In the ongoing pandemic, here are a few tips to help you cope.
No one said life would be easy. And with the complications of living during a pandemic almost everything…sleeping, eating, finances, work, family connections…has become more difficult. Along with these difficulties comes stress, a normal part of the human experience. Stress is energy draining, it can make negative experiences feel never-ending or worse than they are, and none of us are immune to it. Stress can complicate or exacerbate already existing health conditions. I’ve seen firsthand the effect it can have, worsening my own health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure and anxiety.
With April being Stress Awareness Month, there is no time like the present to address stress and what we can do to help alleviate it. Since 1992, people have been “celebrating” the occasion by doing their part to manage stress in the home, work place, and in social situations. It’s vitally important to stay informed about the dangers of stress, helpful coping strategies, and the misconceptions about stress. And now more than ever, we need to take care of ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically.
At various points, we are all feeling stressed in one way or another. Perhaps, like me, you get stressed doing everyday things like visiting the doctor’s office, answering the phone, stepping on a scale or shopping at the supermarket. People who don’t follow the arrows going down an aisle or who wear their masks below their nose…these things make me tense. But there are several simple things we can do to help.
We all know the benefits of exercise. Get outside to walk, jog, bike or swim. With the weather warming up it’s a great time to clear the mind and refresh the body with some fresh air and sunshine.
Whether you take a class or use an app, yoga can help relax and rejuvenate you with its focus on stretching, breathing and movement. If you have chronic aches and pains like I do and don’t think you can do it, I recommend you try chair yoga. It’s a modified version that allows those with limited mobility or range of motion to do many of the standard yoga poses while seated.
Water, that is! Staying hydrated can help relieve stress-related headaches, as well as joint pain and arthritis. And if your body feels better, you’ll feel less stressed.
A few minutes of meditation can do a world of good. Try a series of breathing exercises or just finding a comfortable place to sit and relax. Not sure how to get started, try Queer Zen’s Seven-Minute Sit, @queerzenmeditation on Instagram Live, Saturday mornings at 9:30 am EST. For a longer session of non-traditional meditation, join Queery and The Loft LGBTQ+ Community Center as they present C.A.L.M/Queer Zen, Thursday’s from 5:30-6:30 pm EST. This safe-space guided meditation includes music and breathing to help melt the stress away.
Get a check-up
Consider visiting your doctor if your stress becomes too much to handle. They can offer options and ideas to get you some relief.
You may have heard the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.” There’s some truth to that. Watch a funny show, chat with a light-hearted friend, or read a hysterical book. Try Ellen Degeneres’ latest, “Seriously…I’m Kidding.” You can download the audio book from audible or for a more hands-on experience, look for the book on Amazon.
Sometimes getting something annoying, bothersome, conflicting (and those are only the ABCs) off your chest can go a long way to stress relief. If you have a trusted friend or family member who can listen without judgement, you may be able to take some of the pressure off yourself just by talking about it.
It’s so important for us to pay attention to our health. Stress Awareness Month reminds us that it’s not only Covid-19 we are facing every day. Add to that the fact that LGBTQ+ individuals tend to have higher levels of stress due to prejudice, social anxiety, financial inequality and unemployment. Remember to take care of yourself and consider some of the simple steps above to reduce stress this and every month. Oh, and one more thing. Research shows that smiling when you’re feeling stressed may reduce the body’s stress response, regardless of whether you actually feel happy or not. So smile more. It can’t hurt, but it may help.