How do I stay healthy, when stress and anxiety are overwhelming? I’m tired of the pandemic, how do I take a mental break? How can I stay informed, but take care of myself?

This year has been one for the (self-help) books. As we manage the COVID-19 pandemic, stress, anxiety, and depression are rising. The stress we feel may amplify, as the day length shortens, socially distant holidays approach, and we struggle for normalcy during the pandemic. 

Staying healthy can help protect you from COVID-19 complications. Health applies both physically and mentally. Stress can affect relationships, cause physiological issues, and raise risk of stroke and heart disease. Stress can also reduce our capacity to care for others. There are many benefits to reducing stress in our everyday lives. 

Use these five tips to reduce stress and support your mental and physical health:

Get your sleep. Sleep troubles can be made worse by stress. To promote good sleep, ritualize your nighttime routine and focus on relaxation. As screens affect sleep, avoid television and phones at least one hour before bed. Reading before bed can do wonders for relaxation and your body. Lastly, set a bed and wake time and stick to them – even on weekends. 

Exercise. Exercise reduces anxiety and depression, while improving mood. Exercise, especially outdoors, refocuses your mind and can redirect your thoughts if you are feeling “stuck”. Taking a walk in the sunshine will improve your mood and energy levels while protecting you from other chronic health conditions.

Focus on healthy eating. Vitamin deficiencies can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. Vitamin deficiencies exacerbate depression, sleep issues, and mental confusion. Eating healthy is a great way to get your daily dose of vitamins and protect against chronic health conditions.  

Be mindful of how you check out. Alcohol use has skyrocketed since the onset of COVID-19. Self-medicating to manage stress can lead to addiction, greater anxiety, and physical health problems. Do not suffer in silence. There are local substance abuse resources available, if you need help or resources.

Tune out and turn off. Media coverage of the pandemic is a source of stress for many. Some media outlets use sensationalism for ratings, which compounds the anxiety and depression we feel about the pandemic. Limit your media exposure, including social media. Also, follow news from a trusted, reputable outlet that does not use sensation as a marketing tool. 

Our current world events are well suited for a Netflix series. Add one healthy, stress-reducing tip into your day to increase energy levels, reduce anxiety, and improve mood.

If you are in a mental health crisis, take advantage of local resources to get you back on track and refocus your energy in a healthy way. Right now your health is imperative. Along with wearing a face cover, social distancing, and avoiding groups, good mental and physical health is an effective tool against COVID-19.