How are your stress levels right now?
I must admit, I’m no Buddhist monk, and got sucked into the fear going around. I was born with a unique heart and recently recovered from a neuroimmune condition which is exacerbated by stress. I realized going online into a Coronavirus clickhole and freaking out isn’t going to save me. In fact, stress lowers our immunity.
We all know what we must do: Stay home, wash our hands, don’t touch our face, take only what we need at the store, do what’s in our power to help get protective gear (PPE) to hospitals, and (may I add) manage our stress levels. I just wrote about how I’m personally staying healthy and calm right now.
Here are 7 additional ways I’m creating calm amidst the chaos:
1. Taking an Epsom salt bath
To unwind at the end of the day, I’ll often take a nice Epsom salt bath. Epsom salt is simply magnesium sulfate. Magnesium gets absorbed into our skin as we soak.
Magnesium been shown to help reduce stress, relax muscles, improve our heart health, and increase the happiness chemical serotonin. Dermatologists recommend avoiding long hot baths which can dry out the skin and recommend moisturizing right after to lock in moisture.
Scientific research shows that taking a warm bath 90 minutes before bed can help improve sleep. I soak with basic, pure Epsom salt without fillers.
2. Having my husband hide my devices at night
I am not perfect. My self-discipline around Internet usage began to slip with the stress of the pandemic. Just one day of obsessively checking social media led to worse sleep and my brain being hungry for more the next.
After a few days of this, I realized greater intervention was needed. “Take them away!” I told my husband, referring to my laptop and iPhone. He did (video).
I am also:
- Unfollowing or muting friends who have turned into disease doomsday reporters
- Avoiding screens first 90 minutes and last 2 hours of day
- Removing all stress-inducing apps from my phone.
- Avoiding news (thankfully, we never installed cable in our current apartment) and staying off Twitter.
- Getting updates, as needed, from calm loved ones.
A great article appeared in my inbox, How to Stop Coronavirus “Doomsurfing”:
“We need to practice self-care and balance our consumption of grim news with gentler kinds of stimulation for our own health and the sanity of those around us.” – Kevin Roose
3. Feeling my feelings, then releasing them
Right now I’m doing my best to think positively, and I remind myself “the sun is always shining behind the clouds.”
However, when a train of worrisome thoughts is running full steam ahead in my mind, it’s not so easy for my brain to stop the train and switch tracks to a happy thought. This happened on Wednesday at 5 am when sirens woke me up in a panic, triggering fear and a negative thought spiral.
I’ve discovered when my limbic system’s fight-or-flight response is dialed up, it’s helpful for me to go right into my body. I first observe where my body is holding tension. I relax those parts (i.e. my jaw, my shoulders). I then identify where the feeling is coming from (is the pit of my stomach, my diaphragm, my heart, my voice box?).
I go to that part and sit with the feeling. I acknowledge it’s presence. I breathe deeply first through my stomach, taking my breath into that part of my body. I hug that part of my body.
I tell the feeling [On the in breath]: I see you. [Going deeper] I feel you. [On the out breath] I release you.
I do this for several minutes until a calming parasympathetic response washes over my body rendering my breathing slower and deeper.
4. Keep a morning gratitude journal
I’ve mentioned this earlier on the blog, but getting the day started on the “right page” is so important for me. Every morning I write who and what I’m grateful for in my journal. It’s part of my morning routine before I go on the Internet.
I also include achievable goals and self-care to-do’s. One of my good friends does this each morning together with her fiancé, which I thought was nice.
5. Eating lots of steamed and roasted veggies
A healthy diet can help our bodies manage stress.
Magnesium, vitamin C, and zinc are nutrients that help our bodies recover from stress. Sugar, on the other hand, triggers our body to produce more of the immune-suppressing stress hormone cortisol.
I am eating a lot of vegetables right now (not just because the grocery stores are out of packaged food). I am steaming, sauteéing, and roasting my veggies. It’s easier on the body to break down and takes any fears about contamination off the table.
6. Getting lost in guided meditations
Simple Habit, Peace, 10% Happier, Calm, Headspace, and Gaia are great guided meditation apps, though run between $10 and $20 per month. If budget is a concern, the basic version of Insight Timer is free. My favorite free meditation from Insight Timer is “Manifest Your Deepest Desires” by Melissa Ambrosini. Her voice is beautiful.
Lizzo, a musician who preaches a message of self-love, has started to share daily meditations to promote healing during the global crisis. Amanda Gilbert, a meditation guru with a calming voice is doing a lovely daily live meditation series on Instagram at 12:30 pm Pacific (7:30 pm UK time).
7. Making my dream vacation come to life in a “bedtime story”
Adults need bedtime stories, too, right now.
Last night my husband and I relived our recent dream honeymoon in Grand Cayman.
The night before we took a road trip down the coast to Carmel, a place we’ve never been. Earlier this week, we travelled to the Greek Islands. We make fun adventures come to life before bed.
We describe to each other the color of the sea, the night sky, what we’re eating, what we’re doing, the friends there with us, what we’re laughing about, the taste of the food, the way our bodies feel, and how happy and relaxed we are. Instead of staring at a screen (with scary facts), we “go to paradise,” and it helps us fall asleep peacefully.
I envision calming and happy adventures on my own, too, as part of a self-directed neuroplasticity program for healing limbic system impairment. Creating calm and joy has been a key part of my health recovery and continuing wellbeing.
We can be a force of calm or perpetuate the paranoia. Before we post online, we can ask ourselves “Can sharing this information help someone or could it cause someone to panic?”
I’m grateful to those who are sharing actionable information (i.e. where to donate, how to get protective gear to hospitals) as well as those sharing joyful moments from home (puzzles with kids, pets, playing music).
Please share what you’re doing to stay calm and create joy right now during these turbulent times.
We’re out of this together.
How our community members are creating calm right now:
Casey: I’ve been following along to Qigong YouTube videos at home and spreading positivity (not germs).
Mary: Yoga, walking in nature, singing, reading books daily with the family
Diana: Catching up on my sleep.
Phyllis: I’ve been communicating with family and friends by phone to be sure they are well and stay well.