In March 2020, the United States took a big gasp when officials announced that we were entering the grips of a pandemic. While everyone worked very hard to flatten the curve in the first few weeks, it has now been two years, and many people have not been able to catch a break. Therefore, pandemic-related stress is at an all-time high.
Many people are finding themselves struggling to keep their cool. Some people who typically have an even temper discover that they are, for example, striking out at customer service agents over minor problems or are getting more frustrated when governments impose or even recommend new pandemic controls.
If you are one of those individuals, it is time to practice self-care. Turning off the 24-hour news cycle can be a great place to begin. You may also want to try these things to help you lower your stress level.
Taking in a deep breath through your mouth and letting it out slowly through your nose often helps a person calm down. The advantage of this technique is that it can be done anywhere, including at a restaurant or while standing in line at customer service.
In particular, loving-kindness meditation is a great way to relieve pandemic stress. Start by getting in a comfortable position. Then, take in some deep breaths and let them out slowly. Start to focus on a positive attribute you want to see in your life, such as being happy, safe, or peaceful. Repeat the attribute you chose several times with the words “I am” in front of it. If your attention starts to drift, simply refocus to get yourself back to the meditation.
Exercise releases happy hormones, called dopamine, into your bloodstream, directly affecting how your brain reacts. If you are still not comfortable participating in group exercise programs, think about exercises that you can do independently or attend virtual classes. Even a quick walk around your neighborhood can be very beneficial.
Playing in the dirt also releases happy hormones into your bloodstream. If you live in an apartment or the weather does not cooperate with outside gardening, try adding a new plant to your collection or even repotting an existing one in a new vase to accommodate growth and add new flair to your decor. Take your time adding the dirt so that you feel its coolness.
Diffusing essential oils can help you feel less stressed. According to Rachel Herz, a neuroscientist at Brown University, smelling essential oils sends signals up your nose to receptors that pass the message along to the olfactory bulb located behind your eyebrows. Then, the olfactory bulb sends messages to the limbic system, where your emotions are controlled. Any scent that brings pleasant memories to you can help relieve stress.
Unfortunately, the pandemic may not be ending anytime soon. If you find yourself struggling to deal with pandemic stress, give American Behavioral Clinics a call at 414-877-4570 to schedule a FREE phone consult with one of our mental health experts.