It’s not just you: Times are tough. The daily developments surrounding the coronavirus epidemic have us all feeling apprehensive, anxious and stressed at times. The good news: There are simple things you can do to feel better fast. First, turn off the TV news. Next, read this list of experts’ advice on how to get through a difficult day.
An incredibly effective anti-anxiety tool is your own breath. Practice deep breathing: Breathe in for a count of four, then out for a count of four. You’ll find yourself relaxing almost immediately.
Distract yourself from a stressful day by taking a ten-minute break to do something relaxing, like stretching, meditating or going for a walk.
Remember that this tough day is only one of many—and there will be easier ones to come.
When you’re stressed or anxious, you may feel totally alone. Remember that you’re not.
“Maintain as normal a routine as you possibly can,” says Steven Rosenberg, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and behavioral specialist in Philadelphia. “It’s easier to cope with whatever is going on. But you have to be realistic. When you’re under stress, it can make things harder to do. Be patient with yourself, allow plenty of time to get things done, but a schedule is important.”
“Escape a little bit, if you can, through nice music or meditation,” says Rosenberg. “Learning how to clear your mind can really help you get through a stressful period of time, whether it’s this pandemic or a difficult time in your life.”
“Everybody is stressed out, life is changing, but this will pass at some point in the future, and life will get back to normal,” says Rosenberg.
Take some time to socialize with friends and family. Isolation only worsens stress and anxiety.
Exercise lowers stress hormones in the body and helps release endorphins, chemicals that naturally improve your mood. Even a quick walk around the block can help.
“At times, tough days can blast your mind to the past or catapult you into the future—pick your poison,” says Jacob Kountz, a marriage and family therapist in Bakersfield, California. “Mindfulness is a technique that attempts to put the brakes on that process to slow things down. This can be achieved by taking a few minutes of your day to notice what’s going on in the present so you don’t have to time travel anymore.”
Start in a quiet place. “Begin to focus on what’s going on within your body: your heartbeat, how warm you might be, and even the feeling of your fingers rubbing together,” says Kountz. “Also, you’ll notice thoughts roaming in your mind at the same time. Notice the thoughts and allow them to come in and out of your mind without judgment.”
“I highly recommend the Calm app for daily meditation, excellent talks on self-development and sleep stories to help manage symptoms and get through difficult moments,” says Haley Neidich, LCSW, a Florida-based therapist.
“Tough days can get heavier if our thoughts are tilted toward negative emotions,” says Kountz. “Sometimes these negative emotions develop from thoughts that are considered unhelpful or irrational. A good rule of thumb when dealing with pesky automatic negative thoughts is putting them on trial.”
He explains: “Grab a piece of paper and make two columns. Begin writing out each negative thought in the left column. Let’s say the first thought is, ‘I’ll never get to see my friends again because of this coronavirus.” Now, move to the second column and challenge the thought by placing it on trial. Ask yourself, ‘Is it really true that I’ll never see them again? Or will we just be separate for the time being?’ With enough practice, challenging certain thoughts may help you get through tougher days.”
“You want to stay as positive as you possibly can in times of stress,” says Rosenberg. “Look at positive self-talk daily. An affirmation that I do every single day is, ‘I am thankful, grateful and appreciative for all that I am.’ And that’s everything that makes me up—my friends, my family, my loved ones, my pets, everything that is part of me.”
If you’re anxious about something that’s going on in the news, switch off TV news channels and don’t spend the day on news sites. Stay informed by checking in briefly a few times a day.
“When you’re in the moment, you’re not dwelling on any negativity of the past, and you aren’t anticipating any negativity of the future,” says Rosenberg. “You are in the moment, and in the moment, you have control over what you are doing now.”
“Take some time, even if minimally, to enjoy a hearty breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner,” says Matt Glowiak, Ph.D., LCPC, a therapist and professor in New York City. “Homemade meals are generally not only healthier but also elevate happy neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.”
Put on a favorite comedy show or watch YouTube videos. Laughter decreases stress and increases endorphins, those feel-good hormones that activate the body’s opioid receptors, which decrease discomfort.
These can help with relaxation and to put you in a positive mindset. For example: Close your eyes, take three to five deep breaths, and imagine your body filling with white light.
Music can help ease you out of stressful moments. Turn to your favorite playlist on Spotify or channel on Pandora.
“Our lives are overstressed anyway, so in a time of crisis, we need to double down,” says life coach Andrea Travillian. “For me, this looks like activities sprinkled throughout the day. So I will take a meditation break, a short walk, or a bath. Anytime I am feeling fear, I step away.”
“If you feel a chunk of your stress is coming from what you’re consuming on news and social media sites, take 24 to 48 hours—or even a few days—for a news and social media fast,” says life coach Stacy Caprio. “You can take this time to take extra care of yourself physically and mentally, and to recharge from the news barrage you were likely in before.”
“Say to yourself, ‘This is a moment in time, and what can I learn from this?'” says Lynn Berger, a licensed mental health counselor and career coach in New York City.
“Sometimes, tough days are filled with thoughts that don’t help out and only hinder us,” says Kountz. “Unhelpful thoughts can look something like, ‘I’m not strong enough to handle this.’ Take the thought and now add some space to it. This can look like replacing the original thought of ‘I’m not strong enough to handle this,’ with ‘I’m having the thought of not being strong enough to handle this.’ This adds some space between you and the belief and make it less personal.”
“Another great way to get through those extra tough days is to try and
improve your overall sleep schedule,” says physician Anna Cabeca, DO. “Do so by making a point to get at least seven hours of sleep a night.”
During periods of crisis—like the coronavirus pandemic—things can seem out of our control. But that doesn’t mean we’re powerless. “Here’s what I’ve noticed when it comes to what seems to still be in our control: how much news you watch, your perspective and attitude toward the present, how you’ll practice what the CDC suggests, the way you can cope with tough days, practicing things at home that are meaningful and the list can go on—if you allow it,” says Kountz. “Days can become easier once we’re able to place our focus on what we can control rather than what we cannot. “
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 50 Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.