Finding the Light at the End of the Covid Tunnel
Finding ways to work through your stress can help you "see the light."
Since Covid started, we've been asked to make a lot of transitions on many different levels. Some of these have been easy and some more difficult. It's disrupted our normal routines, leaving many in a state of long-term stress and grieving for the normalcy that is gone for the time-being. For me, it's been navigating working from home within two other adults in the house hold and a new and amazing dog that wants (and deserves) a lot of attention. The transitions haven't always been easy, but the reality is I can't make them stop. I still need to work, others still need to thrive within the household, and our new dog still needs his attention.
So, what can be helpful to move through these times of stress?
Stress presents itself in different ways to each of us, and there are different ways to allow your body to move through it. At times you can't move through your stress in the moment. However, moving through it is like actually getting to the light at the end of the tunnel for your body's stress response. It's what we need to let our body know it's safe, to switch into the parasympathetic part of our nervous system that allows relaxation and normalization of our physiological responses.
The best way to literally move through the stress response is to move your body. Walking, running, biking, dancing, shaking, or other favorite activity is a place to start. Try it for five to ten minutes and see how you feel. Many clients tell me that moving their body, especially now, is giving them more energy and more clarity in their thinking.
For some, moving their body isn't appealing. Deep breathing is another, evidence-based technique to bring your body back to calmness. Try breathing in through your nose for a count of 4 and out through your mouth for a count of 8. Not only does a longer out-breath activate your vagus nerve, the nerve that sends “calm signals” to your brain, but the cells that line your nose produce nitric oxide as you breathe in. This compound helps open and relax your lung blood vessels and is also a microbial, meaning it works to help you against bacteria and viruses that you may breathe in. (***While this doesn't protect you 100% from getting sick, it's a great reminder to how the human body has so many amazing qualities that we continue to learn more about!***)
Now, if you experience the same stressors each day, such as in a work project that isn't completed, doing something to move through your stress on a daily basis is important. It's important because stress accumulates in our bodies, and working through your stress response helps your body relax and restore itself during sleep. This process doesn't need to be long, but it does need to happen.
Other things you might want to try---get creative and make something (knit a hat, paint; keep them or give them away,) find a comedy program and get some good belly laughs, connect with others even if it's telling the grocery clerk a sincere thank you for the work they are doing, or give a good hug to someone in your household—a lean towards the other person and embrace for at least 20 seconds. Yes, there is science backing all of these!
I've found for me that it works quite well to do deep breathing in between client sessions. It's easy, I don't need to leave my office and works really well. Walking the dog is also helpful, as he needs a couple of strolls every day so he sleeps through the night. I've also re-engaged with yoga the past three weeks and the combination of moving my body, deep breathing and sensing into tension in my body has been amazing for relaxation along with my digestion!
What works for you could be totally different, and that's great! Choose the things that work for YOU. If you find that you're not getting joy from something, choose something else and see what comes of it. Being open to possibilities allows you choices that you might not have thought of before.
I wish I could tell you how much longer we'll be living with Covid the way we are currently! So until we know those answers, keep exploring those ways for you to support yourself and move through your stress! Here's to finding your light at the end of your tunnel.