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6 Practical Steps to Manage Stress

April 7, 2020
Published in: COVID-19, Mental Health

Older woman looking at her cell phone and smiling

Manage your stress. It's great advice, but difficult at any time—and the COVID-19 outbreak makes the idea of managing stress an even taller order. Concern about your own health and the health of loved ones, coupled with an overwhelming amount of information about events around the world just add to the stress.

Two major stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, can weaken the immune system. So learning to manage stress can support and boost the immune system to help keep you as healthy as possible is perhaps more important now than ever.

Here are six practical steps you can take to manage the stress in your life:

  1. Exercise. Even with stay-at-home orders in place, outdoor exercise that follows the social distancing guidelines is encouraged. Go for a walk or run, or work outside in the yard! Even though gyms like Augusta Health Fitness are closed, they are posting workouts and exercise tips on their Facebook page. Check them out!

  2. Take a break from social media and the news about COVID-19. Get the information you need, and then a long break for the day. You need to stay informed, but a constant flow of stories—some real and some perhaps not—will add to your stress.

  3. Reconnect with activities you enjoy. With more time at home, there's time to enjoy activities that you may have been too busy for in the recent past. Reading, puzzles and games with your family, crafting, listening to or playing music and watching movies are all activities that can help reduce your stress. To connect with others, take advantage of social apps such as Zoom, Skype, or Facetime.

  4. Connect spiritually to still your mind. For some, this is prayer to connect to a power greater than themselves; for others, it is meditation; and for others—it is both. Try 10 to 20 minutes of sitting still once a day or as needed. Decide on a focal point, such as your breathing or the sounds of nature. When your mind starts to wander from the focal point, bring it back to the sound or to your breathing. Don't worry how much your mind wanders, the goal is to learn the ability to recognize when your mind is wandering and bring it back to your focal point. This helps you learn how to still your mind.

  5. Limit your alcohol. As tempting as alcohol can be during times of stress, it actually takes a psychological and physical toll on the body that can intensify the effects of stress. Short term, it can provide some relief, but it can also result in higher levels of anxiety as it wears off. Alcohol-induced anxiety can last hours to a day after drinking. As a sedative and depressant, alcohol can increase feelings of depression and discouragement. Alcohol can also suppress the immune system.

  6. Access resources online. There are phone apps and websites that are stress management resources that you can access when needed.

    1. Phone apps:

    2. Stress Management websites: