April is Stress Awareness Month, and we think it’s safe to say the world has been pretty stressful lately! At Solstice Senior Living, our team continues to work hard daily to ensure life remains as vibrant and stress-free as ever – but also safe and healthy as the world navigates the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stress can be a result of many causes, including adjusting to big changes, managing an illness or being a caregiver. When we’re stressed, our immune systems are weakened and we are more susceptible to infections. Now more than ever, it’s important to find ways to manage stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, here are some recommendations inspired by the Centers for Disease Control:
- Take breaks from the news: It’s hard to not be glued to the TV, newspaper or internet right now. But while quality news and information are critical to staying safe and healthy, a constant barrage of media without breaks can take a toll on one’s mental health. Make a point to step away and do something else when you can.
- Exercise: It can be hard to exercise when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, but that’s exactly when you need it the most. Movement – even low-impact stretching or walking – is helpful to curtailing stress. The National Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that older adults engage in moderate activity at least 150 minutes per week. If your options for exercise are limited because of COVID-19, consider taking an online exercise class by yourself. Many gyms and fitness centers are teaching these right now. Some classes – such as those on the National Institute on Aging’s YouTube channel – are available free.
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a term you might hear your kids or grandchildren use. But this is just an all-inclusive term used to describe anything that allows you to focus your attention on the present and allow yourself to feel some serenity. This can be prayer, meditation, gardening, putting a puzzle together, working in a coloring book, needlework or knitting, or using a mindfulness app on your smartphone. If you need a little help from a mindfulness expert, we recommend this 10-minute guided meditation you can do from your computer, tablet or phone.
- Feed your body: Studies have shown that stress can cause us to overeat food high in fat and sugar, which can in turn exacerbate trouble fighting off infections. Even when we are home and sheltering in place, we can do a lot to feed our bodies. Harvard Health has a number of good tips about mindfully making good food choices, including schedules, grocery plans and types of foods to be enjoying.
- Zzzzzzz: We know sleep is important to maintaining physical and mental health. But that’s easier said than done when experiencing stress, anxiety or symptoms of depression. If you are eating well, exercising and practicing mindfulness but still having trouble sleeping, please reach out to a health care professional for assistance.
- Connect: Reach out to friends and family. Write a letter or send an email. Talk to others about how you are feeling. It’s understandable if you feel reluctant to express your own feelings to others. If that’s the case for you, try asking others how they are doing and see where the conversation takes you.