12 Tips to Help Reduce Stress, Anxiety and Depression from a Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Amidst the current state of our nation, it is not uncommon to feel a heightened sense of anxiety or depression. In fact, even people who generally don’t suffer from these emotions are dealing with unsettling feelings. Social media bombards us with messages to stay positive, but without the appropriate tools the messages may seem overwhelming. How do I stay positive or optimistic when there is so much unknown ? The following tips can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, along with allowing you to shift your perspective and appreciate the slowdown.
1. Start a Routine: Humans strive on routine. We need it. By setting a schedule of daily activities we allow ourselves some control in predicting what is coming next. This lowers stress levels significantly. The routine should act as a loose guideline to how your day will be set. Remember to include a down time for self preservation in it as well.
2. Get up and get dressed: While it is easy to fall into the luxury of sleeping in and staying in pjs, we should aim to leave that for the weekends ( or at least the minority of the week). Getting up in time for that pre day cup of coffee or workout gives us a positive mindset for the day. Staying in pjs is great, but taking a shower and getting in clothes provides a sense of “normal” in a not so normal time.
3. Set Goals: The slowdown is a perfect opportunity to tackle things that we may usually say we are too busy to do. Whether it’s completing your taxes, organizing a closet, making a phone call to an old friend or simply catching up on things at work, setting the goal and accomplishing it, can provide a sense of accomplishment and greatly improve your mood. Remember to set achievable goals and write them down so you can get the satisfaction of crossing them off your list! Do this every week and add as you complete so you are always working towards something .
4. Stay moving: While your typical methods of staying active may be restricted, it’s important to find ways to continue taking care of your body. It is known that cortisol improves mood and helps clear your head so get creative and find ways to keep exercise in your daily routine. If it was never in your routine, this is the perfect time to start. If the thought of “exercise” feels overwhelming, simply going for a walk is a great way to start.
5. Practice gratitude and kindness: Each day set a goal to do something positive or kind for someone else. Altruism is a natural anti-anxiety. It can be as simple as giving a compliment or checking on an elderly neighbor.
6. Get outside: The fresh air and vitamin d will instantly help the reset buttons on days when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
7. Eating healthy: Keeping with healthy nutrients will improve your immune system and keep your mind in the right place. Be sure to practice moderation. If you are craving something that feels comforting, that is ok. It is not all or nothing, but rather balance.
8. Find what coping skills work for you: This is trial and error and when you’re feeling really down its hard to find the right thing, but exploring different options is important during this time. Journaling, reading, taking a bath or walk, hanging with a pet, listening to music or podcasts, calling a friend and looking at photos are some common ones worth trying.
9. Make a fear list: This may seem a bit odd, but writing your fears down on paper helps you sort them out. Once they are all written, you can read through and identify them as rational or irrational. You will be surprised once you put them on paper, how many you can identify as irrational. Once you do, the power behind them that is driving your negative thoughts is gone! I.E. The world is ending, I will never get out of my house again etc
10. Reach out to friends: In the age of technology we are currently in, social distancing can be tweaked by things like facetime and zoom. Set up times with people who you would normally see where you can see one another and chat about your days. This helps reduce the feeling of isolation. It also gives you something to look forward to. If you live alone, schedule these during meal times to help with socialization.
11. Make a Pro/Con list about the news : There is no right answer about how much media and news is warranted because it is so variable. We live in a time where information is overly accessible. For some, this helps feel in control. For others, it makes us feel overwhelmed. Make yourself a pro /con list and once you decide which side you are on, make a decision that suits your emotional needs.
12. Talk to someone if you need: The wonderful thing about mental health during this pandemic and social distancing is that many providers are giving access to mental health and therapy via telemedicine. If you feel like you just cannot improve or shift your thoughts right now, that’s ok too. Reach out and get the help you need from the comfort of your own home.
Remember, these are all suggestions to help improve your daily moods and mental health. There will be good days and bad days and that is OK. What we are living through is unique. Give yourself the space to feel however you feel! We will get through this together.
If you find yourself in need of a referral, Psychology Today is a wonderful resource. I am opening up increased hours and availability to help during this crisis time and I know many colleagues are as well. Feel free to reach out at 631 806 7365/ Francesca.firstname.lastname@example.org
And most importantly, Be kind to yourself!
Francesca Emma, LMHC