Stress, anxiety, and a lack of sleep are problems that many people deal with every day. But there is one simple practice that can help: meditation.
“Physically, people find they have improved mood, they sleep better and better memory and concentration.”
“Meditation, which is the practice of focused concentration, bringing yourself back to the moment over and over again, actually addresses stress, whether positive or negative.”
Meditation can also reduce the areas of anxiety, chronic pain, depression, heart disease and high blood pressure.
“The heart rate drops, your respiratory rate drops. There is decreased oxygen consumption and decreased carbon dioxide expiration. The body is healing itself and starting the repair.”
Meditation can help us be less reactive and more responsive to events in our life.
Stress can be defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain. Stress is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action. Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way you respond to stress, however, make a big difference to your overall well-being.
Stress affects both the brain and body. Little bit of stress is good for people to perform and protect themselves but too much stress can overwhelm them leading to fight, flight or freeze response. So learning how to cope with stress is important for our mental and physical wellbeing.
No, everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Accordingly, both the impact of stress and the coping styles can vary from person to person.
Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic can be a stressful situation for a lot of people. However, most people can overcome the stress while a few may be overwhelmed.
Stress can manifest as fear, worry, inability to relax, increased heart rate, difficulty in breathing, Disturbance in sleeping patterns, change in eating patterns, difficulty in concentrating worsening of pre-existing health conditions (physical and mental) and increased use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
It depends on how you react or respond to stress. Most people manage stress well and continue to function while a few may have difficulty in coping with stress. Such people should seek help from mental health treatment providers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives. The need for physical distancing and social restrictions has led to many of us to feeling socially isolated and left to deal with situation on our own. These challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming and cause strong emotions. It is important for everyone to understand what stress is, how it affects us and how to manage stress.
Learning to cope with the stress will make you become resilient to stress.
The new realities of working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues take time to get used to. Adapting to lifestyle changes such as these and managing the fear of contracting the virus and worry about people close to us who are particularly vulnerable, are challenging for all of us. They can be particularly difficult for people with mental health conditions.
Maintain a daily routine
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic social restrictions a lot of people are forced to stay at home. Having a daily schedule can help us use our time efficiently and not feel bored. Set time for regular meals, working from home, spending time with family members, exercise, daily chores and other recreational activities.
Getting enough sleep least 8 hours, a night is good for both our body and mind. Sleep repairs, relaxes, rejuvenate our body and reverses the effect of stress.
Good sleep habits (sleep hygiene) can help you improve your sleep:
- Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature
- Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smart phones, from the bedroom
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime
- Get some exercise. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
The disruption to work, employment, family life, incomes and education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is widespread. Different individuals respond to such situations in different manner. To some, the effects have little impact on their mental well-being. For, others, it can cause different levels of distress. This is true for all age-groups including adolescents.
There are some mental health conditions that are caused or exacerbated in some individuals in such circumstances, that need immediate action. Two such conditions are anxiety and depression, which need psychological or medical support. Therefore, it is important that common symptoms of such conditions are identified early. We also must understand that some of these symptoms are similar to symptoms of stress. However, these are more persistent and lead to greater distress and more commonly affect the day to day functioning of a person, including work and education.
Due to the current COVID-19 social restrictions a lot of people are isolated and not able to meet their loved ones. Keep in touch with family and friends through various means such as video calls, phone calls etc. while respecting physical distancing norms. Staying in touch with our dear ones is essential for our mental well-being.
What we eat and drink can affect our health. Eating a healthy diet is very important to prevent or recover from diseases. Eat a balanced diet and at regular intervals. Drink enough fluids. Take lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions a lot of people cannot do that their usual outdoor physical exercise. However, we can do a lot of physical exercises at home such as treadmills, skipping, climbing stairs, push up, planks etc.
Minimize news feeds
Spending too much time on television, social media etc. can tire your brain and confuse you. Limit the time you spend on television and social media.
Listen to advice and recommendations from trusted sources such as local and national TV, radio and WHO website.
1. Go for a walk
Virtually any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever, but activities such as walking or jogging that involve repetitive movements of large muscle groups can be particularly stress relieving since they offer many of the same benefits as meditation. The benefits are strongest when you exercise regularly. People who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety than those who don’t exercise.
There are a few reasons behind this.
Regular exercise lowers the level of stress hormones. It also helps release endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkillers.
Exercise can also improve your sleep quality, which can be negatively affected by stress and anxiety.
Regular exercise improves feelings of confidence and mood, which in turn promotes mental wellbeing.
Try to find an exercise routine or activity you enjoy, such as walking, dancing, rock climbing or yoga to relieve stress, worry, and anxiety.
2. Consider supplements
Several herbal and natural supplements help manage and relieve stress and anxiety. Here is a brief overview of some of the most common ones:
Lemon balm: Lemon balm is a member of the mint family that has been studied for its anti-anxiety effects. Research shows that taking a single dose of lemon balm increases calmness and alertness. Other studies show that adding lemon balm to a food or drink reduces anxiety and improves memory.
Omega-3 fatty acids: One study showed that medical students who received omega-3 supplements experienced a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms. In another study, researchers found that people who took high doses of omega-3s (up to 2,000 mg a day) seemed to have the most reduction in anxiety symptoms.
Ashwagandha: Studies show that Ashwagandha, a medicinal herb, seems effective at lowering symptoms of stress and anxiety. Ashwagandha helps to lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone in the body.
Valerian: In studies, Valerian root demonstrated antioxidant, neruoprotective, antispasmodic, anxioytic (anxiety reducing), anticancer, and antidepressant effects. It is also popularly used as a sleep aid due to its tranquilizing effect.
Kava kava: Kava kava is an herbal remedy used to relieve stress and anxiety and boost sleep. Studies show that this plant extract has a calming, euphoric effect.
Vitamin B: Many studies show that B-complex supplements have been shown to be beneficial in alleviating symptoms of anxiety. Vitamin B1 is important for balancing blood sugar levels, which are a significant factor in anxiety levels. Vitamin B3 has been shown to help with anxiety at a dosage of 1,000-3,000mg per day. Vitamin B5 supports the adrenal glands, which reduces stress and anxiety levels. Vitamin B6 together with magnesium can balance out anxiety that occurs in conjunction with PMS. Vitamin B9 (also known as folate or folic acid) and vitamin B12 are important in balancing out depressive moods. Although individual B vitamin components offer positive effects, it is a good idea to include a B-complex since they work together synergistically.
Some supplements can interact with medications or have side effects, so you may want to consult with a doctor if you have a medical condition.
3. Connect with nature
Spending time outside in nature is good for the body and the mind. It helps relieve feelings of worry, anxiety and stress. Natural beauty distracts us from problems and just helps us feel good. Studies show that being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.
One way to handle stress is to write things down. Many studies have shown that journaling is a valuable tool to improve mental health. There are many approaches to journaling that can help with anxiety:
Taking out the trash: If you’re struggling with negative or overwhelming thoughts, one technique to help relieve the tension and stress is to write all the negative thoughts down on paper. Keep writing until you can’t think of anything else to write. Then tear up the paper and throw it away or burn it. This symbolically helps your mind understand that these thoughts are garbage. Then write new positive thoughts to replace the negative ones. Keep and re-read those positive thoughts often.
Gratitude journal: Gratitude may help relieve stress and anxiety by focusing your thoughts on what’s positive in your life.
Success journal: Writing down successes and focusing on positive thoughts have been shown to reduce worry and stress.
Write a letter you won’t send: When you’re feeling anxious about an interaction or a personal relationship, you might have a lot of dialog building up in your head. And while a real conversation might be necessary, writing a letter to someone that you won’t send will help to expel some of the extra energy that’s overwhelming you. Write an honest and brutal letter, holding nothing back. Write as many letters as you need to before you feel some relief — just don’t send them.
5. Listen to soothing music
The soothing power of music is well-established. It affects our emotions and can be an extremely effective stress management tool.
Soothing music can slow the pulse and heart rate, lower blood pressure and decrease the levels of stress hormones, and distract us from our worries. Research shows that listening to music can help a person with clinical depression or bipolar disorder get through their worst, lowest moods.
When people are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, there is a tendency to avoid actively listening to music. Perhaps because it feels like a waste of time when there’s so much to do and to worry about. But adding music to our day is a small effort that can produce great rewards since our productivity actually increases when stress is reduced.
To incorporate music into a busy life, try playing CDs in the car, or listen while doing other necessary tasks like bathing or getting ready for the day. Take portable music with you when walking the dog, or listen to music instead of watching TV to wind down before bed.
When looking for an excellent distraction, laughter really is the best medicine. Laughter stops distressing emotions. It helps you shift perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light.
Laughter makes you feel good. It triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. And the good feeling that you get when you laugh remains with you even after the laughter subsides. Humor helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss. It adds joy and zest to life, eases anxiety and tension, relieves stress, improves mood, and strengthens resilience.
So what makes you laugh? A good joke? Funny cat videos? Make a list of things that make you laugh and keep them on hand because nothing works faster or more dependably to relieve stress, worry, and anxiety than a good laugh.
7. Connect with friends
We live in a digital age where we can be tempted to replace person to person contact with phones and computers, especially if we’re feeling vulnerable. But humans are social creatures, we crave feeling supported, valued and connected. Studies show that being socially connected increases happiness and leads to better health and a longer life. It helps overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Make a list of the people you can turn to. These are people that you trust to support you and make an effort to contact them regularly. Reach out to them and ask for specific kinds of help. Remember, your friends can’t read your mind and it’s not fair to expect them to. And if you’re working on a goal, such as trying to overcome anxiety and depression, having a friend to report to and keep you accountable can make all the difference in the world. The likelihood of getting new habits to stick, of following through on your assignments and reaching goals is remarkably higher when someone else is aware or your goal or assignment and you set a time to report back to someone on your progress.
8. Mindfulness and meditation
There are many studies that verify that mindfulness and meditation ease anxiety and mental stress. Mindfulness is about paying attention to daily life and the things we typically rush through. It’s about turning down the volume in your mind by coming back to the body. To see what a mindfulness meditation experience is like, you can try one of the guided recordings by Dr. Ronald Siegel, an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. They are available for free at www.mindfulness-solution.com.
Here’s a mini mindfulness/meditation exercise that you can do anytime, anywhere, to help calm you down in just a few seconds. With your hands in front of you, line up the tips of the fingers of your left hand to the corresponding tips of the fingers of your right hand. Take 5 slow, deep belly breaths while pressing the fingertips against each other. Shake out your hands and relax them to your sides or your lap and take one last slow, deep breath.
Some people have found that doodling or using coloring books helps them get the creative juices flowing and lets their minds take a break. There are a variety of Art Therapy Adult Coloring Books featuring geometric patterns, mandalas, nature, flowers, owls, the ocean, Native American inspired designs, and more.
Deep abdominal breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and promotes a feeling of calmness. Deep breathing helps to activate the body’s relaxation response and studies show that abdominal breathing for 20 to 30 minutes each day reduces anxiety and stress.