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Springtime is nearing its end and the weather soon will be heating up. Everyone should be outside in the sunshine.

Instead, we are staying inside our homes and practicing social distancing.

Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, has many of us stressed out and unsure how to cope with the recommendations to help flatten the curve. It’s important we take this time to remember we are not “stuck at home” but playing our part to protect ourselves, our loved ones and complete strangers.

It is a stressful time, as we can feel cut off from family, friends and the outside world. As we all do our part to slow the spread of the virus, it becomes easy to think that means we have to become hermits and stay in our homes 24/7. Increased stress can look like “increased fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, and worsening of chronic health problems” (source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

We are going to talk about some things you can do to help cope with the stress and how you don’t have to avoid that beautiful sunshine all the time!

 

Take breaks from

news and social media

While learning accurate information about COVID-19 and individual risk can make the outbreak seem less stressful, it is very important to take breaks from the news and social media to reduce overall stress levels. I’m as guilty of this as any of you in reading articles or stories shared on Facebook or reading my local news stories, but I try to check more credible sources such as the CDC or World Health Organization websites a few times a week for updates and avoid reading every article that I see on social media. Hearing, reading and talking about the pandemic all the time can increase your stress levels and make you more upset.

 

Take care of

your mind and body

As tensions can start to rise from being in closer quarters than normal with your loved ones, it is important to remember to take care of your mind and body. Taking even two minutes a day to focus on your breath, how the inhales and exhales feel as the breath moves in and out of your body, and what your mind tends to wander to as you try to focus can make you feel calmer and more in control of what you allow your mind to focus on. 

This may be the perfect time to take up yoga or a meditation practice to help quiet your mind and improve your mind-body connection. It is also important to eat healthy meals (even though those “junk food quarantine snacks” can look appealing). I know many people stocked up on dry or canned goods just in case, but while you still have the opportunity continue to try to eat less processed foods and get those delicious fruits and vegetables. Sugar and alcohol have been shown to lower our immune systems, so try to avoid those during this stressful time to help your body fight off infections.

Also make sure to get plenty of sleep. Being home more can mean a slight change in your routine, but try to get at least seven to eight hours and stick to your normal schedule.

 

Go outside

If allowed in your area, continue or even start to go on a daily walk if your body allows. It is encouraged to maintain at least 6 feet apart and avoid crowded areas, but you are still able to go outside and get some vitamin D.

Going outside for a walk, bike ride or any other activity you enjoy can help lower stress levels through cardiovascular exercise and help you from feeling cooped up all day. This may be the time you finally get in the habit of exercising on a regular basis. If you have some other health issues that are keeping you from being active, try sitting outdoors to read a book or listen to some music.

 

Connect with

family and friends

Technology has really helped us out with this one. During a time where it is easy to feel alone and isolated, our computers and phones can keep us connected to those we care about. You can use many different platforms to video chat like Skype, Zoom or FaceTime in order to see your loved ones. You also can call, text, or write a letter to let someone know you are thinking about them. If you are feeling particularly anxious or isolated during this time, reach out not only to a loved one but a health care provider, as this is an extremely stressful situation for many.

It is important during this time to try to find some balance between your new routine and your old routine. Give yourself some time each day to relax and take care of yourself as well as those around you. We are all in this together and need to stay connected as we continue to stay apart.