Feeling Stressed? Give Yourself a Break.

Mar 12, 2021 8:00 AM

Author: Jerilyn Stowe

Image of lower legs walking down a path

The timer on the COVID-19 pandemic is at the one-year mark, and good news is on the horizon. Each day brings fewer new infections and more vaccinations to a nation that is ready for relief. Government and health leaders are beginning to share cautious timelines for a return to normal. 

We might expect these optimistic headlines to bring some relief from the stress of a year so difficult that it has earned a spot in history books. Instead, stress levels are higher than they have been since the start of the crisis, according to the American Psychological Association. 

As mental health professionals have been warning us, enduring extraordinary stress and unprecedented circumstances for an entire year has long-lasting effects. We are seeing the beginnings of the crisis-after-the-crisis.

Improving our collective mental health will require effort from everyone, but we can take simple steps now to reduce stress in our daily lives. Just a small amount of time and self-care can have a big impact on our happiness.

Here are some quick, everyday strategies that will help reduce stress and improve our own mental health:

Take a walk

The link between physical activity and reduced stress has been established for a while, but it can be difficult to get a good workout when gyms and playgrounds are closed and social distancing is the rule. Consider a brisk, daily walk with members of your household to get out of the home and into the fresh air. Even a brief session of aerobic activity will decrease tension, improve your mood, and decrease anxiety.  

Prepare a low-stress meal

Research has shown that certain foods can help reduce stress. This includes healthy, vitamin-rich foods like salmon, okra, and spinach, along with crowd favorites like dark chocolate, potatoes, and oranges. Taking time to cook and eat a favorite meal can also help you relax after a stressful day.  

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is living with awareness and intention. Practicing mindfulness means you take time each day to rest, reflect, and reconnect, building a potent inner resource that lets you enjoy the good, be present in your life, and bounce back from stress. Others may prefer prayer or meditation, but the key is sharpening your mind and learning to live in the now.

Reach out to friends and family

Although the COVID-19 pandemic made connecting with family and friends more difficult, it also emphasized the importance of keeping in touch with our social network. While health restrictions may require you to be somewhat tech savvy in order to connect, the benefits of maintaining your close relationships can include improved ability to deal with stress, better self-esteem, and lower cardiovascular risks.

Take a tech break

Our ability to connect with the world through technology has helped millions of people continue to live their lives through the pandemic, but it can also be a serious source of stress. Taking a break from social media, news feeds, texts, and calls can provide valuable perspective, ease the tension from stressful headlines, and help you work on mindfulness.

Although reducing stress in your life will help benefit your mental health, sometimes that’s just not enough. If you or someone you love is in need of expert help, don’t hesitate to reach out.

A medical professional is always available to help if you have long bouts of depression or symptoms you just can’t shake. Contact Huntsman Mental Health Institute to get help or learn more, or reach out to these resources:

  • If you are feeling depressed, anxious, lonely or having a personal struggle and need someone to listen, call the Utah Warm Line at 801-587-1055. 
  • If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, call the Utah Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.

mental health covid-19 stress self-care