Uncertain times often cause high levels of stress and anxiety—because the unknown is scary! But you can manage your levels of stress, anxiety, and fear when faced with unanswered questions about what life will be like next week, month, or year. It’s all about having the right coping tools in your wellness toolbox.
Everyone reacts differently to stress. It can elicit strong emotions, manifest as physical pain and discomfort, affect appetite, worsen chronic health problems, and disrupt sleep. The first step in managing stress, anxiety, fear, and even grief in uncertain times is to notice and accept how you feel. From there, you can turn to a list like this one to care for your emotional, spiritual, and psychological health. Self-care during emergencies will help you think clearly, better care for and support others, and heal long term.
Methods for maintaining wellness during times of stress:
- Don’t let your mind inflate risk. When stressed, your mind can latch onto one piece of information and inflate its effect or risk to yourself and your family. While this is part of our brain’s intrinsic fight-or-flight response, it can be detrimental. Identify authority information sources like the Center for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and other subject-matter experts. Let these help you establish any new lifestyle and health habits. If you make their guidelines your new normal routine, there is less to fear in the unknown. Following advice from other news sources with emotional headlines can lead to frenzied, extreme behavior and more stress.
- Understand what you have control over. It’s scary to think you’re being asked to take super-human precautions to stay healthy and safe—that’s the inflated risk talking! Don’t underestimate how effective and powerful healthy habits like frequently washing hands, eating healthy, and getting plenty of sleep are. Normal, healthy precautions are in your control. Start there.
- Take regular media breaks. Media, of all types (including social!), operate on emotional headlines, hype, and extreme stories and can spread misinformation. Keeping your mind tuned into these channels can be emotionally and psychologically draining. To keep a clear head and balanced emotional compass, take regular and extended media breaks to focus on activities that give you joy, that help others, and that you can control. When you do check for updates, start with the authoritative sources you’ve already identified.
- Pace yourself between stressful activities. Life must still go on, and that includes new and familiar stressful tasks. Break up these activities with enjoyable ones and relaxation: eat a good meal, read, listen to music or dance, stretch or exercise, take a bath, or talk to family and friends.
- Exercise and eat healthy foods. During times of high stress, it’s more important than ever to look after your physical wellbeing. Your mind and your body are linked, so caring for one can help care for the other! Exercise releases all sorts of mood-lifting hormones and helps with quality sleep. Taking deep breaths, stretching, and meditating can clear the mind and balance emotions. Eating well-balanced meals can both affect your mood and your physical wellbeing.
- Light cozy candles. Yep, the comforting smells of scented candles and their warm glow can help reduce anxiety and improve sleep. Some of the most calming scents include:
- Roman chamomile
- Ylang ylang
- Orange or orange blossom
- Record your gratitude. Studies have shown that focusing on and writing down what you’re thankful for can improve your mood and relieve stress. Regular moments of focusing on the positive in your day can ward off anxiety.
- Chew gum. Another relaxing activity backed by several studies! Chewing gum can help promote wellbeing and reduce stress. Why not give it a try—perhaps while you’re thinking about all of the good in your day.
For more information, visit the following resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)