Coping Strategies

Think of Positive Things: Some of the TV news has great stories of multiple people who have a generous spirit of giving and caring for others at this time. Go to goodnewsnetwork.org for a variety of inspiring stories.

Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a mental exercise of noticing using your senses in a loving way without judgement. For example sit comfortably on a chair and notice the different temperatures on your body (cooler on the top of your leg and warmer where your legs are on the chair),  feel your legs pressing against the chair, notice what you see, smell, hear or experience. Practice daily sprituality: read sacred text, pray and communicate with your higher power. Practice what gives you peace.

Social Interaction: Physical distancing does not have to mean social isolation Use social media, texting, email, snail mail and the telephone to stay connected with others. If you live alone, this social connectedness is particularly important.

Practice a Moment of Appreciation: Take a couple deep breaths to initiate relaxation, then resume relaxed breathing. Think of a  moment of appreciation from some time in your life, bring up a clear image in your mind using visual, and perhaps auditory or olfactory senses with your imagination pull this image to the area around your heart, REPEAT and enjoy.

Sleep: For good sleep the bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, a large meal, TV with disturbing content, arguments and any other over stimulating experiences. Set a bedtime schedule and try to kep it regular, if possible. Try any "relaxation technique" prior to bed such as: deep breathing, mindfulness, gratitude, moment of appreciation, or progressive muscle relaxation. Reading prior to sleep has been shown to reduce stress. To enhance sleep, limit screen time on smart phones and computers close to bedtime.

Routine: Develop a daily routine. Get dressed everyday rather than lounge in the PJ's. Build in social interaction, practical duties such as cleaning, laundry, etc.. entertainment, learning something new, exercise, and find purpose. Perhaps journal daily experiences of what is troubling, worrisome, exciting, inspiring, fun, surprising or something you learned.

Play: Take some time to play or be playful. "Do do do" is a manifestation of the stress response. Notice if the compulsion to do is happening to you. Be silly, play a board game, online games like Words with Friends, or do puzzles.

Creativity: Color, create, write poetry, make up a new game. Relaxing allows us to be creative as a fun experience or as a way to problem solve.

Breath Practice: There are many breathing exercises. If you have a favorite that helps you to relax, continue with that one. Another one that you might want to try is just slow deep breathing for a couple of minutes. If you want to try something a bit more challenging, do 3-5 times a minute breathing. You breath in for about 5 seconds and out for about 5 seconds... No holding. Do the breathing for just 2 to 3 minutes a few times per day and especially before bed. It is better to do the breathing more frequently then for longer periods of time, especially for the beginner. Notice your breathing, anxious breathing may be irregular and / or shallow with periods of holding - not healthy. Just improving breathing can reduce stress. Try taking a couple of deep breaths and upon exhale let out an audible AHHH.

Imagine pleasant sensations: Imagine your hands in the warm sand at the beach or a shoulder massage, envision your own pleasant sensation for a minute.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eat good, nutritious food in reasonable quantities, limit or avoid alcohol. Anxiety, depression, fear and worry may cause some people to crave sweet, salty and fatty foods that provide only instant gratification.

Manage stress before it manages you: Chronic and acute stress wreaks havoc with our immunity, well being, mood, sleep, concentration, diet and just about everything. Give yourself credit for what you have had to endure thus far, and remind yourself that you have likely been through other challenging times and you will likely use many of your prior strategies to get through this one. It is not so much what we are dealt, but how we deal with it. If you need support ask for it. Put your focus on what you can control rather than on the things you cannot.