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Feeling Overwhelmed? Ways to Relieve your Stress

Updated: May 21, 2020

By: Dr. Kristin Pham, PT, DPT

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has turned our lives into a world of uncertainty and leave us struggle to find the new normal. Every seconds of the day, we are being bombarded with new information from 24 hour news coverage, daily updates, and constant changes in regulations. It is easy to get wrapped up in the negativity and spiral down the rabbit hole of “what-ifs” as we try to plan for the unpredictable future. Anxiety kicks in as you are feeling overwhelmed about the unknown and stress comes along as you try to take control of the uncertainty. Here are a few tips to help manage your stress and take back that control by letting go and focus on the present.

1. Let’s try breathing with your belly or as we call it Diaphragmatic Breathing.

One of the biggest benefits of diaphragmatic breathing is stress reduction along with relaxation and pain control.

  • Start by lying on your back with knees bent to approximately 90 degrees, feet shoulder-width apart.

  • Breathe in through your nose, and then breathe out with your mouth.

  • Do 1 set of 10 to 20 slow breaths for a brief relaxation period (5 to 15 minutes).

  • If your chest rises more than your abdomen, you might be performing the exercise incorrectly. Try again, and be patient. It takes practice and a little coordination to master this exercise.

2. Focus on the present and appreciate the moment with Mindfulness Walking

A study indicates that a mindful walking program can help reduce psychological stress and improve quality of life. Research says mindfulness-based stress reduction is “the use of meditation and self-awareness to enhance one’s ability to cope with challenging circumstances and psychological tensions”.

o Pick a pleasant place to walk. Time the course you will be walking so there will be no need to look at a watch to know how long you have been walking. It can be however long you want it to be, based on your fitness level.

  • TAKE OFF YOUR WATCH and PHONE, so you can distance yourself from the world by immersing in the moment for a little bit.

  • Start walking at your comfortable pace. No need to rush!

  • Walk tall and relaxed with your head up, for comfort and ease of movement.

  • Focus on your feet and feel each step.

  • Notice your surroundings and focus on the detail of you what you see, feel, or smell.

  • At the end of your walk, stop and perform the calf stretch exercise. Instead of counting to 30, breathe in and out slowly 10 times as you stretch each leg.

  • o Take 10 to 20 diaphragmatic breaths. Think about a color, sound, shape, taste, or feeling you experienced during your walk as you continue breathing diaphragmatically.

Let’s put on your shoes, grab that water bottle and start walking. Plus, you also get to soak in that sunlight with the extra booster of Vitamin D.

3. Keep up with your normal sleep and wake routine.

Sleep is time for our body and mind to heal. Study suggests that people who hadn’t slept had a reduced ability to recognize expressions of anger and happiness. Have a regular and consistent bedtime and waking hours each day is important especially if you are working from home or planning to return to work.

  • Make your bed a sleep-only zone: No one wants to bring work home with us. Now, it’s even harder separating work from home. Let’s not bring your bed into this!

  • Use caution with naps: We all love a good nap! But if you are not careful, a “nap” can easily turn into a “sleep”. Avoid naps close to bedtime and try to keep it around 10 to 30 minutes in the afternoon

4. Last but not least, DON’T FORGET TO SMILE.

Social distancing was placed as a mean to keep us safe, but it does not serve as a mean to stop us from being nice with one another. Besides, smiling can definitely be done from a safe distance, so WHY NOT! When you smile, others will smile with you. Smiling stretches the facial muscles, improves your mood, and makes your brain happy. A happier brain brings a happier mind and body.

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