Guest post by Laura May (see bio below)

Image credit: Pexels

The world is feeling pretty different right now for many of us. The coronavirus global pandemic has thrown our normal lives into disarray, and it’s no surprise that our stress levels are creeping up; what we’re going through is strange, anxiety-inducing and emotionally exhausting.

Feeling stressed or overwhelmed is a perfectly normal response to what’s going on, but it’s still important to take care of yourself and try to alleviate this stress where you can.

In the post below, we’ll be covering six self-care solutions for dealing with stress during COVD-19. Read on to find out more:

1. Stay fit with regular exercise

Keeping fit and staying active can really help you to deal with stress.

By now we know that regular exercise doesn’t just have physical benefits for us, but it has mental health benefits too, relieving stress, helping you sleep better (more on the importance of that later), and boosting your overall mood.

And while it might feel difficult or weird to keep fit while you’re self-isolating and gyms are closed, it’s still possible — you’ll just need to be a little more creative when it comes to your fitness regime.

Think about how you can fit more physical activity into your daily routine; even if you don’t have any gym equipment in your house, you can still exercise at home.

There are plenty of online workout videos that you can follow while you’re at home that covers all sorts of exercise — from weights to yoga to cardio. So whatever your preferred style, there’s an app, Youtube channel or fitness program waiting for you. Oregon Live has a great list here — check it out.

2. Learn what works to distract and soothe you

When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it’s all too easy to sink even further into your stress with some bad coping mechanisms (we’re talking drinking, smoking, shutting people out, or stagnating in bed).

Dealing with stress isn’t easy, but learning more about your triggers and recognizing your symptoms, as well as learning which self-care practices work for you, will help. You can find plenty of information online on sites such as The Independent Pharmacy that will help you learn more. 

Come up with a few different ideas and activities that you know make you feel better when you’re stressed. Find things that work for you; we’re all different, so don’t be discouraged if yoga transports someone you know to a place of zen, but it does nothing for you. There will be something that helps you when you feel stressed.

Adjusting your focus — i.e. distracting yourself from your anxiety by focusing on something else — can help. This could be keeping busy and doing something with your hands like baking or painting. Or it could be watching something uplifting on TV with a warm cup of tea, or journaling.

Listening to music can also help; make a playlist of songs that make you feel positive and happy, and listening to it when you’re having a tough time. You might even find that meditation or breathing exercises — like these on WebMD — help you to self-soothe in difficult times. 

3. Bring nature into your life

Spending time in nature has lots of mental health and wellbeing benefits: it can help to soothe stress, improve your mood, and relax you.

If you’re able to get outside and visit a green space like a park, forest or countryside near your house, then that’s perfect. Step outside and go for a walk or a jog. Feel the breeze on your skin, the warmth of the sun on your face, and take a deep, long breath of fresh air. You probably feel better already.

If you’re not able to get out of your house at the moment, then there are still ways that you can bring the outdoors in. Pull back the curtains to let natural light in and open your windows for some fresh air; try to sit by this window for a bit while to watch the sky and listen to the birds chirping.

Houseplants and flowers are also great for helping you feel calm and peaceful. You may be able to buy seeds or plants online if you don’t have any at the moment, but if not, you can always trick your brain by setting photos of your favorite outdoor places on your computer or by printing them out for your walls.

4. Establish a relaxing nighttime routine

Improving your bedtime routine and getting a good night’s sleep will help you deal with stress so much more effectively.

Stress and sleeping difficulties are often intertwined: feelings of stress and anxiety can cause all sorts of sleeping problems, which then go on to affect your mental state even more. Establishing a relaxing nighttime routine is a self-care solution that you can easily implement.

For a start, put that phone or computer away an hour before bedtime — bright, overstimulating screens and scrolling never did anyone any good. Listen to a chilled playlist instead, or perhaps nature noises (ocean sounds are the best). A good book or a soothing podcast can also help your brain to slow down before bedtime.

Running yourself a hot bath can also help to prepare you for sleep, as it relaxes your mind and relieves muscle tension in your body (which is often a sign of stress). Add soothing essential oils like lavender to the tub for an extra dose of zen.

Finally, consider sipping a hot cup of herbal tea before bedtime; chamomile, in particular, can have a calming effect, helping you to relax and settle nerves.

5. Connect with people

This is a pretty stressful time for lots of people; with many of us under some sort of lockdown, life as we know it has changed enormously. If you’re used to seeing your friends and family all of the time — not to mention commuting to work and seeing your colleagues nearly every day — then spending your time cooped up in one apartment or house is going to feel like a struggle.

It’s so important to keep in touch with people, despite self-isolating. Connecting with your friends and family and having regular conversations will help you deal with stress and feel less lonely.

Planning video chats with people or groups you would normally see will help you carry on having a social life despite being in isolation, and you’d be surprised at the fun you can have — especially using apps like House Party where you can play games and take part in quizzes. And don’t forget that if video chats aren’t really your thing, you can still text or have a good-old-fashioned phone call!

Whichever you land on, it’s important to keep in contact. We’re all in this together, and sharing how you’re feeling will help. Honest.

6. Adjust your eating habits

When we’re feeling stressed and we want to seek comfort, one of the first things we tend to do is comfort-eat. And that normally means heading towards ice cream, junk food and whatever sweet treats we can get our hands on.

Unfortunately, eating like this will not sort out your stress: that sugar high and energy boost you get at first will soon lead to a complete crash, and then you’ll feel even worse. Instead, try to snack on things that will provide you with slow-release energy, like trail mix or a banana.

And don’t worry, chocolate isn’t completely off the cards — just stick to dark chocolate, which contains less sugar. Dark chocolate also contains lots of antioxidants, as well as providing you with an endorphin boost to get you feeling good.

Practicing self-care through food can make a big difference in how you feel — this article by Easy Food contains lots of helpful tips for nurturing yourself and staying healthy during self-isolation.

Taking care of yourself isn’t just about doing exercise. By following these practical self-care solutions, and teaching yourself calming techniques, you’ll be able to deal with stress much better.

Ultimately, this will have huge positive benefits for both your physical and mental health — keeping you happy and healthy during a difficult time.

Laura May is Digital Editor at Just Another Magazine. We write about beauty, fashion, lifestyle, relationships, travel, trends and anything else that matters to you. Name throwing you off? Don’t take it too seriously – we intend to stand out from the crowd.