I wish I knew. If you are like me you might be wondering the same. Opening up the country and getting the economy moving again makes sense. People and businesses are experiencing financial uncertainty on an unprecedented level. And, people are still contracting and dying from COVID-19. There is no right or easy road to take.
All the uncertainty takes its toll. It increases our stress level. Our fight-flight-freeze response constantly shoots cortisol and adrenalin into our bloodstream. Studies show that prolonged exposure to increased levels of stress hormones increases our risk of heart disease, diabetes, mental health issues, even burn out. Great, right? I mean if the coronavirus doesn't get me, the stress of it will. Oh, yay. (Note my extreme sarcasm here.)
Where is the mask that protects us from the stress of it all? You've seen the videos for the DIY masks to put on your face all over the internet, right? Well, we have to do the same to help shield ourselves from the effects of the stress, too. PPE for stress sounds 'woo-woo', silly or outrageous but, just like a mask to protect you and others from spreading or contracting the virus, PPE for stress helps protect your mental and emotional health. And, it will help protect the loved ones with whom you shelter in place because you won't be so on edge or ready to yell when one. more. person. follows. you. to. the. bathroom. (Maybe that's just at my house??)
If you haven't started doing things to reduce your level of anxiety or stress, you can start now. First, recognize that any self-care routine you had pre-pandemic quarantine may no longer be an option (and, it's ok to be sad about that). Not all gyms are opening up and do
you feel like it's safe to go even if yours opens? The same holds true for the nail salon and the yoga studio. Maybe you think you don't have time to develop any Stress-PPE routine because you are working from home, caring for kiddos and their needs, or maybe you are doing all that and then some. If that is true, then let me say this: You are doing amazing.
Even if you don't feel like it, trust me, you are.
The voice in your head that keeps telling you that you can't take a break is a very scared, unhelpful voice. It's the voice of "the fear of the imagined consequences if you take a moment to just breathe." The first thing you can do to start quieting that voice is to truly take some very slow, deep breaths. All the way into your belly. Then, respond to that voice in a supportive, loving way by simply saying, "Thanks for letting me know you are scared. I'll do everything I know to do to keep any of that from happening. I'll take over now." Then, ask the question, "What can I do right now to feel a tiny bit less stressed? What do I need that will help me right now?"
When you ask those sorts of curious questions about what you want and what your mind, heart, or body truly need, you begin to spark creative thinking. Your amygdala gets in the back seat and, your pre-frontal cortex takes the wheel again. We have to start our DIY stress-mask-building from this state of mind because the COVID-19 self-care strategy requires creativity. It also requires self-compassion (because like any new habit we build, we will go forward 3 steps and back 2).
Start with the low-hanging fruit: Reduce time spent mindlessly scrolling through social media or news feeds. Take 'breath-breaks' in between activities to reset the mind.
Drink more water - see if you can get to the eight 8-ounce glasses limit. Get enough sleep.
Ask yourself "what went well?" at the end of the day to start developing some positivity.
I am going to add more ideas in the next post. In the meantime, click here to go to my list of Inspiration Resources for Helping Deal with the Craziness of Living During COVID-19.