“We sail within a vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end.” Blaise Pascal
A couple of months ago, the Coronavirus was barely talked about outside of China. No one could have predicted it would have changed our lives as dramatically as it has.
Blaise Pascal states uncertainty in such a brilliant way because we are never without it. We need to embrace uncertainty and control our stress through different ways.
Under current economic conditions, stress levels are at an all time high. This is detrimental to not only our society, but also to our personal health. Chronic stress is linked to many serious health problems and it is also proven to reduce our immune system – something none of us need right now, or ever.
Follow one of these 7 ways to cope with your stress and embrace the uncertainty
1. Limit your time online and watching news
Over 50% of Americans say that the news causes them stress, and many report feeling anxiety, fatigue, and sleep loss as a result. Yet, for some reason, one in 10 adults check the news every hour and over 20% are constantly checking their social media feeds – often displaying the latest news headlines.
Yes, it is important to stay informed with what is going on around you. And it’s reasonable that breaking news can cause you stress and anxiety. But the way news is portrayed – coupled with the style of news that dominates the headlines – may not be good for mental or physical health.
Graham Davey, a professor emeritus of psychology at Sussex University in the UK and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Experimental Psychopathology said, “ the way that news is presented and the way that we access news has changed significantly over the last 15 to 20 years. These changes have often been detrimental to general mental health.”
Even without a global pandemic over our heads, the news causes stress to many people. Now with the current Coronavirus pandemic, stress levels from the news are at an all time high.
This is not an argument to completely cut out news and media. It still provides value, especially at a time like this. However, even good things can be bad for us without moderation. If you find yourself getting stressed out from watching the news and being on social media, it might be best to limit your consumption time.
One solution might be to check in the morning and evening for an hour at a time. Whatever you choose, find a solution that works best for you.
This may sound like a silly idea to you and something only Buddhist Monks do, however, it is an excellent way to reduce your stress. In recent years, meditation has grown significantly and has helped people reduce stress, lower anxiety, boost productivity, and provide a solution for lack of focus.
At times like this, meditation helps you develop awareness of your own thoughts. This is the first step to being able to manage them more effectively. Many people have thought- provoked stress and anxiety, and by meditating, you will have the ability to redirect those thoughts in ways that are more productive and positive.
If this sounds like something that you are interested in, there are many resources and apps that you can try. Headspace is one the leaders in the meditation space and is a great place to start with a one-week free trial. Give it a try and make a daily effort to meditate to see if this helps reduce your stress.
3. Spend Time in Nature
Recent research done by Cornell has shown that as little as 10 minutes in nature can help people feel happier and lessen the effects of both mental and physical stress. The research has found that spending time in nature reduces levels of cortisol, which is a byproduct of stress. What this means is the area of your brain that controls negative, stressful thinking is less active when you’re in nature.
For people trapped in large cities, there are other ways to experience nature without physically being there. Researches have also found that listening to calming outdoors and being around greenery (house plants and trees), can have the same effect as spending time in nature.
However, if you have the opportunity to be out in nature, don’t pass it up. Breathe in the fresh air, take in the beauty, and feel the stress melt away.
4. Learn a New Skill
Learning a new skill is a great way to refrain from a stressful situation and thoughts. This is because learning a new skill will occupy your brain so thoroughly, leaving little room for stress and anxiety.
By learning a new skill, you grow your knowledge base and it helps you develop feelings of competence and growth. This helps reduce stress and researchers have found this works great in a workplace setting or at home in our everyday life.
If you are stuck on what new skill you can learn, think about what you like to do. Do you enjoy working with your hands, or do you prefer building something digitally? Choose something you think you will enjoy and give it a try. You’ll lower your anxiety and stress and learn something new at the same time.
Working out can help lower your overall stress levels and improve your health, both mentally and physically. Regular physical activity can have a positive effect on your mood through relieving tension, anger, anxiety, and even slight depression. Furthermore, stress often leads to poor sleeping habits and exercising can even improve your sleep.
When you work out, it releases endorphins into your body, which are hormones that make you feel good. It also improves your body’s ability to process oxygen and blood flow. This directly affects your brain and many other organs for the better.
Finally, working out almost puts your mind into a meditation like state. The repetitive motions involved in exercise creates focus on your body, rather than your mind. Focusing on the rhythm of your movements can produce a sense of energy and optimism – providing relaxation and clarity.
You don’t need a gym to work out either. There are many different home exercises where you can target your entire body. All you need is a bit of space in your home or you can go on a walk.
Find some exercises you enjoy doing, and set aside time 3-4 times a week. And an extra benefit, exercising also improves your immune system, which can decrease your risk of illness and infection.
You’ve probably had a moment in your life where you were extremely stressed out and you caught yourself organizing or cleaning your home/work space for no reason. This is because there is science between cleaning and decreasing your anxiety.
Your body wants control when it is feeling anxious. A study done in 2015 by the University of Connecticut showed people who are stressed out gravitate toward repetitive behaviors, like cleaning, while we are anxious.
A study published in the journal Mindfulness, showed that participants who mindfully washed dishes with soap and warm water – reported a 27% reduction in nervousness, along with a 25% improvement in mental thinking.
By removing the clutter, dirt and dust from our homes and work spaces, you can alleviate unneeded stress, as we take in our environments visually. This is because on a subconscious level, clutter is usually linked to negative emotions (confusion, tension, worry, irritability), whereas a clean space is usually linked to positive emotions (happiness, calm, wellbeing), explains Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy. D., psychologist and author.
If you find yourself stressed out in times like this, try cleaning and decluttering your home, work space, or both. It will help remove a lack of completeness and reduce your overall stress – making your environment calmer and more restful.
7. Get Some Sleep
The less sleep you get every night, the more stress hormones your body produces. The brain functions connected with deep sleep are the same ones that tell your body to produce stress hormones. Hence, the less sleep you get, the more your body is producing stress hormones.
Eventually this turns into a vicious cycle that never seems to end.
To avoid this, try these several tactics to help you sleep better at night:
- Limit your screen time at night and no screen time an hour before bed
- Don’t drink alcohol before bed
- Lower the temperature before you go to bed
- Ramp down your workload at night
- Only drink caffeinated drinks earlier in the day
- Exercise 3-4 times a week
- Don’t take naps during the day
- Meditate to ease your mind before bed
- Journal your thoughts before bed
Before you have trouble sleeping due to stress, get ahead of it with some of these techniques. Make it a conscious effort each night and try to have a consistent sleep schedule.
Chronic stress is a huge problem around the globe. Our world is ever changing and there is always going to be uncertainty. The Coronavirus is no exception and its effects aren’t going away anytime soon.
Wherever your stress stems from, take a deep breath and relax. You will make it through times like this, tougher than ever. Follow these seven proven ways to reduce your stress and take your life back into your own hands.
If you have other ways to reduce stress, please share and comment below.