In the midst of trying times, anxiety and stress levels can become overwhelming. Therefore, it is important that stress and anxiety be managed in healthy ways. A virtual workshop on “Top 10 Tips for Better Stress Management in a Pandemic” was held by Rachel Keener, PsyD and CAPS Therapist, on April 16, and the workshop had a total of 84 viewers.
Of the 84 viewers who participated, one viewer, Andrea Aguilar, commented that before this workshop, she managed her stress in a variety of ways. One of these ways was participating in a yoga class, and she stuck with that tactic for a while.
Another viewer, Raeven Jones, a Psychology Honors Student and a Psychology Peer Advisor, said that before this workshop, she managed her stress by using breathing techniques, keeping a daily routine, and sleeping at a reasonable hour (10 p.m.). “I also found it helpful to clean because a neat space helps clear the mind. I also looked at videos/tutorials based on my hobbies so I could learn more about them. This helped keep my mind off of stressful things,” said Jones.
In an attempt to address the issue of stress and hopefully to offer a remedy to it, Dr. Keener presented 10 tips for better stress management. She presented the tips starting from ten and going down to the most important one.
Tip number ten Dr. Keener gave was to keep a schedule. “Establish a routine—daily and weekly, make daily to do lists, set up a dedicated workspace for school/work, pack up your workspace at the end of the day, and get rid of clutter,” suggested Dr. Keener.
Tip number nine was to get the best sleep you can. Dr. Keener stated that we should “note our caffeine intake, do not take naps, be sufficiently hydrated, and that the best time to go to sleep was between 8 p.m. and midnight.” In order to help increase our chances of getting a restful night’s sleep, Dr. Keener suggested to, “get your room as dark as possible, keep your phone away from your sleeping area, do an intense workout in the afternoon or evening, get sunlight in your eyes in the early morning, keep your room temperature between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit, schedule a ‘worry time’ each day (15-30 minutes) not too close to bedtime, and write down every worry that arises in your heart.”
Aguilar commented that one of the tips that stood out to her was needing more sleep.
“Honestly, my sleeping schedule has been AWFUL these past few weeks, especially since I’m not working right now. So what I really like to do to fix that is to keep my phone away and sleep at 12 a.m. to start off because baby steps seem easier to fix this situation,” Aguilar said.
Tip number eight was to reach for healthy food choices. Dr. Keener suggests that we focus on boosting our immune system and pointed out that sugar weakens our immune system.
Jones stated that this tip was her favorite.
“I did not know that sugar weakens the immune system. I believe that during this time, it is important that we keep our immune systems well because that will alleviate some of the anxiety that we may have about our bodies being able to fight off COVID-19 effectively, and it is also generally a good habit to keep,” Jones said.
Tip number seven Dr. Keener provided was deep breathing and meditation.
“When we’re worried or stressed, we stop deep breathing. A lot of research has proven that meditation improves your immune system,” Dr. Keener claimed.
An easy exercise that Dr. Keener says we can do to lower our anxiety levels is to breathe in for five seconds, hold it for five seconds, and then breathe out for five seconds. This tip stood out to Jones with good reason because stress levels are probably higher than usual due to the pandemic, and this simple exercise can help lower anxiety levels.
Tip number six was to check in with your emotions and validate your experience. Dr. Keener encourages that we “take time throughout the day to check in with our emotions.” A cool jingle she shared about this in the workshop was “name it to tame it.”
Tip number five was to get your creative juices flowing. Dr. Keener shared a quote from Scott Sonenshein, an Opinion Contributor who expressed his own views in The Hill:
“Resourcefulness research also shows that we use only a fraction of the utility of our current resources. We can unlock the full potential of what we already have during these trying times…Times of struggle bring out clever solutions and sometimes our greatest work. Shakespeare wrote Macbeth and King Lear while in quarantine during a plague. Sir Isaac Newton did his breakthrough work during the Great Plague of London.”
Aguilar stated that she really liked this tip and considered it one of her favorites. “I love to draw, so being able to stay home and have more time to work on this really helps and is very therapeutic for me,” said Aguilar.
Tip number four Dr. Keener gave was to exercise. Dr. Keener explained that, “exercising boosts your immune system, rids the body of excess cortisol (stress hormone), slows down the aging process, releases endorphins, lowers anxiety and depression, helps you sleep better, and helps you feel better about your body.”
Aguilar commented that “exercising is something that I have always done. From walking to running to squatting. I have kept it as part of my routine for a while and it helps relieve my muscle tension.”
Tip number three was how to deal with difficult people. Dr. Keener encourages us to keep our cool. “If we lose our cool, then we might say something we’ll later regret,” says Dr. Keener.
She encouraged participants to “Fly like an eagle”/pick your battles.” Sometimes, some situations are not worth getting upset over so we need to pick our battles so to speak and make sure we are not unnecessarily looking for or causing trouble.
She then suggested that we shift from being reactive to being proactive and separate the person from the issue. This way, we are able to think clearer about what is bothering us and not lash out at the people we love.
Tip number two was to stay connected to life-giving people. She reminds us that “we are wired for connection with others. We are limited somewhat because of physical distancing but she points out that it is “physical distancing…not social isolation.” There are many things we can do to remain socially close to others without being physically present with each other and Dr. Keener gave some examples: “we can celebrate milestones with family and friends through video chat, play board games virtually with Board Game Arena, host a virtual challenge and have everyone share their photos or videos of the experience, and watch a Netflix movie together – using Google Chrome, and the Netflix Party extension through the Google Chrome store within the same Browser, and go old school—write a letter.”
Tip number one that Dr. Keener gave to help manage stress in a pandemic was to hold onto hope. She encouraged us and reminded us that this shall pass. “We can do this by utilizing our spiritual resources, making a bucket list—dreaming for our future, looking for ways to help others in this season, keeping a gratitude journal, and creating a playlist of hopeful songs,” suggested Dr. Keener.
Both Aguilar and Jones thought this workshop was extremely helpful. Jones stated that she wished this workshop was hosted sooner.
“Many of the tips that were given were things I have already started to incorporate into my life from researching ways to manage anxiety and stress, but some of the things were a surprise, and I am excited to try them out! I would highly recommend workshops like this to my friends because it is applicable to many situations,” Jones expressed.
Aguilar said that she will be sharing the top 10 tips on her personal blog page that she started.
She stated, “That way, many people out there on the explore page can just click on the helpful tips that I learned from this workshop.”