Step away from the news and breathe

by Jill Fleming, MS, RD/LD

The newest strain of the Coronavirus has created a huge wave of panic amongst our community. Everyone is worried about loved ones getting sick. It may seem like negative thoughts are running through your head on endless repeat over the past few weeks. You might feel like you’re spiraling out of control, going crazy or about to burn out under the weight of all this anxiety. This is not good, as excess anxiety or worrying can weaken your immune system.

The good news is that there are steps you can take right now to interrupt all those anxious thoughts and give yourself a time out from your worrying. So, step away from the news and (in your mind) set down your big bag of worries. Pick one of the following ways to reconnect with your body and “get out of your head” for a few minutes today.

Get up and get moving. Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment because it releases endorphins which relieve tension and stress, boost energy, and enhance your sense of well-being. Even more importantly, by really focusing on how your body feels as you move, you can interrupt the constant flow of worries running through your head. Pay attention to the sensation of your feet hitting the ground as you walk, run, or dance, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing or the feeling of the sun or wind on your skin.

Get outside. Nature is the antidote to stress. Step outside and take a few deep breaths. The fresh air, sunshine, birds and breeze will help you reconnect with your spiritual side. Have a few silent minutes in nature in the morning and evening. Just listen to the sounds and feel the air fill your lungs and touch your skin. 

Do an online yoga or tai chi session. By focusing your mind on your movements and breathing, doing yoga or tai chi keeps your attention on the present moment, helping to clear your mind and lead to a relaxed state.

Meditate. Meditation works by switching your focus from worrying about the future or dwelling on the past to what’s happening right now. By being fully engaged in the present moment, you can interrupt the endless loop of negative thoughts and worries. And you don’t need to sit cross-legged, light candles, or chant. Simply find a quiet, comfortable place and choose one of the many free meditation videos online that can guide you through the meditation process.

Practice progressive muscle relaxation. This can help you break the endless loop of worrying by focusing your mind on your body instead of your thoughts. By alternately tensing and then releasing different muscle groups in your body, you release muscle tension in your body. And as your body relaxes, your mind will follow.

Try deep breathing. When you worry, you become anxious and breathe faster, often leading to further anxiety. But by practicing deep breathing exercises, you can calm your mind and quiet negative thoughts.

Yes, you do need to be aware of how to best protect yourself and your loved ones.  Keep washing your hands, practice social distancing, eat healthy foods daily and follow the general recommendations for dealing with the Coronavirus.  In addition, plan to “get out of your head” at least once each day to limit your anxiety, stress and worry.

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