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4 Ways to Reduce Stress and Anxiety During the Coronavirus Pandemic


Practicing good mental health habits are more crucial than ever before. Read on for four ways to check in on your and your team’s mental health daily.

More than 2,000,000 people have contracted COVID-19, the coronavirus disease, globally – and that number continues to grow. With so much uncertainty looming in every corner of the globe, practicing good mental health habits are more crucial than ever before.

As a small business owner or team member, you are not only caring for yourself and your family, but also for your employees and teammates. That responsibility can loom large and feel overwhelming. Remind yourself of this fact:

Only after you have cared for yourself first will you have the emotional availability to care for another.

Maintaining mental health is a fluid process. The level of effort to stay in good mental health will vary across time, and there is an ongoing necessity to attend to it. Working towards strong mental health isn’t an item on a checklist. There isn’t a magic “one and done” to achieve balance and stability. Rather, we arrive there through a process of understanding and managing on a regular and repeated basis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created mass change in the external world and a kind of ongoing stress that warrants a daily mental health check. That is exactly what I recommend you do for your own self-care and emotional well-being. Read on for a 4-step guide to manage your mental health at home or anywhere.

Four Steps for Your Daily Mental Health Check

So much of the work involved with mental health is centered around increasing your awareness of your internal experiences (thoughts and feelings) and your behaviors (actions) in the external world. Quite a bit of the content below is in the form of questions to get you actively engaged and in tune with what is happening in your head and in your body. You can’t change what you don’t know or don’t realize is even happening. There are also links that provide you with more information and resources on how to practice self-care and manage your mental health.

1. Don’t Neglect the Basics

Sleep

Sleep is critical to our physical and mental health. Our bodies recover and regenerate when we sleep. How many hours are you getting? Has your sleep schedule changed? If so, how could you get it back to what worked before?

Nutrition

We are what we eat. Food is the body’s fuel. It keeps us going and healthy, or maybe unhealthy.

  • Are you eating more or less?
  • Are you getting balanced nutrition?
  • Are you engaging in emotional eating – eating when bored, stressed, sad, etc.?

Exercise

Movement is medicine. With more of us than ever working from home and gyms closed, we’re more likely to become sedentary. Are you moving throughout the day? How could you ensure that movement happens frequently? Consider a walk around the block, stretching, yoga (virtual classes abound and Layr’s Head of Marketing leads a weekly 20-minute, virtual Meditation + Movement break), alternating sitting and standing while working, or other movement and exercise routines.

Routine

It’s easy to notice how your daily routine has changed recently. You likely don’t have much of a commute to work or lunches scheduled with coworkers. Several weeks into quarantine and shelter-in-place orders, what does your “at-home” routine look like?

  • Are you sitting at a computer for shorter or longer periods of time?
  • Are you getting more or less social or alone time?
  • Are you practicing the same personal care and hygiene habits?
  • How are you separating the workweek from the weekends?

2. Attend to Your Emotions

Process Your Grief

The pandemic has put many humans in a crisis state. Many of us are dealing with significant transitions in our lives, at the very least. When humans are hit by this kind of change, an emotional flood is also likely to occur in the mind and body. We are all experiencing a need to grieve in some shape or form. It is best to embrace that reality with compassion and own your feelings as part of the grief process. You can do this by asking yourself:

  • What is different about me and my world today?
  • What do I miss or long for that I don’t have or cannot do?
  • How can I acknowledge my feelings of frustration, sadness, fear, and loss in a compassionate way?

Identify & Regulate Your Emotional Experience

There are a wide array of coping skills available. Each of them offer a path to increase awareness of your experiences, shift unhelpful thoughts, manage emotions, and change unwanted behaviors. Below is a list of methods for reference and resources for education.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
25 CBT Techniques from Positive Psychology

Mindfulness Techniques
An overview and summary of the how, what, and why of mindfulness and mediation from Mindful and the Foundation for a Mindful Society

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
An explanation of five DBT concepts including resources like TIPP and PLEASE to manage anxiety, stress, and distress from Sunrise Residential Treatment Program, an InnerChange program.

3. Focus on What Matters

In times of stress, it can be helpful to connect with your values. Connecting with your values supports you in taking actions that align with who you are.

Practice Value Identification by asking yourself questions like:

  • What do I care about that drives me?
  • How do I prioritize each of the main domains of life and are those areas currently being satisfied in ways that are fulfilling to me?
    • Personal Relationships/Connection; Leisure & Recreation; Community Involvement: Physical Health; Faith & Spirituality; Family Time; Intellectual Stimulation, Mental Health, etc.
  • How do I want to act during this uncertain time?
  • What do I want to stand for?
  • How do I want to remember myself and what I did?

4. Let Go

At the end of the day, the only thing we can control is ourselves. We have to learn how to stop trying to control the uncontrollable and simply let go. A helpful mantra in this effort is the Serenity Prayer. When you’re feeling out of control, take a deep breath and say – silently or aloud – the Serenity Prayer.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Serenity Prayer

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.


All of the efforts and resources above can be practiced at home, outdoors, or in your office (when we return to old-fashioned work). Maintaining strong mental health is a journey. That’s what inspired me to found Your Therapy Journey where I use evidenced-based therapy techniques to help clients realize their own goals and path towards growth.

About the Author

Catherine Egenes, LMFT is Founder of Your Therapy Journey, a therapeutic counseling practice that offers services for anxiety, depression, eating and related disorders, family and relationship distress, personal exploration and growth, and more.