*Due to a techical error, part 1 of this session is audio only.
As people, we often worry about our what may happen in the future, especially over situations which we can’t control. During extremely stressful times, like the one we find ourselves in with COVID 19, these negative and anxious thoughts grow stronger and our stress reaction triggers weakening our ability to think clearly and maintain peace of mind. We feel frightened, concerned that life will never be normal again and are led by our instinct to survive instead of remaining rational at a time we need it most.
In the next 30 minutes, you will learn 5 tips to help you Stress Less and Live Better even when you find yourself in an extremely stressful situation. If you practice these tips, you are likely to feel less stressed and more able to cope with our current circumstances. While they won’t make COVID 19 go away, they can help you and your loved ones or anyone whose life you touch, feel better. If you want a more in-depth review of these coping skills, read about them in Stress Less Live Better: 5 Simple Steps to Ease Anxiety, Worry and Self-Criticism or Stress Less Live Better for Pregnancy, Postpartum and Early Motherhood.
Tip #1: Practice Sanford’s Four Pillars of Health. The best insurance you have about remaining healthy whatever is facing you is to prioritize your health and well-being. Get adequate sleep. Eat nourishing foods. Get regular physical activity. Practice stress reduction.
Tip #2: Make a gratitude list. Research shows that the human mind can only focus on one thought at a time. In the moment that we think about what we’re grateful for in our life, stress decreases and we worry less which allows us to feel calmer and more in control.
Tip #3: Be of service to others. Studies show that when we focus our attention on doing something for someone else, we feel better and more at ease. When you go to the grocery store, see if an older neighbor needs anything. Smile at your neighbors when you see them. Distract yourself with random acts of kindness.
Tip #4: Go to your happy place. To do this, find a comfortable seated position and take 3 deep breaths in and out. Then direct your attention to a place or lived experience that brought you comfort or joy. Focus on this place or experience for at least 3 minutes recalling it in as much detail as you can-sights, sounds, scents, touch sensations and tastes. Take 3 more breaths and open your eyes.
Tip #5: Control what you can and let go of what you can’t. Practice good personal hygiene including washing your hands thoroughly, using hand sanitizer, and wiping shared surfaces down. Be certain to sleep well, stay physically active, be mindful of what you think about and nourish your body. Doing these things will improve your immunity and strengthen your mental health even when there’s not a crisis.
Tip #6: Tame the tigers within. The “tigers within” refer to our worried and fearful thoughts. Studies confirm that the human mind does not distinguish between external and internal threat. Our caveman ancestors ran from the saber-toothed tiger. We are pursued by our negative and stressful thoughts. As human beings, we often worry about negative events which never occur. Learn to tame your mind.
Tip# 7: What we think about expands and what we don’t think about gets smaller. This is why so many people are frightened by Co-vid 19 because that’s all they’ve been thinking about. Be careful with social media and what you talk about to friends. Limit your listening, watching or reading the news to 15 minutes twice a day. Stay off your phone and close your computer. There is nothing to be gained!
Tip # 8: Thoughts are NOT facts. Worries and fears become convincing because we keep having them. Think about the last time you were convinced that something catastrophic was likely to occur. Did it actually happen or not? Mark Twain said, “I am an old man and have suffered a great many misfortunes, most of which never occurred.”
Tip # 9: Thoughts come and go like the weather. Close your eyes for a moment and notice how often what you’re thinking about changes from one moment to another. Then picture your changing thoughts like clouds passing through the sky, leaves flowing down a stream, waves peaking and diminishing on the ocean. If you have a worried or fearful thought, watch your thoughts come and don’t get stuck on them.
Tip # 10: Practice stress reduction. Do whatever helps you calm your body and mind. Go outside, take a walk, watch a yoga video or ride your exercise box. Face-time with family, eat meals together, phone a friend or play with your children. Soak in the bathtub, give your partner a foot massage, watch a funny movie or cuddle with a pet. This too shall pass and maybe we’ll learn something along the way. Namaste