We’re certainly living in strange times.
While a global pandemic sweeps through our nation – and across the world – there is plenty to feel stressed about.
People are losing their jobs.
Parents are forced to find a way to have their child taken care of in response to mandatory school closing.
Most terrifyingly, the weak and elderly – our grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and lifelong friends – are all very much at risk of being gravely affected by COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.
Oh, yeah. We’re all confined to our homes for the most part, too.
There is no shortage of stress-inducing realities that we are all facing, and it’s looking like this will be the case for the foreseeable future, at the very least.
So, it’s time to explore some easy stress relievers while we are locked in our homes with limited human contact in an effort to keep our shit together, our attitudes positive, and our outlook on each day better than the day before.
Stress Relievers in Times of High Anxiety
There are the easy answers:
- Home workouts.
- Reading good books.
- Walks outside in fresh air (while keeping your minimum 6-foot distance from others).
- Online shopping.
These are some of the more common alternatives to losing your mind on accelerate.
And they make sense.
Working out is scientifically proven to naturally reduce stress through the release of endorphins and other chemical responses.
Reading helps get the creative juices flowing.
Fresh air is always good for the mind and body, too.
But what about some other basic, not-so-common outlets for stress and anxiety in these strange times?
1. Take it Slow
Most important thing for us anxious, oft-worried people is to just take is slow.
Deep breaths and relaxation remain unrivaled.
But it’s easier said than done.
Anyone with real anxiety knows that.
Just never turn your back on the basics.
The faster we realize we need to gain control to handle what comes at us, the easier everything else becomes.
Remember to take it slow and think of the big picture.
We’ve made it this far and we’re living in a big world.
Appreciate it for what it is.
More often than not, everything falls into place.
2. Less Coffee If You’re Like Me Right Now
For the naturally anxious and occasionally uncontrollable personalities, like me, less coffee can be better.
I need at least a couple of cups to get going in the morning, especially on Mondays.
Also, I have found myself four (or more) cups deep before noon due to working from home – and making coffee by the pot.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed and anxious in these uncertain times.
But I try to help myself stay grounded by regulating just how much caffeine I put into my body, especially when my total daily movement is at an all-time low.
A cup or two is all most of us need for the day.
Move onto water at some point.
Then keep your focus once you’re awake and working at a pace that works for you.
Don’t just keep drinking coffee until you’ve got the shakes and are about to explode.
(Yes, I speak from experience!)
3. Take Breaks from Watching the News
We all want to stay up to date on the current situation to ensure we have the facts and know what we can truly expect.
But there has to be a saturation point.
As a news junkie myself, I typically watch hours of news each day.
In these trying times, that’s probably not the healthiest choice.
I’ve reduced my news-watching time significantly, mostly saving my viewing for the morning and evening news telecasts only.
The mess on Facebook is a much different story.
Sure, there can be good information on the social media platform, and it’s usually nice to have that human exposure – albeit virtually – but, we all know far too well, there’s a lot of crap on Facebook, too.
Just like we manage our time watching the news, we need to manage our time on platforms like Facebook.
Honestly, I have zero interest in having real-life contact with several of my “friends” on Facebook anytime soon.
I also wonder why so many people never paid attention in ninth-grade library class (nor understand credibility, proper sourcing, etc.).
No matter how you slice it, we need to manage and regulate our exposure to the outside madness when it comes to the news media and social media platforms.
4. Take a Trip on Foot (With or Without the Dog)
This is an easy one.
And it’s a good one.
There are a lot of things we are currently not allowed to do.
Thankfully, walking outside is not one of them.
So long as we keep our 6-foot distance from others, we are more than welcomed to get outside, get some fresh air while we take a quick run or walk the dog, and simply get in touch with the basics of life.
5. Clean the House
If you’re like me, working in chaos is second nature.
But working in a mess is a nightmare.
And that, my friends, is one of the biggest dilemmas for working from home, at least for me.
I find it hard to get in the zone if I’m sitting among dirty dishes, clothes that need to be put away, and piles of unnecessary toys that my 3-year-old leaves laying around always.
So, I pick them up.
I’m a lucky one in that cleaning is therapeutic to me.
So, this helps in a multitude of ways.
But the biggest factor here is the mental satisfaction I get from having a home (and temporary office) that is clean and tidy.
It’s just one more way to eliminate unnecessary stress.
6. Talk to Friends & Family
As we now know, social distancing is not easy.
It’s a fun joke or punchline when we bail on our friends (maybe even several times) to claim that we just want to be home alone in our pajamas.
But being forced to stay in our homes and overthinking everything we touch for the small periods we actually leave (at the grocery store, gas station, bank, etc.) is no way to navigate life.
We need to keep communicating with the outside world while we can, too.
As mentioned, social networks help with this drastically.
But there is plenty of toxicity out there that needs to be waded through as well.
I’ve had several meetups with friends and/or coworkers since the 100 percent work-from-home mandate for non-essential employees in New York.
And, while I still don’t think I am nearly as pretty as my mom pretended I was growing up (which became even more evident after staring at myself in the webcam during the meetups), this is definitely a fun and unique way to pass the time and stay somewhat normal.
Zoom is easy to use, has some fun options for things like virtual backgrounds, and it’s free.
We may not see these people (in person) for a couple more weeks, but we can connect with them in some capacity and keep things familiar with relative ease.
7. Start a Journal
As a journalist at heart, this is a no-brainer for me.
But, like most of these alternatives, what works for me may not work for others.
I’m just trying to provide some ideas; take what you’d like and modify as needed.
I typically don’t keep a journal or diary, but when I do revisit old notes from certain periods of my life, I’m always intrigued.
To be able to look back at a period of life and recite your thoughts is a strong, impactful way to remember the past.
Pictures are great, but written dialogue (especially when written and read by the same person) has incredible power.
It also offers some peace of mind and sanity.
It’s almost like I’m visiting my shrink through handwriting at home.
I don’t personally meditate, but many friends and coworkers do, and swear by it.
It’s on the list of things I will certainly explore during this strange time.
But meditation, along with breathing and mental-awareness exercises, are sure winners as ways to reduce stress by definition.
9. Try Something New
While many of us may be reluctant to break from what we already know we enjoy, now is also an ideal time to try some new things.
Many of us will try some new programs on Netflix, maybe teach ourselves a new valuable skill, perhaps even cook up a new dish or two as we explore self-entertaining.
It doesn’t hurt to try new things.
Some of the new things I plan to do to keep my cool throughout quarantine are meditation, learn some coding skills, and definitely cooking things I never have before.
I will be trying some new shows on Netflix, too.
10. Indulge in Satisfaction… But Work Toward It as a Reward
Another big one that seems pretty easy but may be overlooked is rewarding yourself with some of the finer things in life.
A lot of us have been joking on social media about how we are going to be fat after this quarantining period is over with.
And I’m not saying it’s wrong.
Staying sane for the next few weeks may come with a few extra pounds when we are allowed to come out of our houses.
I’ll take it.
Some of my favorite “rewards” are ice cream, chocolate, Swedish Fish – even non-edibles like video games and other time-out pleasurables that help us feel good but should probably be indulged in at a regulated pace.
Some of us also enjoy alcoholic beverages.
Nothing wrong with that.
I’ve just found it best to keep myself restricted to having my first drink until after 4 p.m. when my workday ends at 5 (officially).
That time has since moved up to 3 p.m. over the last two days.
The important part is just to keep it righteous and don’t do more harm than good.
11. Catch Up With Yourself & Life
I have long said that I need 36 hours in a day to get even half of the things done I would like to in one day.
Life moves fast. I tend to, too.
But this mandatory slow-down time – if you’re lucky enough to still have a job, be able to work from home, and are in good health – has allowed me to get a lot of my messy life elements in order.
I’ve caught up on my mail. My house is clean. My laundry is done.
There is something to be said for having order in life that helps with a positive outlook.
And, for work, I am catching up on time-consuming tasks that would otherwise probably not get done anytime soon.
12. Don’t Work on the Same Thing Too Long
I’m extremely productive when I work from home.
I also tend to go crazy a lot faster.
Something I have found useful is the ability to shift gears regularly, or as needed.
Same for when working in the office.
If you’re able/don’t mind it, change up gears and put down a 3,000-cell Excel spreadsheet to take on a task or two that are easier.
Maybe grab lunch, too.
Come back and hammer out the spreadsheet for a couple of hours.
Everybody loves a slight change of scenery, especially now.
13. Enjoy a Hobby – Any Way Possible
Face it. We don’t get enough time to enjoy the things we love.
Even if we actually do. We’ll say we don’t.
That’s why they are the things we love!
In this period of social distancing, doing more of what we love is critical.
Most of us have hobbies we like but just don’t get to do as much as we’d like.
It could be painting, drawing, knitting, writing, reading, making music, or a million other things.
Whatever you enjoy and makes you happy is the right answer here.
14. Sharpen Your Skillset
We live in a world where knowledge is very much available, and usually for free.
And knowledge is power.
Been meaning to teach yourself how to code? How to play the guitar? Learn a new language?
Now is the time.
There are plenty of free platforms out there to learn code, including Codecademy and a myriad of YouTube resources.
Fender is giving away three months of free guitar lessons in this time of quarantine.
Duolingo is a dependable easy-to-use free resource for learning a new language, too.
Heck, maybe you’ve been meaning to read (and master) Kamasutra.
Now’s the time.
Weird situations like the coronavirus-created life shutdown are rare, but they’re real.
We don’t have much choice in the matter.
What we do with our time is important, for our sanity, but also for our production.
I can confidently say that I’ve been working more efficiently than usual on my regular day-to-day tasks, but I also feel privileged to be lucky enough to have a job with flexibility, good teammates, and good clients.
Outside of my regular eight to 10 hours of work per day, I’ve explored other ways to occupy my time and aren’t coming out of my TV but also help keep the stress down.
Working on a book I’ve put on far too long, catching up on old episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy”, and re-organizing my filing cabinet are three things I’ve put time into so far in quarantine, and all have helped regulate my stress.
Do What Works for You
Some things work for some people and others work for other people.
The important thing to remember is not everything works the same for everyone.
Finding what works well for you is one of, if not the, most important element to keeping your mind right in these times.
There are many uncertainties that exist in this unsure time.
One thing we all certainly need is to keep our cool.
Sam Hollingsworth is a native New Yorker currently leading all search efforts for Elevation Ten Thousand marketing agency as its Director of Search. Specializing in general SEO, content strategy, and social media, when Sam’s not hard at work at the agency, he can be found at one of the many thoroughbred race tracks across the country (soon to go international), enjoying the great outdoors, and/or cheering on one of his favorite sports teams.