosing carrots over cookies, or unplugging yourself at 10:30 – make a big difference.

    5. Move. Staying inside makes a lot of people feel sluggish. It might be tempting to stay in pajamas all day, then hit the couch for an evening Netflix binge. But don't give in to that! Your body, mind, and soul all need movement. Your body is craving it, which is one reason you might be feeling a lot of pent-up tension and fear. Movement releases that, stimulates muscles (including the brain), and helps you stay energized and adaptable.

Normally I'd say "pencil in a yoga class" or "be sure to hit the gym"…but not now. Now's the time to take the clothes off the old treadmill or drag your dumbbells out from the closet. Fortunately, there are tons of exercise videos online you can access for free. Here's a great one to start with – a Moti Minute on staying flexible.

I hope you and your loved ones stay healthy, positive, and adaptable during these trying times. Please reach out if you feel you need some support (just reply to this email). Together, with enough social distancing and hand-washing, we can do our part to "flatten the curve," take care of each other, and minimize the harm caused by this virus.

Go out – no, I take that back. Stay in, stay flexible, and shine.

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