College  |  May 14, 2020  |  Jenn Ruiz

COVID-19: Unplugging During Times of Stress

What you’ll learn
  • How to unplug from stress
  • Tips for taking care of yourself
  • Creative ways to engage your mind and body

As the uncertainty from the coronavirus outbreak continues, it’s natural to feel a sense of anxiety, stress, and angst. Heck, speaking for myself as a mom of two young, school-aged girls, my emotions are all over the place! One minute I’m laughing over a GIF, and the next minute I’m sobbing over the daily dose of pandemic-related stories I read about online, watch on the local or national news, or hear on the radio. Trust me, it’s a constant rollercoaster of emotions. Add to that a dash of constantly worrying about finances, school closures, health, work, family, relationships, or any number of other triggers bound to manifest these unwelcomed feelings of fear, stress, or depression, and it’s a miracle we’re still functioning some days.

It seems every life situation is bringing its own set of unprecedented challenges. Right now, there are countless college students living at home again, separated from their friends, teachers, and peers; parents who are doing their best to homeschool their kids while working from home themselves; and single people struggling with social isolation, all while facing the daily uncertainty about how long our new “normal” will last.

Regardless of your personal situation, it’s important to find ways to navigate and cope with whatever you’re feeling. To help, here are some great tips that might allow you to unplug and give your heart, body and mind the TLC it needs during this time of stress.

Take a Break from Your Device

Unplug from the world around you! It’s no secret, excessive use of technology can intensify certain problems you may already be facing. Studies have proven that too much screen time from cellphones, computers, and other devices can add more harm than good. Do yourself a favor and try following some of these simple steps:

  • Limit screen time daily
  • Set up a certain time to make phone calls, read and reply to texts, and keep up with social media
  • Challenge yourself to unplug for an entire day, once a week
  • Establish some tech-free times or zones; good candidates include the bathroom (you know it’s true), the bedroom, mealtime, and during quality time with loved ones
  • Use the extra time to become more aware of your surroundings

Give Your Mind and Body Some TLC

Taking a ‘time out’ from all your social channels and digital devices are great ways to help center yourself. There are lots of different options to engage your mind and body that don’t involve scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram page. Here are some to consider:

  • Move and groove daily. With limited access to gyms and activities, finding creative ways to get the body moving is an awesome way to de-stress. Experts suggest that taking a walk, dancing around your house, or taking a hike can help reduce anxiety, improve your mood, and strengthen your immune system. Exercise is also a great way to release pent up tension.
  • Be still. At a time when so many thoughts are running through our heads, allowing ourselves to be still can be effective and rewarding. Find a quiet place in your home or outdoors to meditate or just be alone with your thoughts. Set aside time to try some relaxing breathing exercises that can also help release nervous energy.
  • Get creative and experiment! There’s nothing like unplugging from the stress of a quarantine to try something new. This is the perfect time to experiment with a recipe, grow vegetables or fresh herbs in a garden, or jot your thoughts down in a journal or blog. There are a variety of options to get your creative juices flowing. If all else fails, try reading a book, playing board games, doing a crossword, or finishing a puzzle. Adult coloring books and crocheting have also become new favorite past times, too!
  • Fuel your body and mind. In addition to our mental health, it’s important to make healthy food choices to ensure we are keeping our physical health in check. Opting for foods like fruits and vegetables and avoiding highly processed foods and refined sugar is key to good nutrition. Limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake can keep your stress level and anxiety down too.
  • Wind down and get a good night sleep! Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is imperative to give your body the proper rest it needs. To ensure you get the right amount of zzz’s, be sure to turn off the TV, cellphones, and devices at least an hour before bedtime to help wind down.
  • Step into the Sun! Rainy days are sure to put a damper on anyone’s mood, so take advantage of those nice, sunny days. Get outside for a daily dose of good ole’ vitamin D to give your mind and body the boost it needs. If you can’t get outdoors, sitting or working near a window with natural sunlight can also do the trick!
  • Practice random acts of kindness and gratitude. It’s easy to dwell on the negatives rather than on all the positives that are going on in our lives during times of stress or crisis. To help combat the negative feelings, focus on what you are thankful for and pass that gratitude onto others with random acts of kindness. Experts say when you are kind to others in need, this will help raise your awareness of your own good fortune. Random acts of kindness are infectious and can inspire others to pay it forward, causing a chain reaction of empathy and compassion. Plus, it’s a beautiful reminder that we are all in this together.

Lastly, one of the most important things to remember when trying to keep stress down at a time like this is to keep and follow a schedule. Most of us thrive off having structure in our lives, which is why we should do our best to stick to a daily routine. Whether it’s bathing, working, eating meals or finding time for things we do on a daily basis, be sure to stick to doing these things around the same time every day. This will help you feel a sense of normalcy during a time of such uncertainty.

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