How Can You Reduce Stress? Count All the Ways

The current virus-induced situation has caused some folks (including myself) to stress out a bit. Today’s post is a meditation (so to speak) on the various ways you can reduce the level of stress in uncertain times. My primary recommendation: don’t rely on just one!

Addressing the Monster Directly

My most recent post on handling stress focused on how to operate if you’ve got stress at home and still have to face an office. Now you might have a different challenge: your home is your office. My previous suggestions still apply if you have to interact with coworkers via email, phone, or video teleconference:

  • Address the problem (as best you can). A lot of what’s happening around us–from the virus itself to the various governments’ reactions to it–are beyond our control. If the authorities’ responses to the virus are creating hardships for you and anyone living with you, you should take what action(s) you can.
  • Ask for help from your support network or the people living with/near you.
  • Assuming you’re working, normally I’d suggest keeping the drama out of your work time/space. However, we’re not in normal times. One of my customers hosts daily 15-minute teleconferences with his team to check how everyone is doing personally. Work is not discussed. If you’re having a problem, you also might be fortunate enough to have peers, leaders, or customers who will take the time to be understanding about personal stress issues. Odds are, they have them, too.

The Many Methods of Self Care

At ease, soldier

First of all, give yourself a break. Yes, you might be working, but it’s under unusual circumstances. Even if you work from home like me, everything probably isn’t “business as usual.” You might be sheltering in place, facing curfews, home-schooling small humans, or trying to find groceries when the shelves are out of necessary items. None of this is normal! Therefore, don’t scold yourself for not being your usual, productive self.

Take care of yourself

I’ve touched on this elsewhere, but your body is an integrated system. A breakdown in one part of your overall health can eventually lead to problems elsewhere. Therefore, be mindful of your diet, the amount of exercise you get, the level of stress in your life, and the amount of sleep you’re getting.

Seek out things that relax you

My way of working off stress involves taking long walks wherever and whenever I can. Spoiled brat that I am, I’ve usually walked around Walt Disney World property, which is right next door. Now Disney is closed, resorts and all. The main highway near my apartment complex has few streetlights, so I have to take my walks earlier or take evening walks around my apartment complex, which is well lit, to get my mileage done.

I also take naps. These range from 25 to 45 minutes. Trying to function on the job at full speed when there are a lot of other things going on can wear you out. I have to shut down and give my body and mind a rest. And unlike a typical office, you can generally take a nap at home without the boss scolding you.

To distract myself, I also read or watch TV, depending on my mood.

The Calm app I downloaded last year, while not cheap, offers multiple options, including guided meditations, relaxing sounds, and soothing music.

Lastly, I took up a new hobby: learning the piano/keyboard. I chose this option because my fiction-writing brain is broken; I’m not particularly adept at the visual arts; and if I started creating paintings, pottery, or sculptures, I’d quickly clutter up my limited living space. The advantage of this hobby is that it’s open-ended and allows me to connect my mind, body, and soul.

There are other options, of course: yoga is a big favorite for some. Jigsaw puzzles or other mental challenges such as crossword puzzles might work for you. Maybe Sudoku. Some folks get into scrapbooking. I have been known to write down my thoughts/feelings in my journal as well.

Avoid some forms of “relaxation”

Some forms of relaxation are better than others. If you’re stuck at home, eating to reduce stress can create a double problem as you are taking in more calories than usual and potentially not getting the exercise to work it off.

Some folks smoke cigarettes. I’m not a fan, but that’s your choice. I’m certain you’ve heard the lectures against those by now.

Coffee or tea might work for you; I’m drinking decaffeinated tea–you might have other options, but caffeine can be hard on the heart, stomach, and nervous system.

Another potential relaxant that can create problems is alcohol. In addition to adding unnecessary calories to your diet, it can raise your blood pressure; harm your liver and circulatory system; and add to your depression. It also impairs your judgment if you drink too much on a regular basis. I took the option to take alcohol out of my routine.

There are other recreational chemicals, of course, with various levels of legality. I don’t use those, nor would I recommend them, especially if you have a job with a security clearance. However, some products such as CBD oil might work for you–again, just be mindful of the laws, and don’t make the mind-altering a many-times-a-day habit or you’ll cause harm to yourself in other ways.

Have More Than One Outlet

As I said in the introduction, try to have more than one outlet. World circumstances being what they are, you might have one or more of your “favorites” taken away from you: you might be ordered to stay at home, at which point going outside for a walk is no longer an option. Your favorite gym might be closed. The local grocery store might run out of coffee or alcohol. By having more than one form of stress relief, you can also make yourself a more balanced, well-rounded, and happier person. And the world could certainly use more of those. Be well.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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