By Blake Ruble, Founder, Alliance Experiential
In what feels like a minute, life has been dramatically altered due to the advent of the coronavirus crisis. In just a few short weeks, Americans went from being free-spirited, social beings to feeling somewhat like caged animals. While the experts attempt to work out the ever-changing policies to safeguard our health, we are tasked with the challenge of learning how to live with a very limited range of movement.
For those who already struggle with stress regulation or an anxiety disorder, these recent events may have a destabilizing effect. With so much uncertainty in the air, it is easy to understand why many of us might find ourselves wrestling with worry and distress on a daily basis.
Successfully navigating this historic event will depend on a great part of how we manage our days. By choosing to improve our psychological and physical health through purposeful actions taken during the social distancing measures, we can make the most of our time at home. Indeed, minding our personal wellness by managing stress will serve us well in the long run.
6 Stress Management Skills to Access Now
As we wind our way through the endless string of days, sometimes even losing track of what day of the week it is, why not establish a wellness routine that helps nourish the mind-body connection during a time of elevated stress? Consider incorporating the following actions to help give the days some structure and purpose, while at the same time helping to regulate the stress response:
following actions to help give the days some structure and purpose, while at the same time helping to regulate the stress response:
- Keep perspective. Our thoughts are powerful and have the ability to either have a positive or negative effect on our mental health. A technique used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has us examine our thought patterns to identify distortions or irrational thinking, and then mindfully shift these toward positive self-messaging. Avoid catastrophic black or white thinking about the pandemic by maintaining perspective, therefore avoiding worst-case scenario thoughts.
- Keep moving. Although our physical movements are temporarily restrained, it has never been more important to get some regular exercise. The reasoning is twofold: First, while we are sheltering in our homes and properties there is a natural tendency to watch a lot of TV and become less active, which can cause negative health effects, and secondly, our mental health is greatly benefited by exercise and movement. Get out the hand weights, grab the yoga mat, dust off the treadmill, or head to the backyard and run some laps to help reduce stress.
- Practice mindfulness. When we allow our thoughts to run wild with worry we trigger the stress response and will naturally become anxious. Mindfulness is a highly effective tool for helping to regulate stress while inducing a sense of peaceful calm. The practice involves training the mind to rein in thought distractions and to purposefully focus on the present moment. By centering attention on the sensations being experienced in the here and now, and accepting where you are at without judgment, the mind and body will begin to relax.
- Deep-breathing. Breathwork is very effective at swiftly calming the body, mind, and spirit. Deep-breathing techniques, which slow the heart rate and lowers blood pressure, can be practiced whenever we feel our anxiety level ratcheting upward. Simply inhale slowly to the count of five, hold the breath for the count of five, and then exhale fully to the count of five. Repeat this pattern about six times to experience a full-body relaxation effect.
- Get outdoors. Come up with a hobby that can be done outside, such as gardening, meditating, or Plein air painting. Activities such as these not only are enjoyable, but they get us out into the fresh air where we can soak up vitamin D. Vitamin D, an effect of sun exposure, is essential to maintaining mental health. Planting a garden, in particular, is a relaxing activity that can provide hours of enjoyment while providing a sense of accomplishment as our efforts yield results over time.
- Stay connected. As social beings, we are not accustomed to being physically separated from friends, family members, and coworkers. After a few weeks of this social distancing, signs of emotional stress are beginning to emerge as a result of feeling isolated and lonely. It is essential that during this period we make an effort to remain connected to friends and loved ones using the technologies available to us. Social media is fine, but take communication to a more personal level by using video chat platforms like Zoom or FaceTime. Just hearing a friend’s voice or seeing the face of a loved one is reassuring, and this will help reduce stress.
Yes, we are all being challenged to adapt to a strange new way of life that was imposed upon us out of nowhere. How we manage our stress levels during the coronavirus event will depend to a large degree on clinging to a positive attitude and practicing techniques that help regulate anxiety. Together, we will weather this crisis and emerge stronger for having lived through it.
Alliance Experiential Offers Movement-Based Therapeutic Experiences
Blake Ruble, LPC, NCC, is the founder of Alliance Experiential, a movement-based mental health therapeutic approach serving the greater Denver metropolitan area. For more information about the program, please reach out to Alliance Experiential today at (720) 990-5033.