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  • Writer's pictureDena Lampert

Practicing Stress Management in a Social Distancing World

Who has been so lucky that they’ve never experienced stress? We all feel pressured or overwhelmed occasionally, and that’s why we all have our own tips and tricks to keep stress at bay. Social distancing, however, has changed the way we take part in activities that help us relax. Pre-COVID we might have been able to go to the gym or shopping, for example. Given the safety protocols that we need to adhere to stay safe, what was once a stress-reducing activity has become stressful in and of itself.


If you haven’t experienced any significant problems with anxiety in the past, it might be a while before you realize the subtle changes in your behavior and mood that indicate that you might be stressed. Did you know that stress is what makes it hard for us to concentrate at work? Or why it might take you a long time to make simple decisions like what to have for dinner tonight?


Now more than ever, it’s important to build habits that help you decompress, even within the boundaries of social distancing. Here are a few ideas you might find interesting:


1. Create a daily routine


Creating a routine and sticking to it is surprisingly comforting. When you have a routine to keep yourself occupied, you leave little room for anxious thoughts to creep in and disturb you. Waking up in the morning with no specific plan in mind can add to the feeling that everything is in disarray—and very few people are comfortable with that. If you’re working, even from home, it’s less stressful if you build a routine. You can work your usual hours and plan activities for when you’re done with work.


Sticking to a routine is more challenging if you’ve lost your job due to the pandemic, but it’s also a million times more important. Make job hunting your morning activity by dusting up your resume, seeking employment, and preparing for your next interview. Take online classes to build your skills or pick up hobbies or volunteer work to keep yourself busy.


2. Meditate with others online


Meditation is often mentioned among other practical tips to manage stress, and not without reason. Even if you normally prefer to let steam off with vigorous exercise, you’ll find that by adopting a meditation practice you will get stressed less often. That’s because meditation will teach you how to notice negative feelings and let them go instead of indulging them. If you need guidance or would like some company in this, you can join an online meditation group or download an app, such as Headspace or Calm, that offers group meditation. You can also find literally thousands of meditation groups on InsightTimer, an app you can use for free. Other options that don’t require downloading an app are Meditation Chapel and Mindful Reader.


3. Take good care of yourself


You already know the holy trinity of good health: diet, exercise, and sleep. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep will help you maintain a good mood, have plenty of energy, and in turn, make you feel good about yourself. In addition to sticking to these healthy habits, it’s important to also find time to do other self-care activities, for example, reading a good book or organizing a movie night (those can be pretty fun over Skype or Zoom as well!).


4. Connect with others


Loneliness can be bad for your physical and mental health. By calling a friend or arranging a virtual group meeting, the benefit is mutual—you’ll get a dose of much-needed human connection, and you’ll help other people feel better as well.


Besides, don’t forget that the days of quarantine are blissfully behind us. Unless you or someone in your family is at high risk, there’s no reason why you can’t meet with a friend to take a walk on the beach or have an outdoor lunch. Why not a picnic while the weather allows it?! As long as you keep your distances, in-person interaction with friends remains one of the most effective stress-relievers. Besides, you don’t have to be among a crowd to have a nice time—quite the opposite actually. You’ll be able to relax and enjoy your conversations better in a less noisy environment!


5. Volunteer


Volunteering has amazing benefits both for the volunteer and the receiver, including a stress-reducing effect. There are plenty of options to volunteer without even leaving your home. Some organizations train volunteers to make phone calls to the elderly and homebound to keep them company, or to assist visually impaired individuals with daily tasks via video calls. Find out what’s available in your community, and join the action that’s closest to your skills and capabilities!


6. Find a hobby


Selecting a hobby should always be done based on your talents and interests. Right now, picking up a hobby that also requires 100% of your focus, without it being mentally demanding, is a great way to free your mind of thoughts and just relax.


Some great hobbies in this respect are online cooking classes, knitting, coloring, and doing puzzles. If you have artistic talents you would like to cultivate, you might also enjoy drawing, digital painting, learning an instrument, taking singing lessons, or photography. Photography will also get you out of the house and help you appreciate the world anew, as it will draw your attention to nature and spontaneous everyday moments.


7. Wear your mask and go outside


Even when stricter measures were in place, you were still allowed, and advised, to go outside, even just once a day. The truth is that no matter how relaxing your personal space is, going outside the four walls of your home is the best way to prevent stress from building up. Whether it’s to exercise, meet with friends, or take a walk, it’s important to go out every day, especially if you’re still working remotely or aren’t working at all.


It will be a while before our lives return to how they used to be. Until then, continue enjoying the things you’ve always loved, even if you need to make some adjustments. Remember that stress is also contagious. By safeguarding yourself against negativity and stress, you’ll not only be happier just for yourself but also for those around you.


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