6 Ways to reduce stress during stressful times

These tips can keep you from getting stressed when things get tough.

When is the pandemic ever going to end? You might have had this question since day one. Unfortunately, while things are looking better, we are still going through this ongoing fight against COVID-19.

Still, this shouldn’t be a reason for you to lose hope. You shouldn’t let the pandemic jeopardize both your physical and mental health. Fortunately, there are many ways to alleviate stress even at home. You can channel all that negative energy and your anxieties into something more productive. And who knows? With a new habit-forming routine, you may be able to put yourself on that path to thriving – no matter what your progress is.

So, here are simple yet actionable ways to reduce stress during the pandemic:

1. Maintain a healthy diet

Eat more healthily, even when you’re at home. People are used to getting muffins or ice cream easily right out from the fridge. How about doing the same thing but pulling out fruit or yogurt instead?

A healthy diet doesn’t mean totally changing your meal plan or counting calories. Simply putting more greens into your meals every day can make a big difference.

People who follow a "traditional" diet, like Mediterranean or Japanese, have a 25% to 35% lower risk of depression, according to a Harvard health blog. By a traditional diet, this means an eating pattern high in fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed grains.

Aside from transitioning into a healthy diet, cook at home more often. At the start of the pandemic, people had to go out for groceries and cook more meals at home. It's no surprise that the number of people cooking at home skyrocketed due to the restrictions. Still, with the pandemic slowly coming to an end, 92% of families plan to continue cooking and eating together.

Cooking at home gives you the power to control what you eat. With this opportunity, you can choose a tasty, nutritious meal that isn't difficult to prepare. For instance, a whole-food plant-based recipe has easy-to-find ingredients with the simplest procedures.

Also, cooking at home allows you to be creative with every meal. You can even make your meal preparations more fun by doing them with family members or friends.

2. Practice more self-care

More and more people neglected taking care of themselves when the pandemic started. In some cases, people didn’t mind not taking a bath since they were just staying at home.

Even when you are restricted to staying at home, you shouldn’t forget your self-care routine. You can start by scheduling a solitude hour and shut off all distractions like your phone and see what you naturally come up with. I find the best ideas come when I am able to be quiet with myself. Other self-care activities may include meditation, aromatherapy, journaling, revisiting an old hobby, along with many more.

3. Exercise regularly

It’s no secret that exercise can do wonders for your mind and body. Endorphins are your brain’s ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters and they get released from your body through physical activity. The more you exercise, the more you can get that stress out of your system and feel that relief.

When the pandemic started, about 23.7% of people reported a decrease in their exercise routine. The pandemic has set restrictions that may have prevented us from going out, but it shouldn’t stop you from exercising.

There are plenty of workouts you can do at home. You also don’t have to choose the most rigorous training. Any exercise that keeps your body moving is a good place to start. You just need to do it consistently.

4. Connect with others

We are all social beings, no matter how much we deny it. Because of that, we need regular interaction with friends and family. The pandemic has restricted us from seeing each other, which made social media platforms a great tool for building connections.

Connect with old friends and people you haven’t seen in a while. Don’t be afraid to be the first to reach out. After all, it’s all part of the process of building meaningful connections in spite of this pandemic.

5. Minimize social media and news

We can’t avoid the news, especially when we’re on our phones. So, the best way to minimize seeing bad news every day is to limit your screen time.

Don’t spend too much time on social media either. If you can’t help it, follow social media accounts that are uplifting, inspirational, or motivational. Find the time to filter your own account from any of that digital negativity. You also have the ability to turn off notifications on your phone as well.

6. Establish work-life balance on daily routines

Most people are obliged to work from home for their safety. Because of this, it became difficult to separate work tasks from the daily life routine. It becomes much harder if you have to do both tasks in the same room.

Establish a work-life balance by separating your workspace. You can have it in the garage, living room, spare room, or any other space that isn’t your bedroom. Otherwise, you might end up procrastinating or distracting yourself.

If you don’t have a choice but to set up a workstation in your room, make sure all your phones, gadgets, and books are out of sight. You can use the Pomodoro technique to set your focus and finish your work on time.

What to do next?

The techniques mentioned above are only a few of the many ways you can reduce stress during this pandemic. For instance, you can spend some time in nature or adopt a furry friend to keep you company. Choose the methods that work best for you.

In the end, you need to look out for yourself. We may not know when the pandemic will end, but one thing is for sure: keep taking care of yourself because you are needed and important. You are evolving no matter what. By taking good care of yourself, you are giving yourself that much-needed personal nourishment not only to your body, but also to your mind.

Colin Zhu, DOis a traveling physician who is board certified in family practice/OMT and lifestyle medicine. He has practiced as a CompHealth locum tenens physician for four years. Zhu is an international speaker and the author of "Thrive Medicine: How To Cultivate Your Desires and Elevate Your Life” and podcast host of Thrive Bites and creator of The THR5 Formula™Masterclass series, an online resource for healthcare professionals and students on learning how to thrive