Relieving Stress During COVID-19
These are uniquely challenging times. People are experiencing increased stress due to concerns about their finances, about their families, about their loss of routine and about their future in general. This uncertainty can have a devastating impact on everyone both physically and psychologically. Chronic stress can have negative impacts on various areas of your health. In the past, many people turned to massage therapy to deal with the physical aches and pains that are common symptoms of stress. Although we can’t visit our RMTs at the moment, there are some things that you can do from home to help relieve some of your stress.
Create a Routine
Creating a manageable routine can help you to remove some uncertainty to your days. Knowing to expect that you will do certain things at certain times will help you to feel a bit more in control and less stressed. Although it can be tempting to stay in your pajamas all day, waking up at a time that’s normal for you, washing up and changing out of your sleepwear can make a big difference in making you feel better. It’s also important that you get enough sunlight, and adding a daily walk to your routine (at a safe distance from others) can help you feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
Exercise is also an important element to include in your daily routine. A quick jog outside while maintaining a safe distance, or any type of aerobic exercise that gets your heart beating can help reduce your stress. It’s also important to include stretching in that routine, which can help relieve the muscle tightness that stress can cause. Only stretch within your comfort level – you don’t want to risk injury by pushing yourself too hard. Rob Haddow has suggested several at-home stretches you can add to your routine.
Now that we’re all at home all day, there is more time than ever to focus on yourself. Self-care looks different for different people, but it’s all about doing an activity that makes you feel rejuvenated. Whether that’s doing a puzzle, video chatting with a friend and/or creating some art, it’s important to focus on making time for activities that make you happy.
It’s also important to try to avoid activities that can contribute to your stress. The constant stream of COVID-19 stories is increasing the stress levels for many people. Try checking the news only once or twice a day and only check your social media feeds at designated times throughout the day so you don’t overwhelm yourself but still keep up to date.
Basic mindfulness exercises like listening to or feeling your breath can help you to feel less stress. There are other simple ways to reduce your stress and make you feel calm. You can also practice deep breathing. Take a deep breath, letting your abdomen expand fully. Hold it for about 3 seconds. Let your breath out all at once. As you exhale, relax your jaw and shoulders.
Releasing Muscle Tension
One way you can help relax your tense muscles is to first systematically tense particular muscle groups in your body, such as your neck and shoulders. Next, you release the tension and notice how your muscles feel when you relax them. This exercise will help you to lower your overall tension and stress levels, and help you relax when you are feeling anxious.
Until we can visit our RMTs for treatment again, there are some simple self-massage techniques you can use which will help you to relieve the pain in tense muscles, and to relieve some stress.
When trying self-massage, make sure to not do anything that is painful or uncomfortable. If you’re unsure, you can contact your RMTs virtually for some guidance.
To begin, with or without oil, you can use broad strokes to “warm up” the area that is tense or uncomfortable. Then, use smaller, slower and more concentrated strokes and deeper pushes to relax it. "Close out" that area with a few more broad strokes, then move on to the next.
Go Easy On Yourself
In addition to stresses about finances, health, and lack of usual social outlets, many people are feeling the pressure to make this pandemic as productive as possible. There are many articles floating around out there suggesting to start a new hobby, learn a new language or produce something creative. Those are perfectly valid things to do, and if that is what makes this pandemic easier for you to handle, that is what you should be doing. However, you shouldn’t worry if you feel unable to be productive and haven’t done any of those things yet.
Everyone reacts to this unprecedented crisis differently, and there is no “wrong” way to spend your time. Just because you have more free time, doesn’t mean the pressure to fill it all with productive activities should be causing your more stress. Do the best you can to relieve stress - take a break when you need to, nap, read a book, or do whatever makes you feel relaxed.