We need to find ways to quiet our nervous systems, to reduce stress levels. That might mean attending to our breathing, practicing mindfulness, visualization, meditation or yoga, or engaging in prayer. Even if we’ve never before engaged in these practices, this is a great time to give them a try!
We also need to make time for pleasure and fun. Even when juggling more responsibilities than usual, it is still critical to make space for positive activities and feelings. Reading a book, solving a puzzle, making music, connecting with nature, or engaging in creative pursuits can do much to reduce stress and lift our spirits.
At a time when much feels uncertain, it can also help to focus on things we can control. Creating structure and routine can provide a much-needed sense of predictability, particularly for children. Consider posting a schedule where everyone can see it. Clean and disinfect our living spaces, or attend to long-neglected projects. Tackle concrete problems we can solve now.
Focusing on what feels positive, meaningful and consistent with our values helps us see the bright side during an otherwise challenging time. We should take a few moments each day to practice gratitude, acknowledging those people or things for which we feel thankful.
And finally, we need to pace ourselves, because we don’t know how long this crisis will last. Remember to take regular breaks from the headlines, put down our phones, and take five minutes to stretch or breathe. If we’re responsible for others, it will be especially important to “put our oxygen masks on first,” so we can be there for them (and ourselves) for the long haul.
Dr. Jennifer Robohm is a behavioral science faculty member with the Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana (FMRWM) and works closely with the behavioral health team at Partnership Health Center.
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