The Corona crisis is demanding drastic adjustments to our daily routines. Not only do we have to make practical changes, it has a big emotional impact on us as well. For many of us this lockdown situation has changed the way we keep up our fitness and how we perform our training sessions. It’s frustrating not being allowed to do, what most of us like to do best, which is going for an outdoor run with our running mates. Training schedules are interrupted which may drop our fitness level and endurance. And those who signed up for a spring marathon or another race, will have to deal with the disappointment of the event being canceled. After all extra training efforts, it’s hard to accept the loss of the opportunity to achieve.
We are in an abnormal situation which is causing emotional stress. How can we take good care of our mental health & wellbeing?
Emotional stress symptoms
How we experience the situation and how we handle it has a big influence on our overall health and wellbeing. Everyone experiences emotional stress differently. Some people can handle more stress than others. But many people experience intense feelings of worry about the future: health is at risk, economy is uncertain and incomes may get lost . The limitations in freedom of movement aren’t helping either, to escape the daily buzz.
Emotional stress could develop behaviour changes, like being irritable or short tempered, having sleeping problems or a change in eating habits. But stress could also result in physical reactions such as: headaches, muscle tensions or digestion issues.
How can we be resilient and stay positive in this difficult situation?
10 Tips to deal with emotional stress during lockdown
There is not much that we can do to change the lockdown itself, but there are ways to better handle the emotional stress that is caused by the current situation:
1. Plan the day and make it happen
Routines are essential for our identity, self-confidence and purpose. It’s recommendable to start each day at the same time that we usually would. To avoid procrastination, write down and prioritise what needs to get done. Don’t write down endless to-do-lists that will hardly be doable in one day. Instead, plan of all the “must-do’s” in the available time and make sure you set realistic expectations. This will give you peace of mind. Don’t forget to schedule regular “me-time” as well. It’s important to allow yourself enough time for physical activities, relaxation, connection and reflection.
2. Physical exercise
Our physical health is the foundation for our mental health. Physical activity will reduce emotional stress. It will increase energy levels, it makes us more alert and helps us sleep better. Even without being able to go for an outdoor run, we still need to keep up our fitness. A smartwatch or pedometer can be helpful to keep track of your progress and stay motivated to achieve a minimal daily fitness goal. Runners might use this time to work on flexibility and build on physical strength:
- Connect online with other runners. Facebook has many Runners Groups where people chat and share knowledge, practical tips and personal experiences.
- Do runners strengthening workouts to become a stronger, faster, and more efficient runner.
- Perform runners yoga or do specific runners stretches to improve flexibility and balance. Yoga also helps lower stress hormone levels and blood pressure.
- Add HIIT and cardio training.
- If you have a treadmill at home: keep up your running! You might even want to join a virtual race.
- Go for brisk a walk when you do your groceries. Do physical household chores while playing motivating music.
3. Healthy nutrition
Not only can a healthy nutrition reduce the risks of diet-related diseases, it is also providing the brains with essential vitamins and minerals. Our brains allow us to move, speak, breathe, feel, think and much more. Fuelling your brain to boost its power and function, is crucial. Being mostly at home, now is the time to take dietary advantage. Find out more about healthy runners diets and try out new recipes or products. Use this time to develop healthier eating habits.
The following products and ingredients can boost your brain function: fatty fish, turmeric, blueberries, pomegranates, eggs, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds, bananas, (1-2 cups of) coffee and green tea. Best to avoid are processed foods or sugars, as they can lead to many health problems, including poor brain function.
4. Improve sleep
Get enough sleep. Most adults are recommended to sleep 7-9 hrs per day to function at their best. Regulating your body clock can help you sleep better, so go to bed at the same time each day. To calm down your eyes and brains, avoid using electronic devices (phone, tablet, computer or TV) for at least one hour before bedtime. This will help you fall asleep sooner and will improve the quality of sleep.
Relaxing can help improve mental health and suppress negative feelings. Find a balance between responsibility to others and responsibility to yourself. To reduce stress levels, it’s crucial to prioritise self-care. Find out what makes you feel most relaxed and schedule enough time for it:
- Breathing exercises can be very meditative and relaxing to body and mind. Specifically deep abdominal breathing. Learning how to establish and practice better breathing, is not only helpful for relaxation, proper breathing also has many additional benefits for runners, such as preventing side stitches, higher oxygen absorption and even a higher fat burn rate.
- Simply sit outside and appreciate natural wonders: the sunshine on your face, the flowers that are blooming, the birds that are chirping and the clouds changing shapes.
- Enjoy the peace of simple life at home, instead of the fast-paced speed of normal world. Take a nice long bath, light some candles make it cosy.
- Some people find watching television or Netflix very relaxing, as it offers us a temporary escape from our day-to-day worries. Just avoid binge watching and set a limit of time that you will watch TV. Too much TV will drain your energy level by the end of it. As laughter will relief tension by relaxing your muscles, find distractions in what makes you laugh. Choose to watch a funny movie or watch a stand up comedian performance.
- Instead of watching TV, you could also listen to funny podcasts, beautiful music or a nice audio book to relief stress.
- Make yourself useful by doing something practical. Simply do these things “just to do them”, not because it’s expected of you: take care of the plants in the garden or on your balcony, re-organise the furniture, make a photo album or prepare a nice meal. By working with your hands, you move your attention out of your head, which will distract you from negative thoughts. This might “relax” your mind for a while.
At the end of each day, make some time to reflect. Recognise what went well and think of all things that happened today, that you are grateful for. Write them down. Keeping a journal with a focus on the positive, can help relieve stress. Especially when life has become different or more difficult. Writing down a different set fitness goals and reflecting on how you experienced this new style of training, is also helpful to get rid of your frustration of not being able to do your usual runs.
Mindfulness is a mind-body approach to life, which increases our ability to manage difficult situations. It can reduce the effects of stress and related symptoms such as sleeping problems, concentration issues and low mood. By regularly shifting your attention to the moment, you will notice that you experience lower stress levels and learn to deal better with uncomfortable feelings.
Focus on the present, rather than thinking about things that happened in the past or might happen in the future. It’s no use to think about things that you can’t change or can’t influence. Also keep things in perspective, don’t dramatise: having a bad day or making mistakes, doesn’t mean life is a complete mess or you are a total failure. Appreciate yourself and be kind and supportive.
8. Limit loneliness – connect with people and support others
Having strong social ties may help you get through stressful times. Staying at home, especially for those who live on their own, can make one feel very lonely. Find different ways to keep in touch with family, friends, colleagues and also to your running buddies. It will help you (and them) feel more connected and supported.
Making yourself useful to other people, is a great way to experience fulfilment and meaning in uncertain times. Asking how someone is doing and being that person that actually listens with understanding, openness and compassion, might already be enough to make a difference.
Social media can connect runners and is an opportunity to exchange thoughts, feelings and practical tips. Sharing runners jokes, also makes us feel that we are still part of a lively and active runners community, even though we are alone and at home.
It’s not the same as real live contact, but we can still connect to and support other. Send each other letters or a parcel by post, make that phone or video call or connect through social media.
9. Patience and compassion for your partner, family and house mates
In difficult times it’s evenmore important to look after each other, protect each other and benefit to one another. But this at-home situation can get a bit challenging every now and then. Unlike a normal situation, we are now constantly surrounded by each other. Try to maintain a good atmosphere at home and be a pleasant member of the household: be patient and communicate openly, listen to each other without judgment, do little helpful things for others and make life a little bit more fun. Give space to others to have a bad day. Every now and then we might need some space for our own cranky moments as well.
10. Keep “Social media distance” and limit the frequency of news updates
We all like to stay up to date on the COVID19 situation and other important news. There is a constant flow of new data and news information. An overload of this information can make us feel overwhelmed, worries and cause more stress. It is recommendable to limit the frequency a bit and schedule to check reliable sources just ones or twice a day. This way you’ll keep yourself well informed, but it will give your brain some emotional rest as well.
Social media distancing: For your own mental health, choose reliable sources to keep you informed about COVID19 and limit the use of social media for this matter. They spread a lot of rumours and personal opinions of people who have no expertise in the field.
Stay positive – the Corona crisis will pass
Take it one day at a time, don’t panic and be patient. Everything is temporary and so is this Corona crisis.
At the moment terrible things are happening, there is suffering, fear and uncertainty, but this too shall pass. Don’t waste your time being angry or frustrated for too long. Choose on who and what to spent energy on. Accept that this situation is what it is, for now. Let go of any plans in the next few months to avoid disappointment of cancellations again. Instead take the situation a day at a time. Right now we cannot live our lives the same way as we did before. No we can’t go for an outdoors run with our training buddies and no, we cannot do the races that we trained for so long. But focus on what we can do today to make it a good day. Do that!
Meanwhile: Keep well and stay safe. Follow the official health guidelines and regulations. Let’s look after ourselves and take good care of our bodies and minds. Stay positive. Life will be better again!
I really hope this article is helpful in this stressful period that we are going through. Please consider sharing this post with friends and family, who may be struggling with more emotional stress at the moment. Even for non-runners, the tips may be useful. If you have any questions or additional tips on this topic, please don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail at an*******@mo*********.com or leave your comment below.
As the situation is developing rapidly, please check reliable resources regularly for the most up-to-date information. Recommended resources:
- World Health Organization – general, daily situation reports
- European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
For public health, stay updated on what’s going on in your living area. Find out about your local restrictions or mandatory self-quarantines and check out your own governmental websites on COVID-19 news.