By Michelle Reese

During this time of limited social interactions, health fears, cancelled plans, and uncertainty about when things will return to normal, it’s natural that many people are feeling more stressed and anxious than usual. Here are some tips to help you de-stress during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak … and beyond.

Stay In Touch (from Afar)

Whether you live alone, or you’re “trapped” in a house full of people, you might start feeling lonely during this time. Most of us are used to seeing friends, family and coworkers on a regular basis. And even if they can drive us nuts sometimes, they also help us get out of our own head!

To avoid going stir crazy, make a point to stay connected with people. Maybe it’s starting a group text with other moms to share ideas/pics of what you’re doing with the kids that day. Or set up a FaceTime date with a relative you haven’t seen in a while (or ones you’re used to seeing daily.) Try having a remote book club with some friends where you all pick a book to read during this time and then set up an online chat to talk about it. Play online games together. Write emails. Instead of just firing a quick text, actually sit down and right a thoughtful letter to someone you miss. You know, like a virtual pen pal. You could even give each other a fun or thought provoking question to answer each day. (This could even make for a fun project to do with grandparents as a keepsake.)

Get Outside

There’s something about being in the fresh air that naturally makes people more at ease. Bring your laptop outside for a change of scenery while you work from home. Do some yard work. Exercise. Read a book. Or just go for a walk.

While many parks and walking trails are closed, there are a few that remain open.

Stay Active

“Exercise give you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” Name that movie! Okay, Elle Woods wasn’t talking about a widespread virus in Legally Blonde, but there’s truth to exercise being a natural mood booster. Whether you’re a fitness fanatic that’s missing your regular gym time, or you haven’t routinely exercised since it was a forced class, now is a great time to incorporate movement into your day. Start your day with stretches, watch a youtube video with some ab workouts, go for a walk. There are countless ways you can get active.

If you’d like some guidance from the pros, here’s a list of some local businesses that are offering remote workout tools:

AFC Fitness(a 2020 Happening List Finalist) is offering FREE live workouts on their Facebook page. (You can go back and do them at any time.)

Dan Campos Fitness (a 2020 Happening List Winner) is offering online classes for Members.

Flaunt Fitness (a 2020 Happening List Finalist) is offering virtual class options.

Studio 34 Yoga (a 2020 Happening List Winner) is offering classes that you can take via Zoom. They are asking that you send a donation using Venmo to help out their teachers.

Rebel Yoga Studio (a 2020 Happening List Finalist) is offering classes via Zoom. Classes are offered at a $10 drop-in rate.

Orangetheory Fitness (a 2020 Happening List Finalist) is offering FREE live workouts on their Facebook page.

Merge Dance Studio (a 2020 Happening List Finalist) is offering FREE live workouts on their Facebook page.

Unite Fitness (a 2020 Happening List Winner) is offering live and on-demand workouts twice a day. Visit their Facebook page for more information and a code to take your first class for free.

Take Media Breaks

It’s natural to want to be informed, especially when things seem to be changing by the hour these days. But being constantly bombarded with COVID-19 talk quickly becomes overwhelming and contributes to feelings of distress.  Remember to change the channel if the news is becoming too much. (Binging Netflix is totally acceptable when social distancing.)

This can be especially true if you spend a lot of time on social media, where comments can become heated, shared posts aren’t always from credible sources, and things are often sensationalized. Try to rely on trusted new sources, not that girl you sat next to in 10th grade English that shares every meme she sees. Make use of the “Snooze for 30 Days” function with certain people on Facebook. And if you have to delete apps from your phone to break the addiction – do it.

Read a Book

If you’re a regular reader, you’re already familiar with the way a good book can take you away from real life worries. Get lost in a fantasy world, pick something inspiring or funny to lift your mood, or learn about a topic that you’ve always wanted to know more about.

By the way, did you know that your Philadelphia library card gives you access to eBooks, eAudiobooks, and eMagazines? Find out more here.

Do Something to Help Someone

Often, a feeling of helplessness can let that sense of anxiety and depression take over. But if you can take small actions to make a difference during this time of uncertainty, it’s bound to improve your mood.

Check out our Ways to Help in the Community post for some ideas.

Set a Routine

If you’re used to a set schedule of work and other activities, a lack of routine can be unsettling, especially when so many other things are uncertain right now. While there have been a lot of people posting schedules for kids to follow during this time at home, adults might benefit from a schedule, too! Make a loose schedule for yourself to follow each day (you might even incorporate some of the ideas on this list) to give yourself a sense of control. (But remember to be gentle with yourself, too!)

Create Something

Knit. Bake. Paint. Write. Take photos. Color. There’s a reason adult coloring books exist. They can be great for stress relief! There’s something about focusing on making something, even if it’s just a pretty picture that’s soothing and takes your mind off other things.

Focus on Distraction

Yeah, that sounds like an oxymoron. But sometimes we need to make it our goal to just not think about the hard stuff. Play silly games with your kids. Dance in your kitchen. Listen to music. Watch a favorite movie. Take a bath. Learn how to give yourself the perfect manicure. Play with a pet. Enjoy the extra time with your partner. Find new inspiring people to follow on social media. Tackle your spring cleaning or a house project you’ve been avoiding.

Just Breathe

It’s so simple, but sometimes we need that reminder to just focus on the act of breathing to reset the nervous system and clear our head.

If you need some help clearing your mind, here’s a list of free apps that are designed to improve mental health:

Stop, Breathe & Think

And, of course, if you’re finding that your feelings of anxiety are becoming too much to handle on your own, reach out for help.

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