By: Fatima Samha
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, here are a few ways to reduce stress during the COVID-19 global pandemic.
- As we all know, exercise and keeping active is key to staying healthy. Take time out of your day to get up AND GET MOVING! While we are all ordered to stay at home, many of us are not moving as much. Get creative and find different ways to move around. For those who may struggle to find motivation, try making small efforts here and there (getting up and moving during commercials, put on your favorite tunes and dance, etc.). By taking these baby steps, you may notice a difference in your motivation as well as your mood. Celebrate the small stuff!
- GET SOME FRESH AIR
- Feeling stressed out? Get some fresh air! Make it a part of your daily routine to go outside, especially as the warm weather creeps up. This is a wonderful way to boost your mood, as spending time outside can actually increase dopamine and endorphin levels in your body, making you feel much better. Make sure to follow COVID-19 social distancing guidelines to ensure the safety of yourself and others.
- ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
- Whether it is the morning of or the night before, planning your day ahead of time can help you feel productive and accomplished. Try making a list of your daily plans and goals to help alleviate some stress. Set attainable goals to prevent finding yourself in a stressful situation. Incorporate deep cleaning, organizing, and similar duties into your routine to help the time pass, get chores done, and feel better! Having a clean and organized space can make you feel refreshed and prepare you to face the rest of your day. Need daily tasks to do? Action for Happiness provides monthly calendars with daily activities. The ‘Meaningful May’ calendar can be found here: (https://www.actionforhappiness.org/media/875760/may_2020.jpg). Have fun!
- STAY CONNECTED
- The global pandemic has limited our face-to-face interactions with others. Many of us are unable to meet with friends, celebrate birthdays and graduations, and enjoy the summer as we had hoped to. Try reaching out to people virtually for regular check-ins. Some great video-chat applications include Zoom, WebEx, Skype, Facetime, and many more. Keeping virtually connected with others can help with feelings of isolation and loneliness. Know that we are all in this together!
- PRACTICE SELF-CARE
- Take the time to relax and enjoy the things you like. Whether it is going on walks, taking bubble baths, or watching your favorite show, self-care is different for everyone, and you are the expert of yourself! For individuals experiencing challenges in response to the global pandemic, self-care might be about the practice of doing more of the difficult things, such as saying ‘no’ more often, eating healthy and nutritious foods, exercising, practicing proper hygiene, and even getting out of bed. Doing the difficult yet necessary things is self-care. Remember, it is OKAY to put yourself first. You can’t pour from an empty cup!
- TAKE A BREAK
- Taking breaks from COVID-19 related news can assist in reducing pandemic-related stress. As false information continues to spread, remember to only rely on trusted and official news outlets for information regarding COVID-19.
- Stepping back and taking technology breaks can also be refreshing. Try dedicating an hour a day (or more!) to turning off your phone and enjoy activities such as reading a book, writing down thoughts and feelings, doing some Zen coloring, and anything else you can think of! Encourage yourself to unplug more often.
- REFRAME YOUR THOUGHTS
- As difficult as it may to be have a positive outlook on things, there is power in thinking positively. Consider everything you are grateful, appreciative, and thankful for. This can be people you love, opportunities you have gotten, or simply having food to eat. Try to see the good things going on in life amid the pandemic. If it is difficult for you to reframe your thoughts, try to give back to the community by donating food, money, sanitary products, necessities, and even knowledge to others. By giving back and helping others, you can feel as though you are doing something positive (because you are!).
At the end of the day, you are the expert of yourself: you know what triggers your stress and what coping strategies work best for you. Our current situation does not make managing stress any easier, but try your best to reframe your negative thoughts into positive ones. Take it easy and try not to be too hard on yourself. If you find yourself still struggling, here are a few resources to check out:
- Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
- A wide range of free services for Mason students provided by licensed staff. For more information, please see the following link (https://caps.gmu.edu/).
- Therapy Online Assistance- free for Mason students. For more information, please see the following link (https://caps.gmu.edu/therapy-assistance-online-tao/).