It is normal to feel stressed or anxious amidst a global pandemic where everything seems tragic, drastic, and messy on our lovely blue planet. The rising spread of COVID-19 and the fear it has brought about has taken a toll on several minds and bodies. Even though stress and anxiety are not acknowledged as problems, they are very much real and have to be dealt with. Let’s understand that whenever we feel anxious, it’s the body’s way of reacting to an emotional response to a perceived future threat. What we’re dealing with right now is appropriate for that sort of anxiety response. But despite the doom and gloom, those of us “in the know” realize that this can be the best time to prioritize mental wellness, and transform into our collective creativity, thereby, turning the situation to be an absolute winner in this combat with the “fear”.
However, what we also know is that anxiety sometimes tends to go out-of-hand and hinder the day-to-day work and thoughts. To combat such issues related to anxiety, we bring to you, 7 effective ways that will give you strength and courage; and bring your state of mind and raging pulse back to normal amid this period.
7 Effective Ways to Deal With Stress and Anxiety
#1 Follow a Healthy Diet
Our emotional state is primarily affected by what we eat and drink. If you find yourself eating or craving salty or sugary foods, then this is a clear sign for you to stop and reassess your shopping list. Here are a few tips on what to add or remove from your shopping list or diet that will make sure your anxiety and stress levels are in check:
- Eat Complex Carbohydrates: Note that the right type of carbohydrates can be stress busters! Complex carbs may increase serotonin levels and help to increase your mood and reduce stress. More serotonin brings more focus. Include whole grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, and an ample amount of colored fruits and vegetables to get adequate complex carbs which will bring down stress levels. Be selective and mindful of foods when stress strikes in.
- Cut caffeine & alcohol out: The foods that contain caffeine and alcohol are the culprits associated with exacerbating anxiety. Even studies have found out that caffeine stimulating effects can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, nervousness, and irritation. Reducing caffeine intake to 1-2 cups a day will keep stress levels in check and not lead to caffeine highs.
- Eat more greens: Salads can be one of the best choices you can make to alleviate stress. Spinach, celery, kale, and other raw fruit and vegetables are stress-busting energy sources and play a key role in increasing dopamine levels, as found in the Frontiers in a Psychology study. You must include them as part of your eating routine to keep stress and anxiety at bay.
#2 Be active
Staying active dramatically affects your mood. Research has indicated that exercise can be more effective than medicine. Exercise does not entirely make your stress disappear, but it will surely reduce your emotional pressure, clear your mind, improve your mood, and help you deal with your problems. Here’s what you need to do –
- Do what you love: Almost all forms of exercises or movements are helpful to alleviate stress. You must choose the activity you most enjoy doing. It could be as simple as going for a walk, cycling, yoga, crafts, or even gardening.
- Add a little strength training and stretching exercises: Add a short workout and do it two to three times a week and you’ll have excellent, balanced health. Resistance exercises help you strengthen your joints, muscles, and build endurance to get you through the day with ease.
One of the main reasons why ‘being active’ cannot be stressed enough is – staying active keeps body and mind busy, thereby distracting you from problems and keeping you free to think creatively. It’s like the popular proverb that says, “an idle mind is a devil’s workshop”. So, we must at all times make sure we don’t make our minds a devil’s workshop and the only way to do that is to – Get moving!
Looking for guidance in helping you keep yourself healthy and maintain mental fitness? Get in touch with our experts here
#3 Stay Calm and Breathe
Literally, “rapid heart rate and shortness of breath are two of the most common physiological reasons for anxiety.” Indeed, breathing is one of the most effective ways of controlling the autonomic nervous system. It will cut out uneven impulses from your brain. Take the time to breathe deeply when stressed or sit calmly for one minute and concentrate on your breath.
What you must practice on a daily basis to control stress and anxiety is –
- Practice mindfulness and meditation: Mindfulness and meditation are the two most effective and powerful kriyas to relieve stress and anxiety. Attention is so underrated nowadays that we often ignore it, but ultimately, meditation is an epicenter where we find solace. If you are new to meditation, take the help of music or just simply do chanting.
- Be present at the moment: A conscious effort from your side to be present at the moment may prevent stressful eating and help you make rational decisions.
- Count your breath: To help you focus, it is beneficial to stretch the duration of breathing for the entire length of your inhalation or exhalation instead of thinking rapidly and then dropping it. For example, you decided to chant OM, allow it for a 10-second duration to “o-o-o-o-o,” for inhalation and 5 seconds period to “m-m-m-m” for exhalation, and so on. This makes it one breath. Repeat it until you feel calm and relaxed.
#4 Stay connected – while following social distancing
Humans are social beings and crave connection. But with social distancing in place, isolation has caused many to deal with intense anxiety and depression, in turn affecting physical well-being. While we reduce socializing as an individual, it is essential to stay connected as best as we can and some best ways to do so are –
- Staying in touch with friends and building a deeper bond with family: A good support network of colleagues, friends, and family can ease any problem. So building bonds with a few close ones is key to keeping your stress and anxiety levels handled.
- Log off from toxic people: Emotions are contagious, so be aware of whom you seek out as your sounding board. Do not feel guilty to mute people who are exacerbating your anxiety. Switch to people in your life that are thoughtful, joyful, and level-headed.
#5 Learn how to self-soothe
Go easy on yourself, especially during these testing times, and practice self-care in response to the unusual coronavirus disruption. The best ways to do so are –
- Positive Self-talk: If you feel more depressed or nervous than normal, you’re not alone. Whenever the feeling of anxiety comes into play, practice positive self-speech to increase your own emotional comfort. It can be as simple as saying things like ‘This feeling will pass;’ ‘I am going to get through it,’ ‘I’m anxious now, but I can make myself calm’.
- Accept your emotions: If we face an anxious situation, physiological changes are automatically triggered by our sympathetic nervous system. The breathing picks up, the adrenaline is secreted, and the heart starts pounding—this natural mechanism for survival is known as fight or flight response. However, if the danger is fantasized, then the flight and fight response is superfluous. Understand, you are safe at home, learn to cope with your emotions, and accept that you will be tense at times and it is okay to be that way.
#6 Make sure to get 8 hours of sleep every day
Even losing a few hours of sleep raises feelings of tension, frustration, depression, and fatigue. Especially, during this time, it is imperative that each and every one of us get a good night’s sleep, for it is of utmost necessity for the proper functioning of mind and body. A few tips that can be followed are –
- Stick to a sleep schedule: Fixing your bedtime and wake up time is one of the best ways to make sure you are well-rested. This will not only help your body and mind but will also keep stress levels low.
- Wind down: Your body and mind need time to shift to a sleep mode, keeping a relaxing activity close to bedtime like listening to soothing music or reading a funny book can help you think of happy thoughts and make it easy for your body to turn to sleep mode in less time.
#7 Stay informed but limit the amount of information flow
One way to improve the quality of your thoughts is by controlling the amount of information flow that you are exposed to. We live in a world where there is an abundance of information and misinformation flowing around us. And, this can start to feel overwhelming and bring about high levels of stress and anxiety. One of the best things you can do, especially if you’re the type who says, “I need to know every new headline, every new update,” is –
- Rely only on trusted sources: Stay away from the most compulsive headlines and feeds, and be deliberate about what you read and watch. Stick to CDC, WHO, and local public health authorities’ words before going to other sources.
- Don’t eliminate but segregate: You shouldn’t completely switch off media. It’s also important to get informed about the latest practices and precautions laid by the government to help slow down the spread of the virus on your part. Segregate the sources that provide only the juice of all occurrences without any hogwash.
- Switch it off if you feel overwhelmed: Limit your watch time to a 30-minute evening news broadcast and ask yourself how much of that was really necessary?
As the old saying goes, “change the way you look at things and things around you will change.” In other words, we cannot control the world economy or pandemics that happen, but what we can control is – what is going on inside our mind and body. So from today, let’s keep our focus on things we can control and take care of ourselves. It’s interesting to see the world’s resilience, and as we manage the threat of COVID-19 together, our top-most priority should be our health and well-being. So let’s take the opportunity to include these practices and develop a positive and healthy relationship with our body and mind to live long past the current uncertainty and come out triumphant!