Things That Matter

The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Causing Us Unprecedented Stress, Here Are 9 Techniques To Help You Relax

So, Mental Health Awareness month has come just as pretty much of all us are having to face a strange world of Coronavirus fears, lockdown anxiety, loneliness, and boredom. With all that we are having to face right now I can’t think of a better time to visit some much-needed tips on how to deal with stress.

Obviously, stress is inevitable, but too much stress can negatively impact your mood, relationships, sleep routine, and even how your body functions. And given that we are living in such uncertain times, I think it’s fair to say we’re all facing a bit more stress than normal.

If you’re trying to figure out how to best manage your stress, there are some therapist-approved tips ahead.

1. Practice Tolerating Uncertainty

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study during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic showed that people who had a harder time accepting the uncertainty of the situation were more likely to experience elevated anxiety.

The solution is to learn to gradually face uncertainty in daily life by easing back on certainty-seeking behaviors. 

Start small: Don’t text your friend immediately the next time you need an answer to a question. Go on a hike without checking the weather beforehand. As you build your tolerance-of-uncertainty muscle, you can work to reduce the number of times a day you consult the internet for updates on the outbreak.

2. Tackle the Anxiety Paradox

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Anxiety rises proportionally to how much one tries to get rid of it.

Struggling against anxiety can take many forms. People might try to distract themselves by drinking, eating or watching Netflix more than usual. They might repeatedly seek reassurance from friends, family or health experts. Or they might obsessively check news streams, hoping to calm their fears. Although these behaviors can help momentarily, they can make anxiety worse in the long run. Avoiding the experience of anxiety almost always backfires. 

Instead, allow your anxious thoughts, feelings and physical sensations to wash over you, accepting anxiety as an integral part of human experience

3. Center Yourself When Anxiety Hits

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If you feel your anxiety levels rising, the first thing to do is take a couple of deep breaths. This is a simple technique to calm yourself and engage the parts of your brain that deal with focus, memory, and problem-solving (your prefrontal cortex). From there, it’s recommended to bring your awareness to your feet or “feeling your feet,” a mindfulness exercise that will “literally ground you.”

4. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation

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If you’re feeling stressed, Jessie Bohnenkamp, LPC, NCC, founder of Plum Counseling and Wellness, recommends trying a technique called progressive muscle relaxation. “Often, when we’re feeling stressed, we tense up parts of our body, which then sends signals to our brain that we’re unsafe and need to be on guard for danger,” she states on her website.

To counteract this, lie on your back, or in a comfortable position, and starting with your toes, focus on fully relaxing each muscle group, or body part, moving slowly up your body as you let all of the tension drain away.

5. Strengthen Self-Care

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During these anxiety-provoking times, it’s important to remember the tried-and-true anxiety prevention and reduction strategies. Get adequate sleep, exercise regularly, practice mindfulness, spend time in nature and employ relaxation techniques when stressed. 

Prioritizing these behaviors during the coronavirus crisis can go a long way toward increasing your psychological well being and bolstering your immune system.

6. Stretch Every Day

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Stretching isn’t just reserved for runners and people who lift weights. Dr. Tasha Holland-Kornegay, PhD, LPC, founder of Wellness IRL, a platform to reduce healthcare provider burnout, recommends stretching daily to help relieve stress and relax.

While it may seem like a lot of work, you can simply stand in a doorway and try to stretch your arms apart, trying to reach the upper sides of the doorframe. Hold for 90 seconds and then release. These simple exercises will entice the nervous system and boost your energy,” according to Holland-Kornegay.

7. Limit Social Media and the News

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OK, it’s hard but you should really only be using social media to stay in touch with friends and family when you might start to feel isolated. If you’re like me and use Facebook and Twitter to also get your news, then be smart about it. Follow a few verified news outlets that you trust, as well as the Center For Disease Control and the World Health Organization, for news that’s accurate and up to date. It’s fine to unfollow or block sources that are only causing you anxiety. 

It’s also really good practice to only allow yourself certain times of the day to check your news feeds and social media.

8. Establish A Routine

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Ok, so this one is really hard for me. I’m someone who is always rebelling against routine but it can be a huge help in times like these. Having a daily routine gives you sense of structure that can really be vital for managing emotional stress during uncertain times.

Decide what your priorities are right now and set boundaries between different activities, especially if you’re transitioning to a work-from-home setup. Remembering to take time to exercise, eat well, connect with people you care about, and do simple things that bring you joy is also foundational to maintaining your emotional resilience under pressure.

9. Talk To Yourself About Yourself

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Yea, this one might take some getting used to but it can really help. According to Jason Moser, PhD, director of Michigan State University’s clinical psychophysiology lab, “Third-person self-talk can be used across the board as you’re anticipating a stressful event, as you’re feeling anxiety in the moment, or when you’re dealing with something that caused stress and anxiety in the past, like rejection or failure.”

To self-talk, all you have to do is talk to yourself about the stressful event in the third-person, Dr. Moser explains. For example, you could ask yourself a series of questions. “When you’re using your own name, the brain switches to another mode as if you’re talking to someone else. In a nutshell, what happens is that you’re creating a psychological distance between you and the issue you’re facing.”

Working From Home Can Impact Your Mental Health, Here’s How To Stay Sane And Healthy

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Working From Home Can Impact Your Mental Health, Here’s How To Stay Sane And Healthy

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A recent survey shows that thirty-five percent of workers who telecommute said their mental health had deteriorated as a result of doing so amid the coronavirus lockdown. As someone who has gone from working in a social, fun-filled, compassionate office space, I can consider myself part of that 35%.

Although working from home (for those privileged enough to do so) is a necessity for our safety and that of the community – it definitely presents some unique challenges.

Yes, the benefits are many: avoiding transit problems and the stress of commuting; sidestepping office politics; adopting a flexible schedule that allows for chores and errands to be incorporated into the work day; more time with family and pets; and a break on keeping up a business wardrobe and other appearance-related expenses.

But there’s a dark side. It’s an arrangement that fosters isolation and disconnection, two conditions that feed the greedy depression monster.

Here are some excellent tips for taking care of your mental health during these unprecedented times.

Break up your workday

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Some common challenges when working from home during the pandemic is the lack of stimulation and connection to people you used to see regularly. This can become a bit confusing, so it’s great to try to break up the schedule.

One of the best tips for working from home that I’ve discovered is breaking up the work day with movement. This can be a quick burst of movement (like jumping jacks, or lifting kettle bells) or some lower impact movement like a walk. I’m also a huge fan of taking a mid-afternoon break (longer than your typical 30-minute lunch break) to go on a long walk or run errands.

Get a routine and stick to it

Routine is essential, and it’s even more important when structure is missing.

Sticking to a routine does not mean that you have to abide by the old standard 9-5 office hours, and only take downtime in the evening. It simply means that you have a system for waking up on time, getting ready, feeling confident and getting your work done in a timely manner. 

When you do this regularly enough, it will feel more natural over time, and you won’t have to think about it so much. For me, this has meant taking my dogs out on a walk to get a coffee in the morning and then coming home and getting to work – it’s like creating my own little commute.

Stay connected

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Remember to keep up with friends and family, even if that can only be done through a Zoom or FaceTime call. Text someone you care about, and when restrictions are lifted in your area, try to make plans as regularly as you feel comfortable.

Connection is key, and it can be challenging when you don’t leave your home for long stretches of time.

It’s also helpful to join platforms of people doing similar work as you and interacting with them throughout the day. Or you can join an online book club or participate in volunteer work – having this sort of obligation will go a long way in helping you show up when you don’t feel great.

Incorporate wellness activities into your day

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One of the biggest perks of working from home is that you get to do things you might not be able to if you’re in an office all day.

I’ve been doing 20 minute walks around my neighborhood while listening to music. This moves the energy in the body and allow us to to have a shift in consciousness, which is so important when you’ve been isolated in front of a computer screen.

Another way to experience new energy in the body is to pause from work, find a comfortable place to sit, and then do deep belly breaths. This involves taking one deep breath in, and then focus on the exhale. You’ll notice your shoulders will relax, and your body will feel lighter.

Learn how to detach

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It’s so important when working from home that you keep your work and personal lives and actual physical areas totally separate. For many, it may not be possible to create an actual separate office space but you can create workspaces outside of your most “lived in” spaces. That’s what matters most.

There is a risk that working hours will get longer if the boundaries between work and personal life become blurred. It is necessary to establish a rigid system in which work can be carried out in a planned manner, such as by setting working hours and the timing of contact with supervisors.

No matter what you do, remember that working from home is yet another “new normal” to get used to — and the sooner you adapt to what makes you most productive, healthy, and mentally well, the better.

Mexico Plans To Reopen Cancun To International Tourists But It’s Not At All Prepared For Visitors

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Mexico Plans To Reopen Cancun To International Tourists But It’s Not At All Prepared For Visitors

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There are millions of people just itching for a vacation right now, and Cancun wants to welcome visitors with open arms. However, there’s a huge problem with their plan. Most of the country is still in a severe phase of the pandemic – with all 32 states reporting daily increases in confirmed Covid-19 cases.

In cities such as Guadalajara and Mexico City, even locals aren’t allowed to venture far from their homes and restrictions on shopping, dining, and exercising are still in full force.

However, the country’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), has resumed his cross-country travels and is trying to portray a ‘new normal’ – the problem is little has changed to prevent further outbreaks.

Cancun is aiming to open its doors to tourists from June 10 – but it makes zero sense given the actual situation on the ground.

Quintana Roo, home to the famed beaches of Cancun and Tulum, will resume activities next week – according to the governor, Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez. The state, which depends heavily on tourism, has lost over 83,000 jobs in the last few months due to the pandemic, and with reopening the state could see an economic rebound. However, that entirely depends on the success and implementation of safety measures.

In a press conference, the governor said that tourists could start arriving in the Caribbean destination as soon as June 8th. He added that tourism is an essential activity and that there is no other of greater importance in Quintana Roo “and we are going to fight for it to be considered that way.”

He stressed during the public address that for the opening to happen by June 10th, protocols and hygiene measures must be followed to protect workers and tourists from Covid-19.

And he has good reason to reopen. According to a new survey by Expedia, ‘Cancun flights’ is one of the top 5 searches on the platform. In the same survey, Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Isla Mujeres (all located in Quintana Roo) were announced as three of the most internationally sought after destinations.

Meanwhile, AMLO has launched a cross-country tour touting the lifting of Coronavirus restrictions.

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President AMLO also held his daily press conference from the state of Quintana Roo to mark the beginning of Mexico’s economic reopening and resume his tours across the country.

But this too makes zero sense. Yes, the government has mandated that states can begin lifting restrictions – if they’re no longer declared ‘red zones.’ However, every state in the country is still in the red, with many seeing peak infection numbers.

It’s just the most recent example of confusing messaging from the president.

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While AMLO is eager to get the country reopened and put Mexicans back to work, Coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country. Mexico has now recorded the seventh-highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker, with nearly 10,000 virus-related fatalities and almost 100,000 confirmed cases. Testing in the country is low and health officials acknowledge that the numbers are likely much higher.

The federal government unveiled a red-light/green-light system to implement reopening procedures state by state. But currently every state is still in ‘red-light’ phase – meaning stay-at-home orders are still in full effect – making AMLO’s messaging extremely confusing.

Time and time again, the president has downplayed the virus outbreak and has criticized stay-at-home orders for harming the economy.

Keep in mind, however, that non-essential travel between the U.S. and Mexico is still largely banned.

Since March, all non-essential travel has been banned between the U.S. and Mexico. However, that ban is currently set to expire on June 22. It’s possible both sides could extend the travel ban, but given AMLO’s rhetoric it isn’t likely he’ll keep the country closed to tourists for much longer.

However, it’s important to point that out even if you technically can travel – right now you really shouldn’t. In much of Mexico, confirmed Covid-19 cases are on the rise with many cities across the country just now entering it’s worst phase.