Eight Stress-relieving Activites to Give You a Break from the Coronavirus
By: Emma Parkhurst, MS, CHES | USU Extension | Davis County
Stress can be brought on by everyday hassles, but especially when there are larger issues like the ongoing public health concern of the coronavirus. While no one’s life is completely stress free, regular negative stress can keep us from feeling and performing our best; therefore, it’s important that we learn how to manage it. While it may seem like the coronavirus news is everywhere, one research-based technique shown to reduce stress, both short-and long-term, is simply taking a break! Taking in information about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. But when you choose to step away, you give yourself an opportunity to gain a new perspective or practice techniques to feel less stressed. Even just 20 minutes can be beneficial. When you’re ready to take a break from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media, consider one of the following activities to help you destress.
- Yoga–if you’re new to yoga, now is the perfect time to take advantage of the many free online classes and reap the benefits of the stress-relieving activity at home.
- Art–before you say,“But I’m not an artist,” a recent study shows that engaging in a creative activity for 45 minutes significantly relieves stress in the body, regardless of experience or talent.
- Exercise–along with physical benefits, research continues to show exercise can have an immediate stress relief effect that can last for hours.
- Go outside–spending time outside or in nature has been shown to relieve stress. If you can safely practice social distancing and are healthy, head outdoors.
- Laugh–when many of us are stressed, we tend to hold stress in the face. Since our emotions and facial expressions are interconnected, laughing or smiling can relieve tension.
- Socialize responsibly–whether you’re social distancing, self-isolated or quarantined, there are many ways to stay connected with friends and family. Check in with others over video chat, email, text or the old-fashioned way –by talking on the phone.
- Play or listen to music–music can have an amazing effect on the body and mind. Faster music can make you feel more alert; upbeat music can make you feel more optimistic; slower music can quiet your mind.
- Meditate–meditation and mindfulness can help the mind and body relax, gain a new perspective and develop self-compassion. If you’re new to meditation or mindfulness, consider starting with deep breaths. Even just one deep breath can relieve tension!
Five tips to help manage stress. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://www.apa.org/topics/manage-stress
Kaimal, G., Ray, K., & Muniz, J.(2016) Reduction of cortisol levels and participants' responses following art making. Art Therapy, 33:2,74-80, DOI:10.1080/07421656.2016.1166832
Stress and Coping. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety
Four Tips for Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude
By: Naomi Brower, Utah State University Extension professor and relationship expert
Current challenges can encourage us to reflect on what we are most grateful for in life. Cultivating gratitude can lead to amazing benefits not just during times of crisis. Some of these include:
- Improved relationships with others. Having an attitude of gratitude makes us nicer, more appreciative, enhances empathy and reduces aggression. As a result, it can help us deepen our friendships, improve our marriage and family connections, and help us develop new, positive relationships with others.
- Improved mental and physical health.Gratitude helps us to better cope with stress, increases self-esteem, and helps in boosting our coping skills when challenges arise. It also boosts our immune system. Research has also shown that gratitude can help individuals have more energy and better sleep quality.
- Career boost. Gratitude can lead to better decision making, people skills and can help boost productivity and goal achievement.
So how do we better cultivate this attitude of gratitude? Consider these four tips:
- Keep a gratitude journalWrite down one or two things every day that you are grateful for. Get creative thinking of small things like having warm water for a shower or a bed to sleep in can help us develop an attitude of gratitude. Reading through past entries can also provide a positive boost when needed.
- Share your appreciation. Let others know that you appreciate who they are or what they have done. How to best show appreciation will depend on the person (a written note, a small gift, quality time together, etc.), but a sincere thank you can go a long way in making people feel good.
- Look for the positive.How we interpret the situation can impact our future thoughts and feelings. For example, when facing a challenge, look for the potential benefits such as increasing patience or empathy for others. Ask a friend or family member for help when it seems difficult to see any positives in a situation.
- Some people need a visual reminder to maintain mindfulness of gratitude. For those individuals, it may be helpful to create a list of people or things they may often take for granted and place it where it will be seen often.
If you haven't already, consider giving yourself the gift of gratitude during this challenging time. It is free, always and doesn't take much time. The benefits are long lasting and one of the simplest ways to improve life satisfaction.
Finding a Cure for the Sheltering-in-Place Blues
By: Naomi Brower, Utah State University Extension professor
Feeling cooped up while spending so much time at home? Consider some of these fun activities to keep restless kids busy and prevent you from pulling your hair out!
- Give winter one last hoorah by creating your own snow. Add baking soda and shaving cream together in a container for a fantastic moldable snow that is naturally cold. For an added science experiment, add a spritz of vinegar to make snowballs or snow explosions. Click here for the recipe.
- Get crafty. Make flower paper chains to decorate the house. Create your own greeting cards using homemade stamps made out of blocks and shaped rubber shoe insoles or carved potatoes. Learn how to make items out of colorful duct tape, or create bubble art. See Pinterest for inexpensive and fun art and craft ideas.
- Get cooking. Try a new recipe, make edible play dough or create favorite treats. If you have older youth, try a cooking challenge using certain ingredients.
- Build a fort, tower or castle out of large plastic cups or blankets. Make it a competition (who can build the longest, tallest, etc.). Play a game, read or sleep in the fort.
- Have a scavenger or treasure hunt. For example, search for all the supplies necessary for a fun project.
- Play board games, race each other to complete simple puzzles, or get active by playing games such as Chinese jump rope. Click here for directions.
- Put on a puppet show. For extra credit, construct your own puppets out of socks or paper bags to tell a story of your own creation.
- Take funny pictures or make funny videos together using a smartphone app such as “LOL Movie” or “Magic Mirror.”
- Go hiking. If the weather is cooperating and you can get outside, look for maps of trails in your area and explore a new trail. Have a nature scavenger hunt while hiking, or pack snacks and enjoy a picnic at the end of your hike.
- Learn to find constellations. Find a star map on a smartphone app, such as “Skyview Lite,” or online at: http://www.stargazing.net/David/constel/skymapindex.html
- Have your own Olympics. Make up your own events such as Hula-Hoop, jumping rope, shooting basketballs, Frisbee toss, swimming noodle “javelin” toss or hopping a certain distance. Create silly awards to present to participants.
- Dream together. Find pictures online, in magazines or draw fun things you want to do in the future together. Paste them on a poster board and display it somewhere that you can see it often.
Underwood, C. (2020). Growing a jeweled rose. Retrieved from http://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/01/erupting-snow-recipe.htmlhttp://healthyliving.azcentral.com/rules-chinese-jump-rope-2617.html) www.pinterest.com
Remaining Coronavirus Calm
By: Jonathan Swinton, Utah State University Extension assistant professor and relationship expert
As the fears associated with the coronavirus swirl around us, it is easy to get swept up. Some of the most common fears are related to our health, the health of those we love, our personal finances, the economic impacts and making sure we feel adequately prepared. Are you feeling some of these fears? That is ok. Try these three suggestions and see if you feel better:
- An essential step in managing fear and anxiety is giving yourself permission to feel the fear and anxiety. Trying to make yourself not feel this way may cause more anxiety and fear. Instead, allow yourself to experience it. Verbalize it. Write it down. Get it out. Talk to someone about it. Experiencing these emotions, especially with someone else, will be therapeutic and can help you move past the emotions so you can be more logical and rational.
- Practice deep breathing exercises when you feel overwhelmed. Sit in a comfortable place. Close your eyes. Breathe in through your mouth while counting to five in your mind. Then breathe out through your mouth while counting to five. As you breathe, focus on the counting and on the sensations you feel as you breathe in the good air, and out the bad. As you do this you will bring in increased oxygen, which will help calm your body down. If thoughts enter your mind, just let them pass right through. Refocus on the counting and the breathing sensations. As you focus on counting, you will keep yourself from focusing on the anxiety-provoking thoughts you are feeling.
- Identify and focus on the things you can control. Clean the house. Play with your kids. Reorganize the closets. Engage in a hobby. Contact a friend. Find things you know you can do successfully and do them.
These three tips can help you manage the fears associated with the coronavirus. Identify which ones work best for you and do them anytime you need. The more you do them, the better you will get at managing your fears.