We are living in challenging times right now, my friend. And if you are already prone to anxiety before the current COVID-19 crisis, it can feel even harder to manage the internal panic when the world seems to be panicking, right? It’s so important to manage your stress levels at anytime for your own mental health and happiness. But especially important now since an overload of cortisol (the stress hormone) can lower your immune system.
And besides, having some go-to moves for dealing with stress and anxiety is a path to ensuring that you live a daily life that feels loving, nourishing, and supportive.
That’s why I want to dig into twenty-four of the best techniques I know to manage the way stress and anxiety can feel like it’s tearing you apart.
While none of these tips are a one-size-fits all guaranteed to work for everybody, I’m confident that some of these will be helpful to you. So, treat these tips like a Smörgåsbord of techniques to experiment with to see what works best for you.
One – Take a Deep Breath at Times of Transition
I know, I know. People always tell you to BREATHE. Breathing techniques are proven to help with anxiety. But when you’re stuck in that panicky feelings, it’s hard to remember. That’s why I like making it a habit to breathe at transition moments.
See, we have multiple moments of transition during the day: waking up, sitting down to dinner, coming home from work, and beginning our work day. As you transition from one moment to the next, pause for a moment and breathe. Stop, close your eyes, take a big deep breath, and slowly release it.
Two – Wash Your Face
I know we’re washing our hands a lot these days, but now is a good time to really wash your face. This isn’t necessarily just about hygiene, but as an act of self-love. Earlier this year, my dermatologist prescribed a new medication for sun spots (hello to my fifties!) which started me on a whole new skin care routine.
And you know what I noticed? I felt so much calmer after transforming washing my face at the end of the day into a loving ritual.
Make sure the water is warm, use a cleanser that smells wonderful to you, gently massage it into your skin, and rinse. (I prefer a washcloth). After washing your face, put on some good moisturizer and under eye cream. Look at yourself in the mirror and really gaze into your eyes. You’ve got this!
Three – Slather Yourself with Lotion
We all need human touch and kindness. And with social distancing such an important way to help stop the spread of COVID-19, many of us are not going to be getting the human contact we need. So, as a remedy to the lack of human touch in our lives right now, make putting lotion on as a way to give touch to yourself.
I’m sure with all the hand washing, you’re probably adding hand lotion to your days. But instead of just lotion on your hands, lovingly tend yourself by applying a lotion that smells wonderful to you on your whole body: feet, legs, arms, tummy, breasts, arms, neck, and back! (We already covered your face above).
You’ll be rubbing calmness and anxiety away as you rub the lotion in.
Four – Really Get Dressed
When we’re feeling anxious or even a little depressed, it can feel challenging to put on real clothes. Sure, staying in yoga pants, jammies, or sweat pants can help reduce the anxiety of figuring out what to wear. However, this doesn’t work long term. No, my dear, over time, if you wear sloppy clothes or skip showering for days, it’s eventually going to add to your anxiety.
So, put some decent clothes on. And put on your makeup, too. While it may seem counter productive to stress management at first, you will feel better. And boost your confidence. When you have a boost of confidence, if combats those anxious feelings.
Five – Make a List
Is there anything more satisfying than checking things off your to-do list? When you’re feeling stressed or anxious, having a list can feel helpful and supportive. So, to manage any stress or anxiety, make that to do list. Better yet, make it on paper. Using a pen and writing by hand accesses a different part of the brain than typing does.
Besides, you need a break from screen time with all the novel coronavirus news.
And don’t stop at a to-do list. Make a list of all the things that make you awesome. Or make a list of all your favorite books or movies. And don’t forget about writing down a list of all the reasons you love book. Get where I”m going here? Neat (or messy) little lists about ourselves and our lives is soothing.
Six – Write in a Journal
Each one of us has dozens of thoughts in a single minute. The act of taking those thoughts and writing them down allows us to process them, not just ruminate over them. And the thing is, ruminating can be the root of anxious thoughts. When you begin keeping a journal you’ll discover that writing allows us to process both our thoughts and emotions.
When our thoughts are in front of us, whether as ink on a page or pixels on a screen, it is easier to treat our purely emotional thoughts with logic, and temper our pure logic with emotion. That’s because keeping a journal is a yin-and-yang way to manage thoughts and emotions.And managing our thoughts and emotions can help us better manage our anxious feelings.
Six – Begin a Gratitude Practice
Did you know that gratitude can rewire your brain? See, our thoughts travel on neural pathways in our brains. When we’re stressed and anxious, it’s common for our thoughts to always go to the negative, right? But the creation of a regular gratitude practice allows your brain to create new, positive pathways for your thoughts.
Over time, the old pathways grow over from lack of regular use. In other words, while forming new positive streets for your thoughts to travel on in your brain, your brain fills in all those ditches and ruts previously used by negative thoughts. As your brain becomes used to these new paths for thought, they will become the norm.
This means that when you’re dealing with anxiety or a crisis (like we are now with COVID-19), a gratitude practice allows your thoughts to be more positive. And you’ll also recover more quickly.
If you’re struggling with how to begin, find a gratitude quote you connect with, write it on the page, and see what bubbles up from there.
Seven – Make Your Bed
When you’re struggling with anxiety, sometimes the best medicine is to whip something into control or order. That’s what I loved about making your bed. Not only are you able to control something. You get to whip one of your spaces into tidiness. And, it allows you to feel as if you’ve accomplished something. Win, win!
Never underestimate the value of a beautifully made bed to ease your anxious feelings.
Eight – Declutter Something
Stuff stresses us out. When you are feeling anxious, declutter something. Yes, darling, I mean to tackle that closet of yours now that you’re stuck at home thanks to the Corona Virus. Because, you have more time at home. So you may as well, right?
However, if your whole closet feels overwhelming and feels like it’s adding to your anxiety, then choose a smaller space: a drawer, a shelf, or your kitchen island. Sometimes, it can just soothe your anxious feelings by walking around the house and putting clutter in a laundry basket to put away in the right places.
I also have a monthly newsletter with tasks to clear clutter for mind, body, and soul if you need some regular ideas now – and after the crisis resolves.
Nine – Organize a Single Space
Is there anything more satisfying to your anxious mind than a perfectly tidy space? Now is the perfect time to organizing any – and all – of your spaces. Begin small: a drawer, a cabinet, or a shelf. While you are stuck at home thanks to the COVID-19 Crisis, make it your goal to organize various spots in your home and office.
If you’re needing more things to look neat and tidy, do a larger organizational project like the pantry, under the kitchen sink, or your bookshelves.
Also, since everyone is probably at home, this can be a good time to re-arrange furniture to organize a space. When my kids were young, we’d change the location of their beds seasonally.
Ten – Clean Something
Yes, my dear, I know that you are fastidiously cleaning every spot in your home and office. But the act of cleaning can help sooth your anxiety. This may be the time to tackle a places you rarely think to clean, like wiping down all the light switches and door handles.
Sometimes, the best way to deal with the way your mind is racing is to use your hands. And cleaning keeps your hands busy, distracts your mind, and results in a sparkling surface that helps you feel accomplished.
Cleaning is also an activity your kids may actually enjoy. And it can help mute their own anxious energy. Give them a dust rag and let them dust the baseboards. Or scrub all the kick-plates in your kitchen and bathroom.
Eleven – Unfollow (or Mute) Negative People on Social Media
I know we all want to stay connected. And even if you’ve previously kicked a social media addiction, you may find yourself back to scrolling through Facebook or Instagram on your phone. Now is a good time to better curate your feeds so that social media doesn’t add to your anxiety.
My rule of thumb is to really tune into the signals my body is sending me when I’m on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. If someone’s post triggers me negatively – or just irritates me – I make a decision right then and there to either unfollow them or temporarily mute their posts. And right now, there are some folks or sites I follow that I normally enjoy. But during this COVID-19 Crisis, their posts are adding to my stress levels.
I know that the thought of unfollowing a friend or family member can make you feel more anxious, but both Facebook and Instagram allow you to stay “friends” with people and not see their posts. You can snooze someone for 30 days on Facebook or hide an individual post. On Instagram, you can click on their profile and mute their posts, stories, or both.
Twelve – Choose News Sources with Extreme Care
It’s so easy to let the news ramp up our stress and anxiety. It makes my heart race just reading the headlines! One of the things I’ve done is reduce my news consumption by subscribing to three newsy email lists:
This allows me to stay informed without going down the inevitable rabbit hole that any news website can be. So, if the news makes you anxious, be incredibly mindful about how you stay informed.
Thirteen – Find Positive People to Follow on Social Media
You need to feed your mind with good and beautiful things as this can help you soothe those anxious thoughts. My preferred social media channel right now for soothing my anxious thoughts is Instagram. You can click on the links below and if you aren’t on Instagram find link to their websites or other social media channels.
- Mary Orton is a fashion blogger with a great sense of humor – so you get pretty clothes, her cute baby, and witty captions.
- There are two mostly nature-focused channels I follow: National Parks and US Fish & Wildlife
- BRBGoingtoDisney is a Disney Mom that always makes me smile. I especially love her stories.
- Becca Rowan is always thoughtful. You can click through her Instagram to sign up for her monthly newsletter
- Jen Lee is always loving and thoughtful.
- Elizabeth Rago of Modern Domestic Woman posts lots of beautiful images and uplifting commentary
Sometimes, managing your thoughts and anxiety is to fuel it with positive inputs. So, find some pretty things to look at and positive words that make you feel uplifted.
Fourteen – Read a Book
Though many of our libraries have closed, their digital collections are still available! Escape the real world and allow your anxiety to ease by getting lost in a good book. Because what we read affects how we think and how we feel about ourselves. That’s why making good choices in reading material can be one of the best things to do right now.
This is an especially good time to choose fiction as research from Ohio State University has shown that fictional characters can influence you. In the study, readers adopted the beliefs, feelings and responses of the characters. This means well written fiction with courageous or compassionate characters can inspire you to be brave, transform your thinking, how you see yourself and the world.
Fifteen – Create Something
When I’m feeling anxious, I am feeling restless. So, when I use my hands to create something, I’m actively moving stress out of my body. Using our hands often soothe anxiety. So, get out a pen and paper and doodle, work on that short story you’ve been wanting to right, or bake a cake.
If you have young kids, consider pairing a movie with a craft like my friend Shannon is doing with her kids while we are practicing social distancing.
Sixteen – Find Uplifting Things to Watch on YouTube
There are so many creative people out there with positive and uplifting content. So, find some things on YouTube that feel calming and nourishing. For example, I love watching Jen Lee’s Morning Sunshine. Each video is under five minutes and is focused on providing all kinds of heart medicine to soothe your stressed out soul.
Just because you are stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t travel virtually. Because we took a big family trip to Disney World in January, I still follow several Disney YouTube Channels. So, watch the fireworks from Disney World or the new Disneyland parade from the comfort of your couch. The catchy music and happy people make me feel more relaxed and less anxious. So never underestimate the soothing nature of cat videos or travel videos.
Seventeen – Watch Something Sentimental
Watching a movie I enjoyed as a kid (or that my kid’s loved) is something that chills me out. When I’m stressed, I’ll turn on Disney+ and watch Mulan, Sound of Music, a Mickey Mouse cartoon, or one of the movies from the sixties like Parent Trap or That Darn Cat.
Both Hulu and Netflix have all kinds of TV series to watch that feel fun and relaxing. Because anxiety is often a result of our thoughts run amok, watching something that takes us back to simpler times in our lives helps us chill out.
Eighteen – Look for Humor
Laughter can sometimes be the best medicine. Again, look to things you can watch a movie or show that makes you laugh. I always laugh when I watch the movie Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the television show The Big Bang Theory, or the classic I Love Lucy.
And if there isn’t anything funny to watch, look to “Dad Jokes” or other silly things that make you giggle. Oh, and if you have kids (or not) one book that always makes me laugh out loud is Junie B. Jones is a Beauty Shop Guy (a book I buy for every new reader I know).
Because laughter has also been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure, soothe tension, and increase endorphins.
Nineteen – Stare out a window
Research by doctors found that patients recovering from surgery and heart problems had shorter hospital stays and needed less pain medication when they saw nature out their hospital window versus seeing a brick wall. So, when you’re feeling anxious, pause for a moment to simply gaze out the window.
Besides, if you’re needing to stay inside thanks to the Coronovirus and social distancing measures, this will give you a boost of sunshine.
Twenty – Make a Warm Beverage
If you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory, you’ll know that one of the few social norms Sheldon is comfortable with is offering someone a hot beverage when a friend is upset. There is just something comforting about putting your hands around a warm mug, right? So making yourself a hot beverage can help soothe your stress and anxiety.
While you prepare your beverage, it also gives you the opportunity to take thoughtful, mindful action.
Twenty-One – Hug a Loved One
If everyone in your family is healthy, then go ahead and hug each other. Our spouses and kids are probably feeling anxious, too. And hugging releases oxytocin (also known as “the cuddle hormone”). This makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside and soothes anxiety.
Twenty-Two – Connect with a Good Friend
If you’re feeling too isolated, it can ramp up your anxiety. And with social distancing right now, we can’t just call a friend to meet us for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. What you can do, though, is still reach out to a good friend or loved one. One of my go-to moves when I’m feeling stressed or overly anxious is to make a virtual coffee date over Skype with a friend.
Just because you’re housebound doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to connect.
Twenty-Three – Get Some Sunshine
Feeling trapped inside your home can add to your anxiety during this crisis. So, if it’s safe to do so where you live, get outside and enjoy a little sunshine. Sunlight increases the levels of serotonin in the brain, which is associated with improved mood.
From what experts are saying, you get get outdoors as long as you are healthy. And able to maintain a distance of at least six feet away from non-family members. So, please let your kids play in your own yard (just not with others kiddos). Watching them play outdoors can reduce your anxiety. And it’s good for your mental health.
One of my go-to moves when it’s cold outside is to go for a drive and bask in the sunshine. Even if I just have to sit in my car in a parking lot.
Twenty-Four – Learn Something New
There are so many ways to learn these days. I’ve found a good way to deal when I’m feeling anxious is to occupy my brain by learning something new. Follow a thread of curiosity – just not about the novel Coronavirus! Learn about 18th century art, Elizabethan History, or the best way to make boiled eggs.
This is a great time to sign up for an online class like Master Class (I’ve taken some writing and cooking classes from there). Or invest in that program you’ve been eyeing.
The last few weeks have been twinged with a peculiar air of uncertainty due to the widespread yet unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 virus, otherwise known as Coronavirus. And I know that all that uncertainty can add to your anxiety and stress levels.
Just remember that the way we are going to get through this crisis is to manage our minds to the best of our ability. Because that’s truly the best way to keep your anxiety under control. I want you to be able to find moments of love and relief in your daily life.