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#COVID-19: Staying emotionally well

Animal reminds you to breathe, via GIPHY

These are strange days, indeed. Even if you're a pro at working remotely, even if you like a cave-like existence, forced isolation can be emotionally challenging. I asked my good friend Fox Vernon, a professional therapist, to share some tips for staying emotionally healthy right now.

4 ways to lower anxiety and stress from a certified therapist

There are tons of things we can do to reduce anxiety. Vernon suggests starting by asking others what they're doing or watching others who seem to be coping and copying what looks like it will work for you.

More concretely, though, he offers these suggestions:

  1. Keep doing what works. "Whatever is working for you now, or has worked for you in the best, keep doing or start doing that again, and do more of it," he says. If that involves exercise, do check in with your doctor first.
  2. Cut yourself some slack. "We are all going to regress. We are all going to fall back on bad habits. Frankly, we may need to do this sometimes. So, take the step of showing some self-love, and give yourself permission not to be perfect as you do your best to respond to the crisis that is in front of you," Vernon counsels.
  3. Breathe! It's very simple, but it works. "Whenever you feel overwhelmed, just take a deep breath through your nose, hold it for a count of three, and then exhale through your nose, allowing yourself to make as much noise as you can.
  4. Do the crazy dance. "I learned this from a wise client," he laughs. "After a particularly stressful situation or encounter, find a private space and dance around wildly for 15 to 20 seconds, shaking all your limbs, jumping up and down, and even hooting and hollering if no one will hear you. This spasmodic release is a great way to have your body tell your mind to let go of anxiety and enjoy life!"

3 more tips for reducing stress

I'm not a professional counselor, nor have I played one on TV, but I do I have a three tips of my own to share:

  1. Ask for a hand. This is a hard one -- I know because nobody likes riding in on a big horse and looking invincible more than I do -- but it's really important not to try to do everything yourself. Be open to asking others for specific support -- a video call for companionship, help getting your taxes together, etc. Today a friend of mine who owns a retail store asked me to help her write a letter to customers. I was happy to say yes. Which brings me to a corollary:
  2. Be of service. It feels good when we help others. So look for opportunities like buying a gift card at the local coffee place or ordering takeout for curbside pickup. Take some items to the local foodbank -- donations are down as need is skyrocketing. Contribute to community funds for service workers. It feels good to help.
  3. Zone out. Supposedly nature has all kinds of calming and restorative properties, so I've been tuning into various zoos' and aquariums' webcams. You can float in a kelp bed for some relaxation, or check out a bunch of penguins or sea otters to make you giggle.

We're in this together, but we gotta start by taking care of ourselves. Reach out if we can help you with something.

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Be well.

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