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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisabeth Medlock

10 Ways to Stay Calm in a Time of COVID19

#Stress and #worry can suppress our #immune system, so it is important to stay #calm. Here are 10 ways to achieve it.

Welcome to the new normal. A stress, fear and anger inducing not at all normal place where we find ourselves. A change in our circumstance where we are in close quarters with our family, pets, roommates-with no external outlets for social connection and “blowing off steam”. The challenge is to find ways to stay healthy, stay focused, stay productive, and yes, stay calm. Stress is not your immune systems friend. Anxiety and worry can trigger your flight-or-fight stress response and release a flood of chemicals and hormones, like cortisol, that can weaken your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to viral infections. Because staying calm is critical at this time of pandemic, here are a few ways you can strive to achieve it.

1) Just breathe: You do not have to become a meditation yogi, but you can practice some deep breathing every day. Make a sign for yourself and put it somewhere you can see it that says- TAKE A DEEP BREATH. And for one or two minutes, every hour, stop and take 5 to 10 really deep, cleansing breaths. Breathe in on a count of 5, then breathe out on a count of 5. While you are doing this have a mantra or positive thought on which to focus.

2) Create a quiet space in your dwelling: Yes, this may mean locking yourself in the bathroom. We all need some quiet time. While we are socially distancing from the outside world, our homes may have become hectic. So find or create a space, inside or outside your home, and make it a place you can retreat to and take a break from others. Make a visual reminder that says- TIME TO BE ALONE. Retreat to your space a few times a day and make it known to others that you are not to be disturbed.

3) Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness means paying close attention to your present-moment experiences. It means focusing on the simple tasks you are doing, such as brushing your teeth or preparing a meal. One way to practice mindfulness is to do something called simply noticing. Walk around your outside area or sit at a window and just focus on what you see as you scan your environment. You can also sit quietly and scan your body for the sensation’s it is feeling. The important thing to remember is that mindfulness is even more powerful when you also practice acceptance. This means processing information in an accepting, nonjudgmental way.

4) Manage self-talk: There’s a conversation that goes on 24 hours each day inside our heads and it exerts a major influence on how we feel and behave. When we’re stressed, thoughts such as “This is terrible,” or “This is the worst thing that could ever happen to me,” are accompanied by mental pictures of impending disaster. Most of the catastrophic scenes we picture never come to pass. So notice your anxiety-producing mental conversations and replace them with positive images of the future.

5) Schedule a time to worry: Here’s one situation where the ability to procrastinate comes in handy. Instead of worrying now, put it off. Schedule a time to worry later, and tell yourself you’ll get around to it if you feel like it when the time comes. You can even put the time to worry on your calendar. This gives you permission to enjoy some peace of mind for the time being.

6) Limit the Internet: Right now much of the information, or misinformation, you will find as you check your social media accounts or scan the news are anxiety, fear or anger producing. You can quickly fall down the rabbit hole. Make a visual reminder-Take a break from COVID19 Information. Or schedule some designated time to check into the realm of news and information- maybe two to three times a day; morning, afternoon and evening. Alternatively you can pick one or two reliable sources of information, like the CDC and NPR and only check those sources once a day for updates.

7) Keep moving: That pent up sometimes frenetic energy you feel when you are cooped up can be channeled into exercise. Stress and anxiety make the body tense and having an outlet to move and breathe and sweat is key in releasing that tension. Do something, anything-take a walk, jump rope, jog in place, do yoga. Whatever you enjoy.

8) Have an outlet-Write or talk about it: Writing is a great way to slow thoughts down. Since the hand is slower than the mind, attempting to freeze your thoughts on paper can put the brakes on your racing thoughts. Writing is also a way to gain perspective. When your thoughts are sitting in front of you, they often are less stressful. Choosing to crumple up a piece of paper with those written thoughts or delete a document that you wrote may help toss the disturbing thoughts out of your mind as well. Finding a sympathetic ear can work wonders when you are stressed. Talking to a friend, family member, or counselor can be powerful especially in these times when we need to feel social connection.

9) Focus on today: Take things one day at a time. When you can give total attention to what you are doing right now, you are less able to focus on events that unnecessarily upset you. You can merge with the task at hand, giving it your full attention, and then do the same with the next task. In the meantime, feelings of upset and stress will often subside.

10) Create some positive memories: This is the work of finding the silver lining or the bright side and recognizing that when you are freed up it is a chance to do something new. This can be a time of curiosity, exploration and discovery. Think about something you have wanted to try or accomplish or explore and do it now. When you look back at this brief time in your life you can say, COVID19 quarantine was the time I started meditating, learned better self-care, began to appreciate my friends, began to write poetry, or became an advocate.

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