Coronavirus can stir up all sorts of feelings. Like fear, crippling anxiety, or depression. A little stress can be helpful. It can be the motivator, which keeps us self-isolating or washing our hands. However, constant or high levels of stress can negatively affect our mental and physical health. Taking care of our minds is always important, but doing so in the middle of a pandemic can be tricky.
Here are some tips and techniques to help us all get through this.
Start your day well: It can be tempting to reach for your phone or switch on the news first thing in the morning but starting the day with a simple mindfulness exercise, such as “Notice 3 things”, can help you check in with how you are feeling and connect with your environment. Mindfulness is well known to make people feel calmer and cope better with stress.
Notice 3 things exercise: This quick exercise takes less than a minute. Before you get out of bed: pause and concentrate on three things you can see. For example, your patterned curtains, the blue sky or even just a lightbulb. Then listen for three things you can hear. The sound of cars passing by, a singing bird or the hum of your boiler. And finally, notice 3 things you can feel in contact with your body. Your PJs, bedsheets or even your cat.
Get planning: Although it is tempting to stay curled up in bed- adapting and creating positive new routines can be helpful and keep you motivated. For example, in the place of what was your morning commute or a school-run: listen to a podcast or go for a walk. Incorporating some form of exercise outdoors if possible, into every day is good for mental and physical wellbeing. In addition, set aside time to speak to friends, family, or work colleagues every day. Connecting with others releases feel-good hormones that help to relieve crippling anxiety stress.
Stay informed, not overloaded: Although we are able to cope with some stress here and there, being constantly exposed to a rolling fear-inducing news-feed can affect your mental health. Hearing upsetting or anxiety-provoking news triggers a stress-response in our bodies. Keeping informed is important, but managing your social media and information intake will make a big difference in how you feel. Try to limit the time you spend listening to, watching, or reading things about the outbreak. Turn to one or two reliable sources for news and check them just once or twice a day to stay informed. If feelings of crippling anxiety spring up in your day, try a breathing technique, such as box breathing. Concentrating on and controlling your breathing is a scientific- backed way of making you feel calm.
Box Breathing: Box breathing is quick, easy, and can be done anywhere. Breathe in deeply, through your nose, for a count of four. Hold your breath for four. Breathe out completely, through your mouth, for a count of four, and hold your empty breath for four. Then repeat four times.
Getting ready for bed: Good quality sleep makes a big difference in how you feel. However, feeling worried or anxious can make getting to sleep difficult. You could set a coronavirus news curfew, so you do not watch or read anything to do with the outbreak after 7 pm and aim for a regular bedtime. You might also find it helpful to: avoid caffeine before bed, not eat or drink too much late in the evening. Have a warm bath and keep screens out of your bedroom.
The body scan: If getting to sleep is proving tricky; you can try “the body scan”. This simple exercise helps you to relax both your mind and body and with practice, you might find that it even sends you off to sleep. Whilst you are lying in bed or resting, taking your attention to your feet. Relax and soften them into the bed as much as possible. Then scan up your body, moving to your ankles. Release any tension and soften them into the bed. Once they feel relaxed, move up further to your calves, then knees, thighs, and so on. Keep moving slowly up your body, all the way to your head, softening and relaxing every muscle along the way.
We hope these simple daily steps will help. Take care!