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Relaxing When You're Stressed Out

Stressed Out

"31/365 - Stress." by BLW Photography is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Stressed Out? Here are ways to Relax!

By Dale Mayo

It’s safe to say 2020 has been an especially stressful year. 

The pandemic has affected everyone with almost 50 million confirmed cases and over a million deaths worldwide.  Some people have been more affected than others - health concerns, friends or family lost to Covid-19, healthcare or caregiver concerns, employment and education disrupted or moved online, plans for gatherings (sports events, holidays, weddings, funerals) and travel thwarted.    

In addition to the coronavirus anxiety, the American Psychological Association reports that more than two-thirds of adults in the US say that the presidential election is a significant source of stress.[1]  No matter where you stand on the election, you’re likely unhappy with what is happening.  This is a good time to figure out what we can do to take care of ourselves, starting with relieving stress.  This will help with sleep, health, and mental health.   

Everyday ways to de-stress

At the beginning of the pandemic, we looked at ways to cope and de-stress, recognizing that the very things that used to soothe us were not possible (e.g., dining and drinking with a group of friends in a cozy restaurant, going to a museum, attending a concert, sweating it out at the gym).  Some of these activities are now possible in a modified way, but the original suggestions for stress relief are still useful:

Smartphone Dark

"Person looking at smartphone in the dark" by Japanexperterna.se is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Reducing election-related stress

The buildup to this year’s election has been unusually stressful and sometimes downright scary.  There are some things you can do to control your own environment and maintain a stress-free space.[10]

 

Baked Cod

Mediterranean baked cod with Greek yogurt

Eating healthfully under stress

Maintaining a healthy routine includes regular exercise and a regular schedule of eating and sleeping.  This is easily interrupted by anxiety and stress and events that keep you up late into the night (or longer), like watching election results. Preparing food can be its own reward:

While many find it helpful to avoid caffeine after a certain point in the day and to limit alcohol consumption, some foods are thought to be helpful for reducing stress.

 

If you have severe or long-lasting symptoms, call or see your health care provider or seek help from a qualified mental health professional.

If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others call 911. 

The US DHHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517)

References

[1] https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2020/10/election-stress

[2] https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress/relaxation.htm

[3] https://thrive.kaiserpermanente.org/thrive-together/live-well/need-quick-ways-relax-de-stress-throughout-day

[4] McMahan, E. A., Estes, D. (2015). The effect of contact with natural environments on positive and negative affect: A meta-analysis. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(6):507-519.

[5] https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/six-relaxation-techniques-to-reduce-stress

[6] https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-power-of-music-to-reduce-stress/

[7] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/stress-relief-that-works_n_3842511

[8] https://www.bluecrossnc.com/sites/default/files/document/attachment/services/public/pdfs/formulary/stress.pdf

[9] https://thrive.kaiserpermanente.org/thrive-together/live-well/need-quick-ways-relax-de-stress-throughout-day

[10] https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/02/stress-relieving-activities-for-2020-election-day-waiting-for-results.html

[11] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/31/at-home/election-stress.html

[12] https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/november-1-2020

[13] https://hbr.org/2014/04/gratitude-is-the-new-willpower

[14] https://hbr.org/2020/10/how-to-thrive-when-everything-feels-terrible?utm_source=pocket-newtab

[15] Zander, R. S., & Zander, B. (2002). The Art of Possibility. New York, NY.