This is a time of stress for most of us. The media surrounds us with news of death and exposure numbers. The government initiates increasingly restrictive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. Predictable realities, such as being able to buy toilet paper, are no longer predictable. Routine social connections are being discouraged.
By Actively Reducing your Stress, It Helps You and Your Relationships
You know how they do the safety instructions on an airline, directing you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others? I am telling you to put on your oxygen mask first, as well.
By taking care of yourself and consciously doing things to reduce stress, you will have more emotional resilience. With that, you are better able to manage the unpredictable and stressful things occurring in yourself internally, in your relationship, and in your environment. Below are 5 different categories to use for your ‘oxygen mask’.
There’s so much evidence that being in nature is beneficial at decreasing stress. Right now, spring is finally starting to emerge; take advantage of it!
This means going on those long exploratory hikes or meandering off your back porch and seeing the wildlife in your backyard. Consider exploring the ocean coast during springtime, when it’s not packed with sunbathers. Even sitting on a bench at a local park and observing squirrels chasing one another gives you some of that biological benefit of nature.
Try Alternative Exercise
You probably know the exercise helps with reducing stress, but it doesn’t just have to be going to the gym. It’s just about making your body move! So consider doing things that you know you enjoy.
This can include such things as going outside and playing with your kids. Perhaps dancing to fantastic music in your living room. Taking a hike up Mount Tom (remembering the 6 foot social distance guide). Don’t forget the quieter activities, such as following a yoga session on YouTube video or pulling weeds in the garden are exercise and help you reduce your stress.
If you are a client of mine, you have heard me speak repeatedly about the benefits of meditation. Research has shown consistently that it helps people handle emotional distress and its cumulative effect helps you even when you are not consciously even doing it.
Many people do not know how to meditate; I did not either at one point. I encourage you to go to some meditation apps such as Headspace or Calm. They do a fantastic job of teaching you and they provide initial sessions for free.
Three disclaimers. First disclaimer: in my own experience and my observation of others, it takes about three weeks of you meditating at least five times a week for you to experience the benefits. You will not immediately feel better. You don’t have to meditate HOURS, just 10 minutes seems sufficient.
Second disclaimer: meditation is not about “not thinking”. So even if you cannot stop thinking, you can still meditate! It’s more about noticing what you are thinking and then letting it go.
Third disclaimer: I am not a guru and have a LONG way to go in my meditation practice. I have been amazed at how it has impacted my life and my clients, though. so check it out and give it a good try!
Engage in Play
Playing (meaning, engaging in a pleasurable activity) is a natural antidote to stress. That means many things to many people.
This can include connecting activities such as playing board games or tossing a frisbee outdoors. Maybe you want to stir up positive emotions by watching a funny movie together or revisiting old family photos.
“Play” is about doing something that gives you pleasure. It doesn’t have to be wild and raucous; it can be sweet, quiet, and done on your own. Those quieter activities of reading a book, working on the jigsaw puzzle, or sitting outside and watching birds flit around all count as play.
Connect with people or animals
We are social beings, thus, we benefit from connecting with others. When we are stressed, we experience varied emotions and often feel ‘alone’ with them. Due to this, I encourage that you consider consciously increasing your connecting.
Physical connections with your partner, such as hugs and touches, release soothing hormones and help your brain feel not ‘so alone’ in this distress. Use this benefit consciously; when distressed, actively ask to be held. Soothe your partner as well by playing with his/her hair or touching him/her in a way that is soothing.
Social connections through video, text, or phone are also helpful. When you are interacting with others, I encourage you set up an agreed amount of time to discuss ‘the situation’, then consciously use the remainder of time to discuss other topics. As validating as it is to see another’s distress, it can also exacerbate your own. So acknowledge it and then use the remaining time to discuss ‘positive’ things or topics that you would normally have discussed pre-COVID-19.
If you do not have a partner, you can also get a lot of benefit from connecting physically with animals. Reaching out and playing with a pet reduces your sense of being alone and actively dissipates some of the stress chemicals in your body. Quietly stroking your pet soothes you internally and reduces stress indicators, such as heart rate.
You know me; I am all about the connecting. That is the goal for all my Private Couples Retreats and Couples Workshops. Don’t ignore the science that shows we need to connect. Accept it and reach out.
We Will Get Through This
This is a temporary situation. It will pass. This is also an opportunity for growth. Consider the stress you are feeling right now and review which ‘oxygen mask’ area you want to try first. You can develop and practice healthy things right now that will continue to help you and your relationship once things are ‘back to normal’. So put on that mask! 🙂
Experience Deeper Connection and Improved Communication in Your Relationship With an ONLINE Couples Workshop
It is so wonderful to feel like your partner ‘has your back’. Unfortunately, we are not really taught the tools to ‘be there’ for our partners. So both people in the relationship generally want a deeper, more meaningful connection, but simply don’t know HOW. We can teach you!
Private Couple and Marriage Retreats (couples therapy intensives) and “Hold Me Tight®” Couples Workshops help you learn communication tools so you can resolve conflicts and re-connect. New England Hold Me Tight has skilled therapists and relationship coaches who specialize in helping couples like you who want to save a marriage or improve a relationship.
To start your path towards a healthier relationship, follow these simple steps:
1. Learn more about ONLINE “Hold Me Tight Workshops®”. If you think it could be helpful to improve communication and connection, sign up!
2. Start to communicate more effectively and deeply.
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