Mental Health Stress Relief Resources
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives. Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming, and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they can make us feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and those around you become more resilient.
Stress can cause the following:
- Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
- Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are ways that you can help yourself, others, and your community manage stress.
If you are in crisis, get immediate help:
- Call 911
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454for Spanish, or Lifeline Crisis Chat
- National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
- National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
- National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or Online Chat
- Disaster Distress Helpline CALL or TEXT 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish).
Additional Stress Reducing Resources
Creative Ways to Cope with Anxiety and Depression
06/26/2020 by Yes Health
Stress and anxiety are two things we’re all feeling a little more of these days. So it’s all the more important to find creative ways to blow off steam so we can stay healthier (and happier) in the long run.
Besides talking with a licensed counselor (which is always a great way to recognize patterns and make positive changes), here are nine more coach-approved coping strategies:
1.Take deep breaths. Deep breathing stimulates the vagal nerve, which is part of the parasympathetic or “rest and digest'' nervous system. A regular breathing practice may help reduce anxiety.
2. Practice mindfulness. Try one of the many apps for ideas and inspiration. Headspace is great for beginners, Buddhify is perfect for people who want guided meditations in a variety of situations (like walking, using your phone, falling asleep, etc.) and Insight Timer is free and offers lots of options.
3. Show yourself compassion. Mindfulness-based self-compassion has been well studied to help with anxiety and depression. You can find out more about it and join an 8-week online course at selfcompassion.org
4. Eat regular meals. When blood sugars dip, we can’t access our prefrontal cortex and our automatic and reactive “lizard brain” takes over. Studies have shown that poorly controlled blood sugars can feed anxiety.
5. Take action. It doesn’t have to be something big. Finding small ways to take action helps you feel “unstuck” and motivates you to keep going. Every time you accomplish a goal-getting up to stretch every hour for example–put a gold star on the calendar or a hashmark on a sticky note. Make it visible so your brain registers that you are making progress.
6. Stay connected. Write a short, simple love note to a person you wish you could hug right now, but can’t. Send it snail-mail. This will give you (and them) a boost of oxytocin, the “love” hormone.
7. Express yourself. Try drawing, painting, coloring–even knitting or needlepoint–as a creative outlet.
8. Get moving. Find something you like to do–dancing around the house, a brisk walk at sunset, playing with your pets, jumping rope or jogging on a trampoline–and do it for just 25 minutes. You’ll find you have more energy, clarity and calm when you’re done.
9. Consider adopting or fostering a pet. Furry (as well as feathered and finned) friends can be a great company and give your life a sense of purpose. Check out your local shelters for animals in need of a home.
MORE CREATIVE WAYS TO COPE:
Games and Activities
Mental Health Benefits of Games and Activities
1. Games and activities are fun to play, allowing the players to enjoy themselves and each other.
2. Concentrating on a game allows the player to temporarily forget what is causing stress or anxiety.
3. Solutions to problems can come to the player while thinking through playing the game.
4. Games require various levels of critical analysis, logical reasoning, creative thinking, and practical knowledge.
5. Activities allow for self-expression and creativity.
6. Physical activities are good for your health.
Bringing back the activities, games, and toys from our childhood is a fun and nostalgic way to beat stress. Monopoly (teaches critical thinking, budgeting, arithmetic), Scrabble (teaches spelling, language, arithmetic, algebra, strategy, creative thinking), Legos!
Color an adult coloring page:
The benefits of coloring include reducing stress and anxiety and also helps to improve focus. Students can post coloring that they have done and tag them on Instagram to @tccounseling.
Discover our 1,500+ Free Adult Coloring pages to download in PDF or to print: various themes, artists, difficulty levels and styles.
- Have some fun with free coloring pages of famous Van Gogh masterpieces. Simply download and print, and start coloring!
Listen to a Podcast:
Some of my favorites are; On purpose with Jay Shetty, Oprahs Supersoul conversations, Tedtalks daily, The minimalists and The Secret to Success.
Exercise and Move:
- Regular exercise and movement can help increase productivity, reduce stress, and improve mood.
- Les Mills: https://watch.lesmillsondemand.com/at-home-workouts/season:1
- You can use any style, technique or medium you like to create and express. Colored pencils, oil pastels, crayons, pen/pencil, acrylic-watercolor or markers.
- Draw a safe place and express your interpretation of peace.
- Create a vision board.
- Paint, color or draw what represents your own resilience.
Mindful Hiking: ENJOY NATURE...
- Mindful HIking: ENJOY NATURE……
- Before Hiking:
- What are your current thoughts and feelings?
- Set intentions for the hike.
- During Hike:
- Focus on breathing.
- Pause occasionally to reset. Take in the nature around you.
- Take in different sights, sounds and smells.
- After Hike:
- Process thoughts and feelings.
- Before Hiking:
Nature Improves Psychological Well-Being. Nature walks benefit people suffering from depression. Studies had shown that people suffering from mild to major disorders showed significant increases in mood when exposed to nature.
Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress
Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It’s good to be informed, but hearing about the pandemic constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple times a day and disconnecting from phone, tv, and computer screens for a while.
Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Exercise regularly. Get plenty of sleep. Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use. Continue with routine preventive measures (such as vaccinations, cancer screenings, etc.) as recommended by your healthcare provider. Get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine when available.
Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, try connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.
Stress Reducing Activities You Can Do At Home
Do a quick exercise
Quick bursts of movement are great if your stress is making you feel jittery or like your heart is beating faster than normal. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a set of 20 jumping jacks, 10 pushups or sit-ups, or running in place for 30 seconds—a burst of activity gets your heart rate up, and even if brief, will activate several neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine that enhance your mood and help cushion some of that anxiety and stress,” says Dr. Guillem Gonzalez-Lomas, an orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone Sports Health.
Do something tactile
Getting out of your head and into your senses (in this case, your sense of touch) can bring you back to the here and now, says Kissen. Whether that’s popping bubble wrap, sorting your change jar to cash in at the bank, or making homemade slime with the littles, it brings you back into your body. Or you can try this quickie exercise. “Ask yourself: What’s one thing I can smell, one thing I can taste, one thing I can touch, etc.,” says Kissen. “Activating all the senses is a good grounded technique.”
Give yourself a massage
If there’s no one willing or able to work out the tension in your muscles, you can do it yourself. “There are sensory receptors in the skin that send messages to our brain, signaling that it’s safe to relax,” says Kiera Nagle, MA, LMT, CPMT, the Director of Massage Programs at Pacific College of Health and Science. It also makes you more aware of where in your body you’re feeling tense, so you can consciously relax those areas, she adds. Some good spots are that big ropy muscle at the front of your neck, your shoulders, the hinge of your jaw, and pressure points in the palm of your hand. Check out Nagle’s awesome videos if you can’t picture it.
Point your brain at a problem
If the stress is more mental than physical and you feel your mind looping around itself, give yourself a discrete task, such as organizing your shoes or doing a word puzzle. “When you’re stressed, your brain may be saying, ‘we’ve got a problem to solve’ so it keeps spinning. That’s a good time to engage your mind,” says Kissen. If you give it a task to focus on, you’ll feel calmer and be better able to deal with what’s actually stressing you out.
Dance like no one is watching
Putting on your favorite playlist and letting loose is, of course, good exercise, which is a long-studied stress-reliever. “It also engages the mind and brings on feelings of inspiration,” says Kissen. Dancing to music from a happy time and place in your life can trigger positive
memories, as well, taking your mind off your stress. One caveat: Not everyone feels comfortable dancing, even solo, and that’s fine. “Some people get stressed out when they feel pressured to dance,” so do what feels right to you.
Take a bath
Run a bath and sink on in. “By changing the body temperature, it’s the full sensory slowing down—it’s kind of like rebooting a computer that has all these windows open doing too much processing,” says Kissen. “By turning it off and starting again, it’ll help to get unstuck.” If you like, add in some other calming sensory stimulators, like fragrant soap or some chill music.
Assuming you like crafting (Kissen emphasizes some people are overwhelmed by the mere thought!), there’s evidence that the repetitive action of clicking your needles can be meditative and calming. There’s also been research that looked at women with anxiety who also had eating disorders that found knitting made most of them less preoccupied and anxious. If you’re a newbie, check out these DIY tutorial videos from We Are Knitters, which also makes easy beginner kits.
Go ahead and stress bake!
Baking checks so many stress-reduction boxes: It can be a sensory experience (smushing the dough, the smell of baked yummies and of course the taste); it is a project that requires planning, concentration, and mindfulness, which activates your brain; and if you enjoy it, it’s fun. Kate Merker, Good Housekeeping’s Chief Food Director, loves this amazing blueberry sweet roll recipe, but if you’ve had enough sugar, move on to a healthy pizza recipe. “It feels comforting and you can literally put anything on top of pizza dough,” she says. “My kids help shape the dough, which is just fun, and they get a kick out of me twirling it in the air.” And if you’re stressed by the fact that no eats the same thing in your house? “Everyone can pick and choose their own topping,” Merker adds.
You don’t even need to own a yoga mat, let alone be physically flexible, to reap the benefits of this ancient practice. There’s a ton of research about yoga’s role in stress reduction, and even taking 10 minutes to breathe and stretch in any way that feels good to you can be incredibly soothing, says NYU’s Dr. Gonzalez-Loman. If you want to do some yoga without leaving the house, these apps are a great way in.
Meditate—or even just consciously breathe
This is another well-researched stress-relieving practice that people are intimidated by but is actually super simple and really effective once you just do it, even for two minutes. Forget about clearing your mind thing and focus on breathing. Slow breathing has been shown in research to have calming effects on the central nervous and cardiovascular systems, and belly breathing specifically may improve attention, mood, and levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Try one of the many excellent apps with guided meditations, or just sit and breathe deeply from your diaphragm for a minute or two.
Go on a cleaning binge
Giving the inside of your pantry a good wipe-down or really getting into the sofa cushions with a vacuum attachment has multiple stress reducing benefits on top of fewer visits from icky vermin: it’s a project that requires a little planning, but some physical activity—both of which Kissen says can reduce stress—and is likely to result in a sense of achievement that lifts your mood. And working mindfully at it can reduce stress even more: one study found that folks who were told to stay gently focused on what they were doing while washing dishes boosted their effect (although being mindful while you do most any activity may show similar benefits.)
Do progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
Years of research have found PMR helps reduce anxiety and calm breathing. Lie down and relax, and then tighten, hold and then release each muscle in your body, one at a time, starting with your toes and moving up to the crown of your head. Do this slowly and methodically, and don’t forget the muscles of your face. It may be more relaxing to listen to someone else walk you through the exercise. Visit this link to find audio, video, and scripts that you can record and then playback to yourself.
You don’t have to have any skill at art to just let your pen have its way with the page, or even easier, pick up an adult coloring book. “Anything that can get you out of your head, if you enjoy it, can be a stress reliever,” says Kissen. If you’re not focused on how good the drawing is, then the stakes are blissfully low.
Get lost in a story
It may be hard for some people to dig into a good book when they’re feeling stressed, but binging on a super-absorbing podcast or TV series that transports you out of your life is a positive distraction. “Whether it’s a podcast or a really dumb series, mindfully attending to a
target is a great anchor,” says Kissen. In other words, the point isn’t simply to distract yourself, but to make an active choice to place your attention elsewhere, she says. The mind, says Kissen, thinks, “If only I keep thinking and thinking I’ll solve the problem and get out of it,” and choosing to anchor it elsewhere can stop this stress response.
INFORMATION FOUND IN STRESS.ORG