Life in 2020 has given us some unexpected and stressful changes related to Coronavirus. As individuals, we have little control over these stressors, but we do have control over our reaction to them by creating resilience. Below are a few ideas to help you diffuse stress and build resilience.1. Breathing Techniques are great for promoting relaxation during brief moments throughout the day – waiting in line, driving in traffic, before a big presentation, or before falling asleep. You can do them anytime, anywhere, for any length of time, with no equipment needed:
4-7-8 Breathing is a technique popularized by integrative medicine physician Andrew Weil, MD. Essentially, it involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding for 7 seconds, and out for 8 seconds, and repeating that cycle 2-3 times.
Box Breathing is a simple 4-step breathing exercise. Visualize the sides of a box as you complete each of four steps: 1) breathe in for 4 seconds, 2) hold for 4 seconds, 3) breathe out for 4 seconds and 4) hold for 4 seconds, then repeat the cycle as needed.
2. Mind Body Techniques are methods for practicing being in the present moment and uncoupling anxious thoughts from your body’s physiological response. There are a number of different techniques available, try out a few to learn what works best for you.
Mindfulness and Meditation are techniques for “quieting the mind” or bringing awareness to the mind and body in the present moment. Here are some great apps for starting a mindfulness or meditation practice:
Stop, Breathe & Think
The Simply Being
Guided imagery uses words and music to evoke visualization experiences that promote health and healing. Belleruth Naparstek is a psychotherapist and social worker whose audio recordings have popularized this technique. You can access these through healthjourneys.com, and a number of free audio recordings are available through Kaiser Permanente.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a technique used to learn to relax muscles which often become tense with anxiety and stress. This is a great technique to use at the end of the day when trying to fall asleep. Many of the above apps feature progressive muscle relaxation sessions in addition to meditation.
3. Exercise and Movement help to build both physical and psychological resilience and is something that can be incorporated on a daily basis. A balance of both high-intensity exercise with more restorative exercise such as gentle stretching, yoga, or walking outside can be very beneficial.
4. Time in Nature has been shown to increase the natural killer cells of the immune system, which are important for fighting off viruses and tumors, as well as possibly decreasing sympathetic nervous system activity. Getting some sun exposure first thing in the morning while drinking your coffee, going for a walk with loved ones after dinner, or doing a workout or picnicking in a local park on the weekend are great ways to incorporate some time in nature on a regular basis.
5. Sleep quality and quantity are both important for building resilience against stressors. Employing a bedtime routine with reduced blue-light exposure, a cool sleep environment, and time to wind down (perhaps with one of the mind-body exercises above!) can help to improve sleep quality. Most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
6. Connecting with Loved Ones is important for feeling socially safe, supported, and loved which plays a key role in resilience against stress. In the times of social distancing, there are still ways to connect with loved ones through phone or video conversations, letters, or acts of kindness to show them you care.
7. Eliminating Toxic Substances that themselves act as physical stressors on your system can be important for building resilience against stress. Some examples of these substances include high amounts of sugar and caffeine, alcohol, and smoking – there’s never been a better time to try eliminating them than now!
8. Gratitude practices may be formal, such as writing down three things you are grateful for every morning or evening, or informal, such as noticing and appreciating small things throughout the day. Regular gratitude practices have been shown to reduce perceived stress, among other benefits.
9. Consuming a Nutrient-Rich Diet can provide the nutrients your body needs to regulate key genes in your body’s stress response. As discussed above, replacing sugar and processed foods with nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, meat and fish also help to reduce inflammation and improve resilience. The foods we eat can also impact the gut microbiome, which plays in an important role in our immune and stress response.
10. Counseling – We like to think about mental health in the same proactive way we think about physical health. Contact us for a referral or call your insurance company for a local counselor in your network. Other services such as TalkSpace and BetterHelp provide accessible, remote counseling resources. There are also exercises that can be done on your own such as
journaling to process thoughts and emotions. http://yourholisticpsychologist.com has great ideas including the Future Self Journal. Another good resource is The Feeling Good Handbook by Dr. David Burns, which walks readers through a technique called Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) that is widely used by counselors and psychologists to help individuals challenge and change unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors in order to improve the ability to cope
-adapted from www.pursuing-health.com
Jana Pedersen DNP | FNP-C is currently taking patients at Active Family Healthcare. Give us a call at 208.758.0560 with questions or to schedule an appointment today.