COVID-19 Stress Strategies

COVID-19. Coronavirus. Social Distancing. Flatten the curve. Plank the curve. Don't be a spreader. Covidiot. Caremongering. In it together.

When they next do a reprint, the editors of dictionaries will have to toss out a few pages in order to make room for these new words and phrases.

My heart goes out to all of you who are grieving, whether you have recently lost someone, are struggling with a new diagnosis - Covid-19, or something else - or have lost your way of life. We are all impacted, one way or another, by the rampant spread of a virus that knows no borders and is becoming less selective in who it chooses to victimize.

It's Not Too Late

One of the benefits of regularly addressing and undressing stress is that situational awareness is enhanced. And do we ever have a situation!

Stay aware of:

  • The people around you who are coughing and sneezing - and not in the crook of their elbow, or into a tissue.
  • Your social distance.
  • All the surfaces that you touch: shopping cart handles, door knobs, cash points and, tonight on my walk, one I hadn't thought about, the crosswalk button.
  • What you touch in your car - keys, steering column, turn signal, lights, seat-belt, door handles inside and out, visor, etc. I wipe everything down when I return home.
  • Once you get in the house, the outside and inside door knobs, closet door knob, your keys and your purse.
  • Finally, keep your hands off your face! There's a video of an actor talking about his isolation. The  woman in the background was repeatedly touching her face. I hope for her sake, she stops.

 

Source unknown

It's not too late to onboard stress techniques to help you navigate your way through this ever-changing situation. Rebalance your nervous system so that you operate from your prefrontal cortex (PFC). Your PFC is often referred to as the "thinking brain" or the brain's "CEO." Choose action, rather than reaction. Choose calm, rather than frenetic. Choose organized and systematic. You'll feel better, as will the people around you.

Here are some ideas that you may help you re-calibrate:


Enhance the Strength of Your Immune System

Stress dampens natural killer (NK), cell cytotoxic activity. Robust NK cells go to work, like Pac-Man, devouring many of those nasty bugs that come your way.

NK cells affect the immune system and can provide protection from viral infections and cancer cells.

During these unprecedented times, a geyser has erupted spewing feelings of anger, fear, uncertainty, horror, grief, impulsiveness, hopelessness, depression and more. It's not unexpected.

However, dwelling on these negative emotions and feelings can weaken your immune system at a time when you need it to be strong.


Another Contagion

Stress is contagious. For example, you can be in a good mood until you join the "Complainer's Table" at lunchtime. Suddenly, your good mood evaporates faster than raindrops on a hot pavement.

Recently, we've witnessed toilet paper hoarding, along with other items that people deem essential. What started as a trickle, soon became a torrent of people rushing out to get what everybody else was getting. There have been some pretty ugly stories surfacing, driven by the contagion of fear.

However, what is heartening is that most people I've encountered have been kind and patient. I've heard this from others, as well. That's also infectious. A smile, laughter, a kind word or gesture goes a long way to keeping things civil in what seems to be very uncivilized times.


Keeping Your Kids Healthy

Limit the news!

Not only will your children benefit from less news exposure, but you will as well.

Yes, things are changing rapidly in response to COVID-19. However, constant news increases stress. There are things that are happening over which you have no control. Work on controlling what you can. That means choosing how much news exposure you need to stay informed.

Be a model of calm for your children

My friend who has two young children, very wisely stated that is imperative for her to remain calm, so that her children are calm.

Even if you don't speak, you are broadcasting your energy. Think about how your dog picks up on your fear. Your children do, as well. (I am in no way comparing your children to dogs! I admit it, a comedian I am not!)

Frenetic energy doesn't feel good. In 2006, I arrived at the hospital for a post-surgery follow-up. The hallway was lined with seated people who were waiting for their appointment with the surgeon. It was evident that the frustration level of both the patients and the doctor rose with each tick of the clock.

Once I entered the examination room, I decided to do a stress technique by recalling a positive event, then reveling in the feelings generated from remembering that event. What happened next surprised me. The surgeon entered the room, sat down and sighed. We hadn't said anything to each other, but it was evident that he visibly relaxed. Your energy, your demeanor is transmissible. (Have you ever had a haircut when you've been in a bad mood? I have and it wasn't pretty.)

You know your children, so you'll know how best to make them aware of the severity of this situation. Find a way to impart the information they need to know to be prepared, yet not so overwrought that it becomes an issue like it did for me for decades. More about that in a future post.

Remember to have fun with them, too!


Adapt and Adopt Best Practices

There is a plethora of resources available to help you corral your emotions so that you maintain your equilibrium in a time when the world is spinning out of control. This is the time to adapt and adopt strategies that will work for you.

Perhaps you may find some of what I'm doing helpful.

Maintain as normal a routine as possible

Obviously, I'm not going swimming nor getting together with family and friends, but I continue to do as many of the things I normally do at home. My morning routine hasn't varied very much: meditation, an emWave session, inspirational or educational reading and Essentrics.

Even though my peregrinations - love that word! - are curtailed for the time being, there’s no need to ignore Mother Nature. On YouTube, you’ll find a number of beautiful videos of nature scene set to music. I put this on while I do my emWave session®  and my morning reading. When I resonate with the rhythm of nature, my heart rate slows and I rebalance my nervous system. Studies show that even if you can’t get out to experience nature, the viewing of nature images and videos can be just as effective.

I make sure that we eat the rainbow, choosing foods that support health. I've also added some adaptogens to our diet as "insurance". I'm not fanatic about it - I do like my dessert, after all.

I am a from-scratch cooker/baker. I rarely throw away food, but now I am vigilant about surveying the contents of the fridge to determine which produce needs to be consumed first and I have renewed appreciation for the providers of that food.

What's interesting is that since COVID-19 started, I find myself thinking about and then often making the foods that I had growing up. Here is what Dorlee had to say about it, and I agree.

Fostering new behaviours, habits and skills

Lightning does strike twice in the same location. This fall, we were hit with some tragic news, with ongoing repercussions. I realized that I needed to turbo-charge my self-care practices, if I wanted to maintain and sustain my sanity and health. I test-drove some guided meditations on YouTube and settled on one that combines both guided meditation and a quiet time. I do that after feeding Holly and before launching into my regular morning "programming".

If you don't think meditation is for you, check out: I Don't Like Meditating. Here's Why I Do it Anyway.

Since the COVID-19 breakout, I've also added qigong. Again, turning to YouTube, I found a number of different sessions of varying lengths. For those who don't know, qigong is "a centuries-old system of coordinated body-posture and movement, breathing, and meditation  used for the purposes of health, spirituality, and martial-arts training." - Wikipedia

There are two things in particular that I like about qigong:

  1. It's gentle enough for rheumatoid arthritic joints.
  2. The names of the exercises conjure up the beauty of nature. Ten dragons run through the forest. Bear swimming in the ocean. Bamboo swaying in the wind. Knocking on the door of life. (Well, hello!)

Prior to all my surgeries, I would do visualization exercises. I now do this regularly when I'm walking around.

I am in more frequent contact with friends.

My book club's selection for March is Educated by Tara Westover. It's the first memoir that I've read. Since then, I  found How to Write Your Memoir. Is that a sign that I should get to work on that? Perhaps.

After watching a few episodes of The Great Canadian Baking Show, I'm compelled to master sourdough bread, beginning with the starter. That's the part that worries me the most.

In it together

We are all experiencing a disruption to our lives, the likes that our generation has never seen. Everyone is affected, some considerably more than others. In a strange way, I take some comfort from feeling that we are carrying a common burden.

We have food, electricity and water. We are warm. For that, I am exceedingly grateful.

One of the benefits of stress transformation is that you are able to put things into perspective.

Address and undress your stress to:

  • Change your perspective, change your perception.
  • Change your perception, change your perspective.

I think this tweet explains it well:

Finding inner strength

I grew up listening to the horror stories that my parents and grandparents told about life in Europe during WW I and WW II. Sadly, I can no longer fill in the gaps, as everyone is gone.

This is an urgent plea for you to get your family history while you can. When you are young, it's not that important, but trust me, when you are older, you'll want to know. It's also important to get your family health history.

What impressed me about those stories is the deep well of inner strength that enabled my family members to endure and survive the horrific events of those years. The inner strength that showed their humanity in a world that was often insane. The resilience, that when tested, appeared, almost out of nowhere.

For example, I heard that, in general, calls to 911 have dropped off significantly. Part of the reason is that some people are solving some of their own problems, rather than relying on a third party to do so.

I also see examples of inner strength from our politicians, many of whom are setting aside their rivalries to work together for the common good.

There is help available in this world of inter-connectivity. You will be tested. Yet, you may be surprised to discover that you have a well of inner strength that is waiting to be tapped. Then, imagine how you can use that inner strength to help someone else discover their own!

Compassion

My heart goes out to:

  • All who have lost loved ones, who have to grieve on their own, without the comfort of a hug or the circling of the wagons of care during times of grief.
  • The immuno-compromised - cancer patients and those who require immuno-suppressant drugs.
  • People who have had elective surgeries cancelled. From experience, I know the excruciating pain I had while waiting my first hip replacement. I also know how important it is to get treated immediately for things like my ruptured thumb tendon.
  • Those who are desperately trying to get medications.
  • People who rely on social services and supports.
  • The people who scramble to find childcare so that they can go to work to keep society running.
  • The front-line workers who are risking their own health in order to help the rest of us.
  • And so many others. Thank you!

It's vital that we express our appreciation and gratitude to those who are still working!

Take time to let the cashier, the doctor, the receptionist, the delivery person, the gas station attendant and everyone else who is working hard know how much you appreciate their efforts. Things may not run as smoothly as you'd hope, but this is new to everyone.

A heartfelt expression of gratitude is also a potent skill to have in your stress arsenal. Find reasons to be thankful.

Choosing to look for the positives, as much as possible

Friends, neighbours and strangers pitching in to help one another. Examples of caremongering.

At times, there is anger at the government for not doing certain things. It is helpful to realize that our Canadian, provincial and municipal governments do not have a template for how to deal with this situation. In hindsight, many things can be done differently.

It's okay to laugh

Sharing funny (and yes, sometimes gallows-humoured images) of the fallout of COVID-19. Just be mindful of those who may be struggling or grieving.

Silly songs, dances and skits: The world is using humor to curb coronavirus' spread.

From a friend this morning: "When this is over, we'll all either be fatter (nothing else to do but eat), pregnant (nothing else to do but - well, use your imagination) and shaggier (no hair cuts), or all of the above."

"Like this?" asked another friend:

Finding amusement, however you can

People are finding ways to amuse themselves and others, like Jamie, while under quarantine from COVID-19!

Facing the Monster

Sometimes, you have to look the COVID-19 monster (fear) in the eye and poke fun at him to show him that you've got this. That's what Margaret did when she made a COVID-19 cake for her birthday.

 

Covid Birthday Cake

When This Is Over

After 9-11, people became kinder and more patient. Over time, by and large, that evaporated as they fell into their fast-paced lives.

Let’s hope that the lessons we learn from this experience stick. That we apply the same innovative spirit to ensure that we hear birds singing and see fish swimming in places under blue skies. Our future depends upon it.

Do the best you can in these challenging times - for the health of it!

 

From Eco with Erin

If You're Struggling with Stress

To help you get started, I am offering a pro-bono twenty minute address and undress the stress session, either by phone or Skype, to the first five people who contact me.

4+

10 Replies to “COVID-19 Stress Strategies”

  1. Sometimes I think just turning off the TV/Radio does wonders.I give myself 5 minutes each morning to scan the headlines an read 1 or two articles. It seems I can get all the relevant info faster and not have to listen to a producers “hooks” to keep me listening – which usually involve gloom and doom.

  2. Thanks so much, Marianna, for this article that is chock full of valuable stress management strategies. I also love your “choosing to look for the positives, as much as possible.” It is so easy to get caught up with all the news and media reports that we can easily forget to be thankful for all that we do have, and not take the time to laugh or enjoy what we can < a key tool in managing stress.

    1. It’s so nice that you could come for a visit, Dorlee.

      I could keep adding to that post, but it is certainly long enough.

      I’m thinking of you often. Be safe and well!

Feel free to comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.