Photo by Dane Wetton on Unsplash

Perhaps one of the most concerning effects of the coronavirus is the heightened levels of cortisol pumping through all of our veins during uncertain times. Put another way: Stress.

With a global economic meltdown, job insecurity and social distancing, we’re all facing difficult times. We are social creatures; we need conversation and connections to keep us motivated and fulfilled. In fact, according to this study, it’s one of the single most important secrets to achieving long-term happiness. The deep connections we share with friends and family help us manage the day-to-day stress we all face. With less human interaction and a lot of unknown factors at play, people are more stressed than ever. 

Stress may not seem like a serious problem at first glance. But as we dig deeper into its effects on the body and mind, another story unfolds. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, impacts of stress include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, chest pains and stomach problems. The emotional impacts include heightened levels of anxiety, feelings of overwhelm, irritability and inability to focus. 

This, compounded over days or even weeks, can lead to an assortment of long term health complications like heart disorders, personality disorders, stroke, obesity and more. In addition to being terrible for your health, chronic stress leads to decreased productivity and overall dissatisfaction in many areas of life. For innovation and creativity to flourish, we need to learn to manage stress. 

So, what are some proven ways we actually can manage stress?

Move your body!

According to this study, moderate, consistent exercise has been shown to reduce the amount of cortisol (that’s the stress hormone) in the body, release endorphins (that’s the one that elevates mood), and increase confidence (that just feels nice). In addition to combating stress, physical exercise has an ongoing list of positive effects on both the body and mind, andit doesn’t take a lot of movement to shake things up, either. According to this study, even just a little bit of daily movement can make a substantial difference in your life. 

Though many gyms and studios are closed, there are plenty of free online resources available to get moving. Some of our favorites are:

  • Alo Yoga’s YouTube channel offers great free yoga classes you can perform at home. All you need is a soft surface or a yoga mat.
  • Another great option for full body workouts is DailyBurn.com. They offer a free 30-day trial.
  • You can also try Beach Body on Demand. A long standing fitness company, it also provides a two-week free trial.
  •  Check with your local personal trainers, gyms and fitness studios. Because of the pandemic, many are offering online classes and virtual check-ins. If you’d like to support local businesses as a member of the community, this is a great route to take.

 Mindful meditation

Meditation is a great tool for focusing the mind, clearing out unnecessary information and gaining internal clarity. What you may not know is meditation can come in many different forms. Dancing, cleaning, playing sports, drawing and listening to music can all be forms of mindful meditation. The goal is to bring you to a state of observation without judgement for thoughts, patterns and sensations. 

The benefits are still being researched, but they include heightened focus, a decrease in feelings of depression or anxiety, and, according to this study, may fight age-related memory problems. Here are a list of some free resources to get you started on exploring this option of stress management:

  • Many meditation apps are offering free resources due to the pandemic. You can explore some of these options here.
  • Tara Brach offers free meditation recordings and mindfulness resources on her website that are great to listen to on your phone or computer. 
  • If you’re not interested in a guided meditation resource, you can also visit Yellow Brick Cinema’s YouTube channel for relaxing musical options to play in the background as you go through your own version of mindful meditation.

Create virtual connections with friends and family

We’re seeing much of the working world shift to a virtual setting. Consider using these same virtual tools to hang out with friends and family in a safe, socially-distanced way. As I mentioned above, human connection is one of the most important factors to having a healthy mental state. Just because we’re quarantined does not mean our social events have to stop. To read about some of the tools you can use for hanging out with friends, click here. 

Need some more inspiration? Try one of these creative virtual meet-up themes over a video call:

  • Happy hour with a BYOB (bring your own beverage)
  • Arts and crafts tea meet and greet. Have your friends grab a creative project and make tea while you catch up or introduce  new people to your group.
  • Cook and connect. Love to cook? Invite your friends to chat while you help each other make a delicious meal. 

Now more than ever, it’s important to prioritize our mental and emotional health. Not only does this keep our heads clear when it’s time to make important decisions, but it allows us to experience some peace of mind and enjoyment even in the most stressful of times.

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