Does the coronavirus pandemic have you feeling anxious? Unfortunately, that might compound the problem. Stress can weaken the immune system.
How about something that’s been proven to reduce stress and help people fight off the cold virus: a big hug. On second thought, maybe not.
Exercise can reduce stress. Of course, no gyms or yoga studio are still open.
But there are a bunch of other ways to ease your worries that are cheap, relatively easy and still allow you to maintain your social distance. Here are seven of our favorites:
A surprising number of studies (only a few of which were funded by the Wrigley Science Institute) have shown that chewing gum reduces anxiety. For example, researchers in Japan found that test subjects asked to chew mint-flavored gum twice a day for 14 days reported lower levels of anxiety and mental fatigue compared with a control group that got just a mint.
In the words of the American Institute of Stress: “There is little doubt that chewing gum can be a powerful stress buster. One has only to look at a tightly contested baseball game on TV to see how many players, coaches and managers are vigorously chewing bubble gum or something else to relieve their pent-up tension.”
Feeling lonely because you’re forced to work at home or need to practice social distancing? Try talking to God.
Shane Sharp, a Northern Illinois University sociologist who has studied prayer, said many people are able to manage negative emotions through prayer.
Sharp said prayer basically is communicating with an “other” who can make the situation less threatening.
“People, when they pray, it makes salient in their minds that God loves and cares for them,” Sharp said.
If you go down on your knees, you won’t be alone. Sharp said about 70% of Americans pray at least once a week.
Being thankful or expressing gratitude can help with relationships, stress and depression.
One method might be to keep a gratitude journal, where you regularly write down things you’re grateful for.
Sarah Moe, CEO of Sleep Health Specialists in Minneapolis, suggests something even simpler.
She asks clients who have trouble getting to sleep to say aloud three things they are grateful for before they close their eyes or if they wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back to sleep.
Hearing your own voice remind you all that you have to be grateful for seems to improve relaxation and reduce stress, Moe said.
It’s starting to get warm enough to go barefoot outside, and that’s a healthy thing, according to advocates of a practice called “grounding” or “earthing.”
Biohackers and health gurus like Deepak Chopra say that giving our bodies a chance to connect to the subtle electrical charge of the Earth can help with stress, mood, pain and inflammation.
They recommend going barefoot on the concrete, soil or grass outdoors for a half-hour at a time, or using grounding devices that will give you that connection while indoors.
Yuk it up
It might not hurt to try to find the humor in the situation.
According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter can be a great form of stress relief, stimulating circulation, aiding muscle relaxation, enhancing the intake of oxygen-rich air, increasing endorphins released by your brain, even improving your immune system.
When you’re short on laughs, Mayo recommends everything from comic strips to funny movies. Even laughing at not anything in particular can help.
“Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
If you want to find something funny about the pandemic, check out the YouTube videos on the creative, hands-free “Wuhan shake.”
Or, if you’re working from home, take a break with the viral “BBC dad” video, described as “every work-from-home parent’s nightmare.”
Yarn bomb it
Knitting’s meditative, repetitive rhythm has been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower depression and anxiety and increase a sense of well-being. Manipulating soft, soothing yarn has been compared to yoga in its ability to create a relaxed state.
If you start now, you’ll have a head start on the Craft Yarn Council’s “Stitch Away Stress” campaign in April.
Just 10 minutes spent petting a dog or a cat has been shown to reduce levels of a major stress hormone, according to a study conducted at Washington State University.
Oh, by the way, the American Kennel Club, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control say that pets aren’t affected and are not a source of infection for COVID-19.