We’ve been in this thing for a long time and with the winter months upon us, COVID is ramping up in the US. Governors are enacting more restrictions and people are wondering what this is going to look like. Statistics and trend lines in the U.S look unnerving. People’s stress baselines are chronically higher during these times and it’s important for your health to find ways that work for you to self regulate.
9 Ways to Calm Yourself Now
1- Breathe. Your breath is an excellent anchor to the present and oxygen is an antidote to the stress hormone, cortisol. When you notice yourself feeling worried, take 5 slow and deep breaths in through your nose and out through pursed lips. If time is limited, even one full, slow breath can be helpful. Start a mindfulness practice to help train your brain to more effectively drop into the now.
2- Name your emotions. Denying your emotions isn’t helpful as they find other unhelpful ways of showing themselves, (blowing up at a loved one when you’ve been holding anger, feeling angst-filled and tense when worry is ignored or minimized, etc.) Naming your challenging emotion can actually help tame it.
3- Help. Redirect your angst to reaching out to help. Are there vulnerable people in your community who need help? Can you support your local restaurant by ordering takeout? Studies show that altruism reduces stress and fosters happiness.
4- Find some structure. For many, making lists and organizing what needs to happen can be soothing. Do things in manageable pieces until you feel at ease. Create a schedule for containment and a better sense of control in a situation where you feel out of control.
5- Watch for cognitive distortions. We are in a time of a lot of unknowns. Yet try your best not to leap ahead to the future imagining the worst possible scenarios when they haven’t happened…and perhaps they will not. There are many “cognitive distortions” to be aware of but the few that come to mind here are jumping to conclusions and catastrophizing.
6- Take a media break. If you are behaving obsessively around media consumption (social or otherwise), limit your exposure. Despite the rapid-fire changing of events, choose a few reputable sources with citations, research and legitimate experts. Avoid overly inflammatory media but rather those that are considered in the middle on bias. Now more than ever we have to be responsible and mindful around what we consume. Here’s a good media bias chart.
7- Talk it out. Find a friend or family member who tends to be emotionally balanced and practical to share your concerns. Sometimes just talking it out with feedback and suggestions can be calming. Use technology to connect if need be!
8- Take care of your body. Now more than ever it’s important to try get enough rest, eat healthy and move your body. Avoid drinking too much alcohol. If your physical body is functioning optimally, it will be better equipped to stave off the impact of stress on your immune system.
9- Create a calm environment. Put some TLC into the nest you call your home, making it feel as grounding as possible. For many it will mean keeping it clean, for others it might be with music or lighting. Find a few relaxing or inspiring projects to do to distract from your worries.
These times are particularly challenging for those with a tendency for anxiety even in normal times. If you need support, seek it.
If you’re in California, check out my California Online Therapy services for San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, San Mateo, Marin and everywhere in between. If you’re out of state, check out the Psychology Today Therapist Directory to find someone in your area.
If you have a specific question and you would like an educational consultation only, see my Emotional Health Consultation service on my other site, LoveAndLifeToolbox.com.