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How to manage stress during COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS)

Cables on Half Dome trail in Yosemite
Cables on Half Dome trail in Yosemite

The last few weeks have gotten harder and harder. Every week is starting to feel like it’s a month long. New restrictions are going into effect every day, some people are listening, others are not and completely ignoring regulations, and more people are getting sick daily. I’m here to help give you tips on how to manage any stress you might be having during COVID-19.

A few weeks ago, before things really escalated in the US, I made the hard choice of canceling my trip to Oregon that involved flying. I was disappointed because it was going to be my first time in Oregon and I had been looking forward to this trip for a few months. But I decided it wasn’t worth getting sick and then possibly spreading it to people like my grandparents. Some of that ease came from knowing I had a road trip through Utah and a long weekend in Lake Tahoe planned. Then things started really hunkering down. Stores started closing, all meetups got canceled, I found out that traveling anywhere wasn’t advised to prevent the spread and so forth. I was disappointed but I was still at ease. I figure, it sucks but I’ll use the extra time to write more blogs, start vlogging, and work on creating programs.

After a week of self quarantining at home, I really started to feel the stress. I stopped sleeping well, I stopped exercising, and my mental health started to take a toll. I just felt like a mess. Not only am I worried about getting it myself, but I’m worried about my grandparents in their late 70’s and my mom with Lupus. I’m stressed about people not taking it seriously and not listening to social distancing rules and behaving like this is one big vacation. And there are so many other elements to this that have taken a toll on me.

So I decided to stop letting life happen to me and letting the situation control me, and start controlling my outlook and how I behave during this situation.

Of course, nothing about this is fun. Except maybe more people will get to work from home now and have time to finally start working on dream projects. That’s an upside, right? But I’m choosing to start controlling my mind and find ways to manage this stress so I come out on the other side stronger.

This sucks, but we are all in this together. Literally, the whole world is in this with you. So when you feel alone, try and remember that.

 

Start to Journal

It’s ok to mourn not going on the trips you’ve been dreaming about. It’s ok to be stressed, we’re all human. But don’t let the stress control your life.

Start by journaling. Get all of your feelings and stress out on paper. What makes you sad, what are you worried about, how are you feeling during this time? Do a self-check-in.

Then write down the things you’re grateful for. Empty the heaviness and then fill yourself with lightness. The heaviness being all your stress and negative feelings and the lightness being what you’re grateful for.

Perhaps you now get to spend more time with your family? Perhaps for your health? The health of your parents and grandparents? Your physical abilities? Your home? Whatever you are grateful for. Write it down.

 

Create a schedule

Quarantine aside, this is helpful for those working from home now. When I left my corporate job and started working full time on the blog, I didn’t create a schedule. I decided hey I can finally work whenever I want. Well, that backfired quickly.

My productivity went down, I stayed up too late, slept too late, basically a big mess. So I created a schedule for myself.

This is what my schedule looks like:

I wake up in the morning, start with a glass of water or tea. Then I exercise, make breakfast with fresh-pressed juice. Then I get to work. I use the morning to get my creative work done. I prioritize my writing for first thing in the morning. After that, I work on designing. I save the afternoons to answer emails and do phone calls. If I don’t have calls scheduled, I’ll usually take a longer break in the afternoon. Go grocery shopping, take a walk, workout again, call my grandma, so forth. Then I get back to work in the late afternoon, finish up things and plan out my next day. Then I make dinner, spend my evenings doing art, give myself a facial (skincare is a huge part of my self-care routine), reading, drinking more tea, and watching some TV.

 

Move your body & exercise

Exercising makes us happier. So making time to move your body will overall lighten your mood, make you feel better, and helps keep you active for hiking. Always say you have no time to workout? Well, now you have all the time in the world to exercise.

If you have equipment at home, great! If not, all you really need is a yoga mat, you can even use a towel instead of a yoga mat. If you don’t know what workouts to do, there are so many fitness bloggers and fitness apps to choose from. I typically create my own workouts specific for hiking, I also have a fitness program called Training for the Peaks, and blog posts that talk about how to train for hiking.

In addition to that, here are a couple of fitness resources that I absolutely love: Natacha Oceane, Danielle Robertson, Beverley Cheng, and Tone It Up. Some of your favorite fitness studios have also moved to doing online courses to keep you active.

 

Limit how much news you watch

It’s important to be informed and know what’s going on, especially when regulations and things change by the hour lately. Yes, this is a serious issue and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

But watching the news all day isn’t productive, nor is it helpful in managing and preventing stress. News, especially bad news, is highly addictive and for the first week of this going down, I was literally refreshing my Apple News app every hour to try and soak everything in. I got a good understanding of what was happening but at the sacrifice of my mental health. After a week of that, I wanted to hide under the covers and cry. So I stopped. I still check it every day but to know about changing regulations, but I limit myself to a couple of minutes daily to scan for things that matter. I don’t need to dive deep into endless stories and articles, instead, I focus my media consumption on things that light me up. Like listening to podcasts of people who inspire me.

 

Get outside when and however you can

Depending on where you are in the world, this may look different for you than it does for someone else. Where I’m at, that looks like walking around my neighborhood streets. For someone in Europe, that may look like literally just sitting on your balcony or in your backyard. Or it might look like being able to get out and hike.

Make sure to follow local regulations for this. If you need more tips on how to get outside right now, read through my blog post on the topic.

 

Find an indoor hobby

You know how you always say you don’t have time? Well here is your time!

There are so many different activities we can do indoors. Personally, I draw and paint. I haven’t had time in years to really devote to my art because I’m always working or traveling. But drawing and painting helps me so much. It helps me fuel my creative energy and it’s a huge stress relief. During my parents divorced when I was in high school and early on in college, I spent every free minute when I didn’t have homework working out and painting. It helped me channel my stress and work through what I was going through inside.

But there’s more than just painting. You can do pottery, do another form of crafts, learn to take photos, sew, knit, learn and a new language, or anything else! If you’re stuck on what you want to do, browse Amazon or a craft site like Michaels for ideas. You can also browse Pinterest for so many ideas.

There are also so many things you can do inside to prep for hiking. I wrote a whole blog post on this with ideas, you can read through.

 

Focus on your health

Focus on your health from the inside out. Grocery stores might not have canned foods, pasta, meats, or toilet paper, but at least the ones I’ve been too, there is a variety of fruit and veggies to choose from.

What we put in our bodies directly affects not only how we feel, but also can strengthen or weaken your immune system. If you’re eating a diet that contains high amounts of processed foods over fresh fruit and veggies, that will negatively affect your body. This will help strengthen your immune system, in a time that really matters.

Read The Healthy Habit by Elizabeth Rider is a great resource for more information on how food and nutrition affects us inside to out. It breaks everything down in an easy to understand way and even has recipes and a 21-day meal plan in the back.

Right now, it might be hard to be 100% perfect in your diet, but progress, not perfection.

You can start learning more about nutrition, learning to cook better and healthier meals, and learning to meal prep. Use this time to build good habits, not bad ones. You can choose to come out on the other side stronger.

 

Catch up on the stack of books

I try to carve out time nightly to read, but I don’t always get there. I have a stack of books I’ve been trying to make a dent in, and if you’re like me, here is your chance to!

 

Virtual hangouts

Can’t go to happy hour? Do it at home. This is a great chance to catch up with friends you haven’t chatted with for a while or even just do virtual hangouts with the people you normally hang with.

Since we can’t connect with people in person, now it’s more important than ever to connect with others virtually. Thankfully this is all happening in a time when we have the ability to connect online with people all over the world.

 

Spring cleaning

Do you have old clothes that have you’ve been meaning to get rid of? Your kitchen cabinets are a mess? Have a stack of shampoo bottles you don’t need? Or want to re-decorate and move around your furniture? Do it!

Personally, I feel better and more at ease when my home is clean. I get anxiety when my floors are dirty, things are out of place, my closet is a mess, and I can’t find anything in my drawers and cabinets. I know life happens and things get out of order, so now is a good chance to clean and organize your home.

 

Start that project

Start that project or business you’ve been putting off. Did you know it took me six months to start this blog? From the time I came up with the idea to the day I actually launched the website. Yup, I just kept putting it off. Then I came home from a trip early, found myself with two extra days and was extremely frustrated with how the trip went and ended. So I channeled that frustration and used the two extra days to build out this site and launch! This is a different situation, but you all of a sudden have extra time on your hands, so go for it!

 

Talk to a therapist

For most of us, the great outdoors provides a form of therapy. Sadly, right now that might not be an option. But, that doesn’t mean you need to be alone.

If you already have a therapist, ask if you can schedule phone or video chat calls. If not there are a lot of great resources online that will help.

When I’m going through a very stressful period in my life, I usually turn to therapy to help me find a level head when I’m a ball of anxiety. I’ve used Better Help as an affordable and accessible option for online therapy. There are also so many different options out there. The important part is to find something that works for you but know that you’re not alone.

I’m a Harry Potter fan, so I’ll end this post with this quote “Help will always be given at Hogwarts, Harry, to those who ask for it.” – Albus Dumbledore

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