It’s been a wild few weeks! School closings, frantic grocery store runs, impacted income, social isolation… stress levels are on the rise across the board. Yet for those of us with chronic illnesses, stress can significantly impact our health.
So what can you do to keep calm during this time of uncertainty?
…seriously, though! It’s as simple as it sounds! Deep, slow breathing — also called diaphragmatic or belly breathing — has numerous positive effects on the body. It reduces cortisol (stress hormone) levels. It sends a message to your autonomic nervous system that you’re ok, that it can turn off the fight or flight response. Full belly breathing also fully oxygenates the blood, which helps our cells function at their best, and may even increase our immune system’s ability to fight disease! (Take that, coronavirus!)
So, as you read the rest of this list, think about your breathing!
While we breathe all the time, we don’t often think about how we breathe. The mindfulness needed to slow down and focus on belly breathing can be a relaxation technique in itself! It forces our brain to be present in this moment, and not worrying about the future. There are so many forms of helpful mindfulness. Consider getting a meditation app, or listening to mediation videos online.
3. Daily maintenance
Memes like this are popping up all over the internet — people stock up on snacks just in case, and then stress eat the whole bunch before even beginning to self-isolate. Now is the the time to focus on the things you try to do every other day! Eat well. Exercise or move your body in whatever way that means for you. Sleep well. Wash your hands.
4. Focus on the Good
At this point it’s pretty impossible to check out any news source without being inundated with COVID-19 updates. While it’s important to know the risk level in your area, hearing constant repetition and updates on places that don’t impact you will only bring down your mood. Turn off the noise. Seek the positive stories — people are amazing! Learn about the people who are working every day to look out for one another during all this turmoil! Join in if you can, or send a letter appreciating someone who is making a difference. Also note, if the people in your life are only talking about stressful things, it is reasonable to ask them if you can talk about more uplifting topics for a bit! And when you read books or watch TV or listen to podcasts, choose stories that will bring hope and peace.
5. Connect With Nature
With fear of large crowds, we tend to hunker down at home. But that doesn’t mean we can’t go outside! If you can, find a quiet park or walking trail. Let the beauty of nature ease your nerves!
Remember that you are not alone! We are all here, feeling the same worries and isolation. Reach out to people when you need it. Find comfort in online groups, like the Friends in the Fight! There are plenty of resources online for making the best of this tumultuous time.