Anytime during this Covid-19 pandemic seems like the perfect time to discuss stress. On a scale of 1-10 (with 1=lowest and 10=highest) how would you rate your level of stress?
Just so we are clear, “Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts.”1
I cannot imagine all the possible variables that you and your family may be experiencing now but I hope that by providing some simple strategies you can reduce that stress and improve your health.
5 Keys to Reducing Your Stress Level
- Create routines
- Get organized
- Connect with loved ones
- Reduce your work load
- Take a break
- Create routines – Have you heard of decision fatigue? It’s real and neuroscience tells us that each day we start off with a set amount of decision-making power. The more we use it – the less we have as the day goes on. Have you struggled to decide what to have for dinner? It’s possible your decision-making power is at its lowest, making even the simplest decisions challenging at the end of the day.
By creating routines and limiting choices you can “save” some of that decision-making power for the more important things. A routine is something that can be done on automatic pilot and doesn’t use much decision-making power at all. Having a morning, afternoon (returning home) and evening routine that works for you and reduces the number of decisions necessary is a great way to start. Having routines around sleeping, showering and eating are great for kids too as they often don’t check in with their bodies to know what they need.
Is it really worth it to use your decision-making power on your breakfast choice, or what you will wear today or when you will exercise? It makes more sense to save it for important decisions at work, helping your child with their homework or deciding where to vacation. Having routines that work, saves the decision-making power for the important things.
- Get organized – Along with creating routines that work for you, getting organized can also reduce your stress level. Estimates range from 2.5 days per year to 5,000 hours a year as the amount of time Americans waste looking for misplaced items. What would it be like if you never had to search for your keys or the TV remote again? Tired of paying late fees because you missed the payment reminder in among those 1000+ other emails?
Have a place for everything and put everything in its place, is what my mother used to say. That works for many things like hooks for keys, baskets for mail, and snacks in the drawer. The other thing to watch for is if you have too much of something. De-cluttering and getting rid of excess makes it easier to find what you are looking for. Having less, means it takes less time to “take care of” things, less time to find what you need and saves money because you didn’t have to go out and buy a new one.
Find a way to keep track of important dates and set the reminders on your phone when necessary. Don’t wait for the last minute. As we have seen with shipping delays, Prime has spoiled us, we no longer want to wait for deliveries. Think ahead.
- Connect with loved ones – You don’t need research to show that the pandemic and its social distancing has affected our stress levels when it comes to missing our family and friends. The fear/stress of not knowing who might have Covid-19 is keeping many people housebound for safety. We are keeping away from family for fear we could bring it unknowingly to them.
Thanks to advances in technology, it is easy to connect with friends and family via video. It might not feel the same as an in-person hug but sometimes just seeing your loved one’s face and hearing their voice is enough to reduce your stress and theirs. Set reminders to connect regularly for your health and the health of your loved ones.
- Reduce your work load – If you’re working from home you may be putting extra pressure on yourself to get “more” work done to keep your boss happy. However, if you have kids or pets or both, it is impossible! Be realistic and set 1-3 priorities for the day. Work in short blocks of time and batch your activities putting similar things together. Stay off social media and email unless your job is dependent on it.
Spend time with your kids throughout the day. This situation is stressful for them as well. They need guidance to get their school work done (or to have some learning time) and in how to use their time for work and play. Kids are used to having others provide the activities that keep them busy (think after school care, camps, etc.) so take time to encourage their creativity and imagination.
Routines and organization are important for work too. If something isn’t working, take the time to figure out why and then fix it. No one knows how long this situation will go on, so it’s important that it “work” for you now. The same thing applies to all the home stuff too. Create a schedule that works for you and the family and keeps things running smoothly. Get everyone involved. Even a three-year-old can match socks. Working and playing together as a team benefits everyone.
- Take a break – Everyone needs some “downtime.” Make sure to take time for yourself and provide breaks throughout the day in order to recharge. By creating “margins” around your activities and allowing for time in between tasks you are also allowing your brain to process what you have just done. The brain uses the most energy of any organ in the body and a stressed brain cannot think. Even as little as 5-10 minutes can recharge your brain. Snacks and movement can also help your brain.
Take time for fun too. Fun helps reduce stress and builds relationships. It raises the dopamine level in the brain which makes us feel good and think better. Your kids will be happier too and that can also reduce the stress in your life.
The pandemic has provided each family the gift of togetherness I hope you take advantage of it and don’t let the added stresses of what is happening in the world effect your health, your family or your home life.