Ways to Reduce Stress in Winter
(and during a pandemic!)
By: Robin Bonswor
What can be done when we feel overwhelmed? Ever thought to yourself, “I don’t have confidence anymore in my ability to make decisions?”
Well, guess what! None of us do! Right now, during COVID, there are so many unknowns. It is completely normal to feel that way.
Stress increases when our lives feel out of control. Gaining control of as many areas as we can will help us to reduce stress.
Be mindful that all of these tips and strategies may not apply to you. We are all different. We are individuals! Try picking a few things that sound good to you and try them out!
Physical Ways to Reduce Stress This Winter
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise decreases overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.
Even just 5 minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects!
*Pro Tip: Find an exercise that you enjoy!
If you don’t enjoy doing a particular exercise, chances are…you won’t actually do it…leading to even more stress, creating a snowball effect.
Be in tune with your body
Good nutrition helps you physically feel better. Eat for your physical health and for your mental clarity! Many of us have felt the effects of sugar overload, or “grain brain” – if you don’t process grains very well. Be in tune with your body and eat for your physical health and mental health.
Drink lots of water
Drink water….and lots of it! Typically, the rule of thumb is that you should aim to drink between half an ounce to one ounce of water for each pound you weigh. That’s a minimum of 50% of your body weight in ounces per day
So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you want to drink between 75 to 150 ounces of water a day.
*Pro Tip: Find a way to ENJOY your water. Do you like bubbly water vs. distilled water? Maybe a little lemon in your water?
Find the balance
Balance your veggies, proteins, healthy carbs, healthy fats, and treats. If you know me personally, you know I am all about treats! I do allow myself to eat treats, but practice moderation.
Take an inventory of how you are eating. You may want to experiment with vitamins and supplements. The foods you eat may not necessarily have the nutrient density that they once had, due to things like over farming and genetic modification.
Mental and Emotional Ways to Reduce Stress
Laughter really is the best medicine. Google “stress memes” ….it’s hysterical! It will give you a good laugh! Maybe even leave that tab open in your browser so you can refer back to it throughout the day.
SleepThere is a connection to sleep and your mental health. Sleep has demonstrated links to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other conditions. According to an article in sleepfoundation.org the relationship is a two way street. Mental health disorders can make it hard to sleep and poor sleep can cause and worsen mental health.Looking for ways to improve sleep habits? Start with developing a sleep pattern by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Develop a routine before bed to help you prepare for sleep by turning off electronics, doing things that help you relax such as stretching, dimming lights and reading. In addition, be sure to have a good mattress and pillow and maintain a comfortable room temperature for sleep.
Meditation and Yoga
I realize meditation and yoga are not for everyone. Find your balance. Try something new if what you have been trying isn’t working.
Positive Thoughts and AffirmationPositive thoughts and affirmations are a great way to start any day. Maybe think about signing for a daily positive affirmation to be delivered straight to your inbox each morning.
MassageMassage is not only good for your mental and emotional health, but also helpful if you have sore muscles.
Employee Assistance Program
Find out if your company has an employee assistance program. Such programs help with work-life balance and the mental well-being aspects of life.
Such programs are a great resource if your company (or maybe even your spouse’s company…MSN’s program is not only for company employees, but also for their dependents! ). Inquire with your HR department or insurance company to find out the details.
All of these tips will not only improve your physical well-being, but your mental well-being as well. These tips will lessen stress and anxiety, and increase confidence and self-esteem.
Personally, I am a better mom, daughter, friend, neighbor, wife when I feel better physically, when I feel better about myself.
Tips and Tricks for When You Feel Out of Control
Do you ever feel out of control? Maybe you feel like you just can’t keep up with all that is going on in your life. You look around and feel like everyone else has their stuff together…but not you.
Even the most “perfect” person is going to feel that their life is out of control at times. I promise you, it. is. normal.
Here are a few actionable Tips and Trick to help regain that sense of control in your life.
Develop a Routine
One way to feel more in control is to have a routine! Wake up everyday and get ready for your day. Make your bed, take a shower, get dressed as if you were going to an office or to a doctor’s appointment, you will feel more in control of your life and it will help you feel better.
Create a To-Do List
Create a to-do list and prioritize the tasks you have in your life. It can be digital, a written planner, or maybe even both. Whatever works for your personal preference. Have a spot you can go to so you can organize the things in your life.
Remember, you can set reminders on your phone or if you are like my family, and have Alexas, you can have Alexa remind you to do that at specific times.
Seek Out Positivity
Seek out positivity and things that make you feel good. Of course these things are unique to each individual. Maybe try such things calling a friend, listening to music while working or cooking, listening to podcasts, or read a positivity quote of the day.
Find the Silver Lining
Finding the silver lining is not something that comes easily to most people, and especially right now during a pandemic. But finding the silver lining in a situation helps you feel more in control. You get to control the way you see things!
Get up from your desk. If you are working from home, leave the space you use for work. Get a cup of coffee. Walk a lap around your house, stretch, talk a walk with your dog or your kids…or both! Get outside if weather permits, studies prove that getting sunlight improves your mood and lessens anxiety.
Minimize the Stressors you Can Control
Are you overspending? Over consuming – food or drinks? Are you over extending yourself? Just remember, you don’t always have to say YES.
Do you tend to over watch the media? News and social media are hard to watch these days. Politics and a pandemic are stressful topics. When looking at social media it is hard not to constantly compare yourself to others. You can feel the need to “keep up.” Remember, everyone is just showing their “highlights” on social media.
Maybe it is not a thing that is the stressor. Maybe it is a person. It is ok to avoid people who cause you stress. This may not always be possible if it is a family member or co-worker, but you should limit toxic interactions with those who cause you stress.
If COVID is causing you stress, keep in mind that your body being in a stressed state compromises your immune system. Try not to do things that cause you more stress. Work to reduce stress.
Get a Dog!
Sorry! I just had to throw this one in here. Who doesn’t want a dog!? They give you someone to walk with, and they give you unconditional love. Win- win!
Ok. So, I’ve heard most of these tips before. They sound great….but HOW do I get myself to do them? But I’m busy. My Family is busy. Everyone is at home because of the pandemic…How can I make this happen?
There is No One Right Way
Obviously, there isn’t one right way for everyone. We are all individuals. And please, don’t try and do ALL of the suggested tips all at once. Pick one or two things that you think you can manage. Once you’ve mastered it, then add something else.
Don’t force it!
Pick something that you WANT to do. If you pick something just because someone else is doing it your stress will just increase.
A great example right now is the Peloton bike. During the pandemic, Peloton at home bikes are all the rage. People are finding themselves thinking… ‘I don’t especially like to cycle…but everyone else is doing it…and they seem to love it.’ Then you drop some major cash on this fitness equipment and come to find you…..you really, truly don’t like cycling. Now your stress increases because you feel guilty for not using what you bought, leading to an increase in stress. Exactly what you were trying to prevent.
Dance, run, lift weights. Find something that you are not forcing.
Along the same line, don’t force yourself to eat foods that you hate. Don’t like kale? Then don’t eat kale. Find another green, leafy vegetable! There is no reason to make yourself miserable to consume healthy food. Just find something healthy that you DO enjoy eating.
Consider Your Family
If the people around you see you stressed, it affects their stress level too. Doing what’s best for the ones you love is a powerful motivator.
Set goals and TELL people about your goals. Make your goals trackable. If you decide to exercise for example, set your goal for a specific time for, a specific number of days per week.
Find a Buddy
Find an accountability partner. A spouse, a friend, a colleague, maybe a child. Challenge others to join you. Be a leader! While you may not be able to physically meet with others right now, you can always Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime a yoga session with a friend. Challenging others is a great way to hold yourself accountable.
In the MSN Wellness Program, we have an app where we do monthly challenges. Sometimes these challenges are individual, sometimes it is by office, or by region, but we make it fun and have prizes.
Find the Silver Lining
I know I already mentioned this earlier, but it is so important. This may take a little bit of brain training because so often we just simply complain. But if you can try to find something less negative it will help you change your focus.
If you always say your day is going to miserable, guess what?! It WILL be!
Do Something you Enjoy Everyday
Finding something to do that you truly enjoy everyday gives you something to look forward to. It could be reading a book, cooking a meal, baking a cake, or sitting around a fire-pit.
Put it on the calendar. Schedule it! Don’t let it get bypassed by everything else in life. Make an appointment with yourself, because you are THAT important!
Be in The Know!
Know things that cause you stress and have a plan for how to deal with them.
Yup. This is hard. If you know that it causes you stress to be late for something. Then try to schedule enough time for you to prepare yourself.
One Step at a Time
So there you have it! My list of ways to reduce stress this winter…and during a pandemic. Try to gain control of as many areas of your life as you can. Try new things that you enjoy. Reduce your stress!
Robin is very passionate about Health and Wellness! She is currently the Wellness Director for MSN Healthcare Solutions. Robin has been instrumental in the development and implementation of MSN’s corporate wellness plan.