HOW TO DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY AND TACKLE ANXIETY IN LOCKDOWN
by MITA MISTRY
THERE is no denying that 2020 has been a difficult year for people around the world, and it is fair to say that most have likely had their stress levels raised to new levels.
Many have either adopted common stress-busting methods like meditation, relaxation, extra sleep, yoga, listening to soothing music, exercise, massages and therapy or been advised to do so by others. But these well-known methods are not the only self-isolation stressbusters and there are many unusual ones that are effective during lockdown.
So, if the well-documented methods haven’t worked or if you are looking to do things differently, Eastern Eye presents unusual and easy to do science-backed ways that will help make you feel better during difficult days of Covid-19.
Nap: The benefits of sleep are well-documented, but a power nap in the day is also a scientifically proven way to feel better, as it has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol and other stress-related hormones. The key is to get shut-eye for no longer than 20-minutes as it may affect your sleep at night.
Breathing: It may seem obvious, but many breathe shallowly without realising when feeling stressed or anxious. The simple action of slowing down and taking long deep breaths lowers cortisol levels, which helps reduce tension, anxiety and stress. When focussing on your breathing, inhaling the scent of essential oils, diffusers and fragranced candles can also help to calm stress, by activating feelgood hormones in the brain. Rosemary, lavender, sage, lemon and bergamot, among others, have been scientifically shown to help.
Visualisation: A great holiday from a cluttered mind is to visualise positive imagery, which is simply closing your eyes and imagining yourself in a happy place. This could be anything from a beach vacation to doing that job you always wanted or a dream house. Perhaps, look at photos of a happy memory to help find these pleasant places. Immerse all your senses in this image and allow yourself to feel everything about that happy place. You can revisit this sanctuary as often as is needed.
Read: A great book will help you escape the confines of lockdown and switch off from stressful situations, like the news, which may be adversely affecting you. Reading has been found to decrease blood pressure, lower heart rate and according to one study can even reduce stress by up to 68 per cent. What is there not to love about curling up on the sofa with a page-turning book and a soothing hot drink?
Water: You are more likely to forget to drink water during stressful times, but it is essential because when the body is dehydrated it can elevate stress levels. So, drinking water will help the entire body function better, which will, subsequently, help you in problem-solving, dealing with challenges and calming the mind. Studies have shown that being just half a litre dehydrated can increase stress producing hormones. Try this tip – fill a one or two litre bottle of water at the start of your day to monitor your fluid intake.
Tea: Swap caffeine-infused hot drinks for the wonders of herbal teas that are widely available. One study found that peppermint tea reduces frustration, anxiety and fatigue. Studies have shown chamomile and ginseng teas reduce stress, while kava reduces anxiety. Green tea has various health benefits like lowering stress, aiding in sleep and the antioxidants are known to protect the body against disease. Other herbal teas like fennel, rose and turmeric have been found to have various anti-anxiety and mind-calming effects.
Write: One of the greatest ways to boost mental and physical health is to express how you feel. If you don’t want to share your problems with anyone else, just write it down. Research has shown that journaling about difficult emotions is beneficial on multiple levels. You can also use the power of the pen to create a gratitude journal. Perhaps, make a habit of writing three things you are grateful for daily and revisit it when the stress begins to rise. Research has shown that writing about positive things is a proven mood booster.
Gum: A study found that anxiety levels dropped by some 17 per cent in mildly stressed people when they chewed gum. It acts as a short-term buffer on the brain against stress and can also help calm heart rates.
Hugs: Various studies have found hugs will make you feel happier. Hugs reduce blood pressure, lower stress and form positive relations. But they can also help you or someone going through a difficult time feel protected and momentarily switch off from any tension. Hugging releases the hormone oxytocin, which is associated with higher levels of happiness. Who doesn’t love a big bear hug? Kissing is equally effective and lovely.
Trees: The phrase ‘tree hugger’ is often used as a joke, but there is more to this than just laughs. Being in nature has been a proven mental health booster and yes, hugging a tree does help because it releases happy hormones like dopamine and oxytocin, which helps trigger feeling calm.
Colours: Looking at bright colours is a scientifically proven way to feel better. Green is known to be soothing and the right shade of blue can be peace-inducing. Go a step further and start painting or drawing. Art therapy has been known to reduce stress and help manage it better. It is also a great escape and the bright colours will brighten your day. Also, you are never too old for a colouring book as there are plenty available for adults.
Cleaning: This is not only a great form of exercise, which is a proven stress buster, but it can also occupy the mind, reduce nervousness and make you momentarily forget about any worries. Also, studies show keeping a clean environment and decluttering have multiple positive effects on the mind, which includes enhanced clarity and getting inspired. It literally is letting go of old stuff and making space for new inspiration.