For Women, By Women

Posted on Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Tools for anxiety and stress relief

1st for Women Insurance recently spoke to Nikki Temkin, journalist of 20 years and accredited functional health and wellness coach. Nikki shares valuable insights and practical advice on mental and physical wellbeing during lockdown and beyond – starting with the management of anxiety and stress.

The Covid- 19 crisis and the ensuing lockdown is unprecedented in our lifetimes. It’s completely understandable that we might feel anxious and stressed. Not only are we worried about falling ill or our family’s health or someone we care about getting sick, but also possibly balancing trying to work from home, perhaps looking after kids, maybe doing housework as well as having financial concerns and uncertainty about life after the Corona Virus.

However, there are some steps you can take for your emotional wellbeing and to manage your anxiety to help you cope at this time.

  • Make a list of what you can and cannot control right now. Doing this can be helpful as accepting what you cannot change will give you more perspective and to focus on what you are able to do. Of all the things you can control, your response and attitude to the situation is in your hands. Also, keeping to social isolation rules and taking the necessary hygiene precautions when you have to go out is within your control.
  • Create a routine. Having some kind of structure or routine to your day will create a feeling of comfort and safety. Our brains respond to predictable activities and will help to relax a vigilant nervous system.
  • Limit social media. Set aside certain times of the day to engage, read articles and posts about Corona on social media platforms. Constantly putting your energy there may cause you to feel panic and hysteria. Scrolling endlessly will create more anxiety. Create screen-free time and strong boundaries with how much information to access. Avoid reading about Covid 19 before bedtime. Allow calm, screen-free time to do other activities. On the other hand, do try and seize opportunities for lightness and humour whatever shape or form that takes. 
  • Let yourself off the hook. It’s overwhelming right now to pressure yourself with all the things you think you “should” be doing right now. Reduce your goals. It’s a traumatic time and you need to process it. Let go of the need to be a super-achiever or compare yourself to others. Whatever your best is, that is good enough and remember that everybody is different.
  • Breathe deeply. Deep breathing will take your body out of the stress response of fight or flight and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to relax your body. Chronic stress can be paralysing, increases anxiety and depletes the immune system. The method I suggest is slowly inhaling through the nose, expanding your belly, chest and lungs, holding the breath and then slowly exhaling through the mouth. Placing your hand over your heart while doing this and thinking of someone or a place you love will increase the feeling of calm. You need only a few breaths to feel the stress response diminish.
  • Make connections. It’s important not to lose touch with friends, family and colleagues. Technology enables you to do this in the way that suits you best. Try Zoom, Skype or a WhatsApp video call. There’s also texting and emails! Human beings are social animals and need contact. Reach out – you are not alone.
  • Practice gratitude. Even in a crisis we can all find things to be grateful for. Make it a daily habit to write down or to contemplate all the things in your life or about your life that you can appreciate.
  • Be mindful. Become aware of your emotions and find ways to process them. If you’re feeling anxious, acknowledge the anxiety, allow yourself to feel it and then let it pass through you. Being conscious of how you feel and naming it, is a self-care practice. Mindfulness might also entail meditation or visualisation techniques.
  • Make health a priority. Never has it been more important to feed your body with immune boosting nourishing food. Good nutrition will boost your mood. Keep your body active and moving. Do the best you can within your environment. There are lots of apps that are offering free classes of whatever type of exercise and level you are at.

Sleep soundly.  Quality Sleep is essential for good mental health and for resilience of body and mind. Getting between 7-9 hours of good sleep a night will help manage stress levels.

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