At this time of the coronavirus pandemic, we are all suffering from some level of stress. Some seem to manage it better than others, but we all have it.
Stress is difficult to define and understand the impact it has on your body. But this example may help to bring home the impact of stress.
A woman walked around a room with a raised glass of water while teaching on stress management. “How heavy is this glass of water?” she asked.
Answers ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She responded, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance.”
“In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “That’s the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to handle it.”
How do we recognize the stress of the Coronavirus pandemic on Elders and their families?
Everywhere you turn, there is grim news about the Coronavirus. Watching TV, reading the news or searching the internet is like filling the glass of stress over and over again. You may be able to put the “glass” down for a little time, but when the news hits you, you’re feeling the same stress from the Coronavirus pandemic all over again.
All of us need to practice stress release in every way we can.
If we think of the glass of water object lesson, we can plan ways to put the glass down.
- Get fresh air or exercise: Since gyms and group classes are taboo for the time being, you can be creative about doing things on your own. Going for a walk on your own or with your partner is healthy and relieves tension.
- Try yoga (chair yoga works too): There are many online programs to follow.
- Practice Tai Chi: another movement exercise that is very calming.
- Meditate: If that seems foreign to you, you can practice it as quiet contemplation or prayer. The key is to sit quietly with eyes closed and focus on gratitude. Silence is very calming. There are also guided meditation videos on YouTube.
- Read a great book: There is nothing as stress-reducing as getting lost in a good book. Books can carry you away to a place of excitement, joy, and mystery.
- Get some extra rest: Take time to slow down and indulge in a nap.
- Watch a movie: A comedy movie or great “Who done it?” movie can help take your mind off things.
- Write letters to friends and family
- Call a friend: catch up with someone you haven’t talked to in a long time. Make it a point not to talk about the pandemic, but just catch up. You can also use FaceTime, House Party, Zoom or another video conferencing program.
- Plan some random acts of kindness: Smile and say hello to everyone you see at 6 feet away or find ways to donate to charities and non-profits in need.
- Paint or draw: It just takes a few supplies and a blank piece of paper.
- Put together a jigsaw puzzle
- Do some crossword puzzles or Suduko
- Get your family photo or trip albums out and look at pictures
- Take deep breaths: Try some deep breathing exercises. Even doing that for 5 minutes will lower stress and heart rate.
- Drink some relaxing tea
- Get out and garden: Mess with your house plants or get some new ones. Maybe it is time for a little gardening outside. The color green is known to be relaxing, as is spending time in nature.
- Listen to relaxing music
The important thing is to visualize putting down the glass of water.
You have to be intentional about letting go of the stressors. It is impossible to say, “I’m not going to think about the devastation of this pandemic.” The whole time you are trying to tell yourself not to think about it, you ARE thinking about it.
The goal is to replace those thoughts by doing something else. It is important to be busy with other things and, in particular, other calming activities.