Hi, my name is Mary Rhea and I’m a Licensed Clinician at Thriveworks in Reston, Virginia. Today I’m going to be answering the question, “What can I do to destress during COVID-19?”
This is a great question because I think all of us are under a lot more stress than usual and most of us don’t have the same outlets we used to use in order to destress. Before I get into specific examples and what to do, I first want to talk about how to go about this process and some ground rules to lay for yourself. The first ground role would be to schedule de-stressing activities. The schedule will help you be much more consistent and accountable during the week. It will also prevent any last minute scrambling to come up with a de-stressing activity on a day you’re already overwhelmed.
And the second thing would be to identify the intention or purpose behind the de-stressing activity. This is really important for certain activities that might have multiple purposes such as physical exercise. Exercise could be used as a weight loss tool, but in this case we’re using it more for stress management. So before exercising, you would want to acknowledge that to yourself. “I’m going to work out because I know it will help me feel better mentally. It’ll help me to feel better physically and I’ll feel more relaxed afterwards.”
So kind of saying that to yourself, really acknowledging that purpose behind it. This will help you be much more intentional with your stress reducing activities. The third thing is just to be flexible and patient with yourself. These are uncertain times for all of us and we’re all trying to come up with new creative ways to destress. So if something’s not working, that’s okay. Keep trying and try to be patient with yourself in the process.
Now for what to do, I like to categorize de-stressing techniques according to the dimensions of wellness. There are five dimensions of wellness: intellectual, social, physical, emotional and spiritual. I outlined them here in a chart like this so you can see, but you could just do a listing them out if that’s easier for you. Sometimes the visual helps, but this is a good way to kind of categorize what things you’re doing throughout the week and make sure that you’re hitting kind of all five areas and not necessarily every day, but at least throughout the week that you’re incorporating activities from each domain.
So for example, under intellectual you could do something like games or puzzles, reading, listening to a podcast, exploring a new topic that you’ve had an interest in. Practicing a new language skill. There are lots of apps out there for brain games language development, lots of things that you can do for that one.
For social, I think a lot of people are using virtual technology to connect with people. This is really important to stay connected to friends, family, coworkers, through video calls, through phone calls, chatting with your coworkers to stay connected and maybe setting up virtual game nights. I’ve heard of companies doing virtual water cooler or virtual happy hours for their employees. So there’s a lot of great ideas that you can still use to connect with people socially.
Physically there are a lot under this category. Could be taking walks, taking a hot bath, drinking tea at night, practicing some new dance moves, finding a YouTube video for a certain dance you want to learn, deep breathing. Yoga is one I really enjoy that I found helpful both physically and mentally it helps with stress.
Under emotional, things like practicing gratitude, positive self-talk, looking up quotes that you find inspirational and kind of help you manage stress throughout the day. Therapy or talking to a close friend is another good way to take care of your emotional stress.
Under spiritual. This could be prayer, meditation, reading a spiritual book. A lot of churches I know are doing online services, so that’s another thing that you potentially could plug into.
So I would consider doing it, outlining the dimensions of wellness for yourself. You could use some of my examples or come up with your own, like come up with at least four to five ideas under each dimension. That way it gives you a lot of activities to pull from. And then you would kind of want to go back to your ground rules. Okay. Work out a schedule for yourself. For these five dimensions, which ones are you going to do on which day? That’ll help you really stay accountable and make sure that you’re taking care of all parts of yourself.
I hope this is helpful for you. Again, remember that third ground rule is to be patient and flexible with yourself during these uncertain times. Thanks and have a great day.