Uncertainty has crept into my life in the last few months. My traditional work routine is now a stay at home gig. Shared spaces have closed their doors. Small businesses have been forced to temporarily or permanently close. And we have put up physical barriers between neighbors to preserve our physical health as the isolation takes a toll on our mental health.
I wasn’t surprised when I learned that the health chrisis is a significant source of stress for Americans, especially parents. I can barely look at the news without feeling the anxiety creep into my mind. The general overwhelm has forced me to reflect reevaluate what practices are truly helping me day-day and what activities are piling on more stress, tasks, and anxiety.
Considering my introverted tendencies, I think I have faired as well as can be expected in isolation. Yet, even a book lover with a long list of solo-hobbies I still miss girls’ night out, Sunday brunch, and even senseless office banter.
I don’t expect external events to lift my mood. Below are my most effective “Mood Moderators”- Activities and practices that are bound to turn the tide on a gloomy day. Hopefully, these help you next time you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed with the state of the world.
The News Diet
There is a difference between being informed and obsessed. I could easily argue that most people I know act news-obsessed rather than informed. Generally, sensational news is what the outlets are peddling and what the social networks are sharing. More coverage is not necessarily better and being constantly plugged into the state of the world won’t allow you to solve all of its problems, rather it will distract you from your own. So, while hearing more and more about the chaotic state of the world that you can do little to nothing to change. Every time you tune in to the news, you tune out your personal life and let the world’s problems ruminate in your mind long after the program is over.
To limit your stress associated with the latest news story, try to cap the amount of news you get every day to an hour at most (this includes social media as well as traditional news outlets). This gives you enough time to absorb current events without turning the news into a nightly media binge.
Most often I find my news on the apple news app or through light-hearted late-night comedy shows. Both of these are easy for me to create boundaries around I find them less aggressive than watching cable news.
Tools to help filter you’re news:
SOCIAL MEDIA BLOCKING APPS
NEWS SNIPPET SUBSCRIPTIONS
Make Time to Move
When most of us start a new exercise regimen, your vanity tends to lead the charge. Everyone wants to look better naked, but just the fact that I want to see my abs this summer doesn’t hold me to a workout plan for longer than a month or so. The most compelling reason I have found to keep moving every day is the profound positive impact it has on my mental health. I can be extremely stressed and overwhelmed one moment, decide to go for a run, and then feel the thrilling adventure spirit rear within me as I bound through the trails to find the endorphin kick at the end of the workout.
There are other benefits for sure including more energy throughout the day, better long term health outcomes, and a spike in personal confidence to name a few. Yet, simply the act to take a moment for myself and to pull my mind away from my internal chatter to focus on something purely physical brings me immense mental clarity.
If you are just starting to incorporate a regular exercise routine into your schedule, here are my top tips to get the ball rolling…
- Bring along your favorite book, podcast, or music playlist
- Binge your favorite show while you stretch or do mat workouts
- Schedule time with a friend for a socially distances walk or YouTube yoga session
- Try a smart watch to keep yourself accountable
If you want to learn more about exercise and its effect on mental health and overall wellbeing – check out these books.
Bath Time isn’t Just for Kids
As we move through adolescence it is natural to shrug off behaviors dubbed as childish while we eagerly race into adulthood. It doesn’t take very long in the adult world to realize that it isn’t all it was cracked up to be and the adults could use some of the carefree fun they left behind.
We accept that the act of play is essential for childhood development but as adults, it is a lot harder to accept that play is essential to our wellbeing. Time and culture condition us to believe that carefree fun is a waste of time or beneath the superficial badge of adulthood, however, childlike fun can play a key role in your self-care practice.
Although the study of play concerning stress is a relatively new area of study, researchers from the University of Illinois have found that ..”playful individuals reported lower levels of perceived stress than their less playful counterparts, and more frequently utilized adaptive, stressor-focused coping strategies and were less likely to employ negative, avoidant, and escape-oriented strategies.”1 Similarly, René Proyer in The European Journal of Humor Research, stated that there is a positive correlation between adult playfulness and overall life satisfaction.2
In case you were looking for an excuse to indulge in your childhood guilty pleasure – turns out it might be good for you. So, I play with Legos, take bubble baths, and enjoy dressing up for Comicon with the nerds not just because I find it fun but also because I know playful activities in themselves relieve some of the tension from the rest of my life. I refuse to let my insecurities allow the judgment of others to make decisions in my life. I could benefit from taking life a little less seriously and if that is another benefit of embracing more childlike play in my life then I am all for it.
Share how you cope under stress in the comments below!
1Magnuson, Cale D., and Lynn A. Barnett. “The Playful Advantage: How Playfulness Enhances Coping with Stress.” Leisure Sciences, vol. 35, no. 2, 2013, pp. 129–144., doi:10.1080/01490400.2013.761905.
2Proyer, René T. “The Well-Being of Playful Adults: Adult Playfulness, Subjective Well-Being, Physical Well-Being, and the Pursuit of Enjoyable Activities.” European Journal of Humour Research, vol. 1, no. 1, 2013, pp. 84–98., doi:10.7592/ejhr2013.1.1.proyer.