7 Ways to manage your stress right now
With coronavirus spreading and the stock market crashing, here’s how to stay healthy
We’re in an unprecedented health and financial crisis, one that none of us has ever experienced. And if you’re like most of us, you’re feeling fear and anxiety as a result of the stock market crashing, the coronavirus spreading, the store shelves emptying and the pressure of staying at home.
The need to control our stress in response to this crisis is critical, because too much stress not only ruins our happiness and decreases our ability to make good decisions but also weakens our immune system; and right now we all need to stay physically healthy and keep clean heads.
Here are seven recommendations for decreasing COVID-19 and stock market crash stress:
Take control. When you feel out of control you become fearful and anxious and release cortisol (the stress hormone), and there’s a lot of scary stuff out of our control right now. You will decrease your stress level when you take control of something (except another person). And it doesn’t have to be anything big.
For example, I really missed going to my hot yoga class, which is temporarily closed. So, I found a great class online and do yoga at home now. My workouts are back in my control, and this was enough to clear my mind of the swirling emotions of everything I can’t control.
Laugh. Do anything that makes you laugh. My sister can be hilarious; we belly laughed on a recent phone call. A belly laugh is like a hormonal reboot for your brain when you’re stressed.
Seek joy. What makes you happy? Playing with kids or a dog, listening to music, being outdoors—do what brings you joy. With the weather improving, I trimmed my roses the other day, because being outside and gardening bring me joy.
Get movin’. Move your body—your mind will appreciate it. Hundreds of studies demonstrate that all forms of light, moderate and, for some, even intense exercise decrease anxiety and depression. Want a good laugh? Watch Joe Schwarcz find a fun, creative way to work out in his kitchen while his gym is closed. His video went viral and already has over 11 million views at the time I wrote this article (click here to watch).
Expand your chest. When stressed, you tend to round your shoulders slightly forward, compressing your chest. This posture signals your brain to release more of your stress hormone, cortisol. Opening your chest reduces cortisol, creating more relaxation. There are many ways to open your chest (and we aren’t talking open-heart surgery here). Here’s one: Stand up and clasp your hands behind your back, and then pull them gently away from your back and simultaneously look up, raising your heart toward the sky (or ceiling). (If you have a bad back, this might not be good for you.)
Double your exhalation. Count how long your inhalations are and then exhale twice as long. This stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, which creates relaxation. For even better results, do this with an expanded chest (see above).
Choose gratitude. Yes, we have challenges to solve individually, as families, as businesses, as a nation and as a global community. But consider noticing what you have that you don’t normally feel grateful for. When was the last time you showed gratitude for having electricity, heat, grocery stores, a car, a shower, a stove, your friends? There are countless things to be grateful for and gratitude is an antidote to both fear and anxiety—and it creates more positive inner peace.
Remember that stress is your reaction to the outside world; it’s how you think about it. Take control of your stress and keep yourself healthy.