The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for the entire world. Fear and anxiety about the virus have run rampant, not to mention the stress of managing our disrupted lives. Many of us feel out of control, which only heightens stress levels. With the uncertainty, financial pressures, altered daily schedules, and social isolation COVID-19 has brought into our lives, it’s no wonder that people are feeling more stressed than ever.

While we may not be able to prevent these stressful situations, we can control how we respond to them and keep the stress from taking a toll on our well-being. Our staff at Office H2O is passionate about supporting our clients and their loved ones, so we’ve compiled this guide of activities for stress reduction.

Listen to Soothing Music

Listening to music can have a physically relaxing effect on your body and mood. Soothing songs induce your body’s relaxation response by lowering your blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones. Music has a special link to our emotions, so if you’re struggling with stress during the pandemic, we suggest creating a soothing playlist of your favorite music and listening to it whenever you feel overwhelmed.

Genres that are commonly found to be relaxing include classical, Celtic, and Native American music, but playing your favorites on repeat can also be effective. Focusing on calming sounds can help clear your mind and reduce your stress.

Light a Candle

Our sense of smell has also been linked to stress relief; emerging science suggests that smells can alter brain activity and decrease the presence of stress hormones in the body. Aromatherapy has been proven to help people feel more relaxed, more present, and more energized.

Using essential oils or lighting a candle at home can have the same effects, reducing stress and anxiety. For the most calming scents, we recommend lavender, frankincense, sandalwood, or orange blossom.

Write It Out

Scientists have linked journaling to improved health, happiness, and stress management. Writing out your feelings and thoughts can help you process your anxiety and stress, keeping you from getting stuck on negative emotions. Writing can also feel very cathartic as it allows you to get your fears and anxieties out of your head and onto the page.

Taking time to write about what you’re grateful for has also been shown to relieve stress and anxiety by focusing your mind on the positive aspects of your life. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the stress of COVID-19, take some time to write it all out.

Exercise

Exercising is one of the most effective stress relief activities; research shows that those who exercise regularly experience less stress and anxiety than their more sedentary counterparts. Exercising lowers the levels of stress hormones in your body while also releasing endorphins, which are chemicals in your body that act as natural painkillers and improve mood.

We suggest developing an exercise routine you enjoy – such as walking, dancing, or yoga – if you find yourself struggling to manage your stress. Yoga can be particularly effective as it combines exercise, meditation, and controlled breathing – activities that provide significant stress relief.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness describes practicing a state of mind that anchors you in the present moment. This practice has been shown to reduce stress by combating negative thinking. Therapy, yoga, and meditation are great ways to learn about mindfulness, but it is very simple to practice on your own. You can try guided imagery, which is essentially like taking a vacation in your mind; simply close your eyes and imagine yourself walking through a peaceful scene. Practicing this for ten minutes a day can help ground you in the present moment, reducing stress significantly.

Meditation works similarly, providing stress relief when you take a few minutes every day to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. “Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, a health and wellness coach.

Deep Breathing

When we experience stress, our brains activate our sympathetic nervous system, a process that tells our bodies to enter fight-or-flight mode. In fight-or-flight mode, our bodies are flooded with stress hormones, causing an increased heart rate and constricted breathing. Deep breathing exercises focus your awareness on your breath, which activates your parasympathetic nervous system and allows your body to enter relaxation mode.

If you’re struggling with stress management, set aside time to practice deep breathing by slowly inhaling through your nose for four counts and exhaling through your mouth for four counts. Practicing this for five minutes a few times a day can seriously reduce stress.

Cut Out Activities That Increase Stress

Sometimes, the easiest way to reduce stress is to remove the things that are causing you stress. This isn’t always possible, but if you can limit your exposure to stressful situations, doing so can allow your body and mind to relax.

During the pandemic, many of us have fallen into cycles of binge-watching the news or obsessively reading about it online. According to a study from UC Irvine, an excess of news and images about a traumatic event can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. We suggest limiting your COVID-19 media exposure to no more than twice a day and never before bed in order to better manage your stress.

Stay Hydrated for Further Stress Relief!

Here, we have a bonus for you! Studies show that dehydration leads to higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. For this reason, it is important that you’re staying hydrated in these stressful, uncertain times! What better way to stay hydrated than with Office H2O’s bottleless water systems? Check out our systems today to find the perfect one for you so that you can stay hydrated and reduce stress in your life!