Times are difficult right now for everyone. In these times of uncertainty and anxiety, how can we take care of ourselves and our community? Caring for your mental health during this time is extremely important. Not only are these times stressful for everyone, but we also have an incredible opportunity to be kind, to care about our neighbors and to take care of ourselves.
Making opportunities for stress reduction is imperative for you and your health. To assist in reducing anxiety and coping with stress, here are 5 tips:
1. Have a routine: Stress and anxiety can be triggered by any number of things. Write out a daily plan, including mealtimes, work, incorporating coping skills and disconnecting from stress.
2. Disconnect or limit your social media/news intake: We can easily be overwhelmed and stressed when we spend too much time being online. Use this time to focus on other tasks or goals you may have.
3. Short term goals: Set small attainable goals for yourself daily. It could be anything from calling a loved one, connecting with friends, reading or other hobby.
4. Get outside for 30 minutes! Sit outside and take in the sunshine, take a walk or feel the breeze. If you are high risk, open your windows and use a fan. Fresh air does wonders.
5. Develop a self-care toolkit: Everyone is different in their self-care needs. Develop a list of self-care strategies for the mind, body and soul. Taking care of your mind could include mindfulness types of activities, journaling or decluttering. For the body, self-care includes eating healthfully, getting sleep and exercise. For the soul, practicing gratitude, reaching out to friends or volunteering (assisting on a hotline, reaching out to seniors, etc.).
Mindfulness-based activities are an excellent way to ground your emotions and be aware of the moment. When we ground ourselves, we’re calming or slowing down our emotions and getting more in touch with our internal and external worlds. Grounding our energy can be helpful when we feel either unbalanced or nervous.
Grounding exercise: The 5-4-3-2-1 technique involves purposefully taking in the details of your surroundings using each of your senses. Strive to notice small details that your mind would usually tune out such as distant sounds or the texture of an ordinary object.
What are five things you can see? Look for small details such as a pattern on the ceiling, the way light reflects off a surface, or an object you never noticed.
What are four things you can feel? Notice the sensation of clothing on your body, the sun on your skin, or the feeling of the chair you are sitting in. Pick up an object and examine its weight, texture, and other physical qualities.
What are three things you can hear? Pay special attention to the sounds your mind has tuned out, such as a ticking clock, distant traffic, or trees blowing in the wind.
What are two things you can smell? Try to notice smells in the air around you, like an air freshener or freshly mowed grass. You may also look around for something that has a scent, such as a flower or an unlit candle.
What is one thing you can taste? Carry gum, candy, or small snacks for this step. Pop one in your mouth and focus your attention closely on the flavors.
Christine Anderson is a licensed independent clinical social worker and senior director of social work at Rutland Regional Medical Center.