Facing your family 24/7 and dealing with the pandemic and impending worldwide economic crisis can lead to frustration and fear. Lim Swee Lin, an executive and transformational coach as well as author of 10 Easy Habits of Being Well, Staying Well, offers some advice on how to cope with this situation.
We have all lost our familiar way of life and stress has crept into our lives in one way or another during the pandemic — most of us are feeling fear and frustrated in different degrees. Regardless of our circumstances, Swee Lin’s top three tips here are designed to make you feel better, by tackling your fight-or-flight hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. Besides empowering you with tools to develop a healthier mind and outlook, these tips also help your body turn off inflammatory stress hormones and replace them with serotonin and dopamine.
These actionable tips are also designed to improve mental and emotional health. If binge watching Netflix is your approach to getting through COVID-19, pick comedies and light-hearted flicks because smiling and laughing also trigger feel-good hormones. As the saying goes, laughter is indeed the best medicine.
Tip 1: Breath like a baby (3 minutes)
What you do
- Close your eyes.
- Breath in slowly and gently through your nose.
- Breath out slowly and gently through your nose.
- Repeat 10 times.
How it works
Do you know that babies breathe deeply through their noses with their bellies and chests rising up and down? When distressed and crying happens, babies inhale and exhale through their mouths — their noses are blocked, breaths become quick and shallow as they breathe through their mouths. Physically, shallow breathing conditions us to produce stress hormones.
As adults, we’re often hunched over our desks as we go about our daily grind in the office. A lot of us also suck in our bellies to combat a growing stomach. All these activities are related to stress and result in shallow breathing. So, trick your brain back into calm and shut down stress hormones fast, by learning to breathe like a baby again.
Tip 2: Change your focus (5 minutes)
What you do
Ask yourself the following questions:
- “What you are feeling?”
- “What is your focus (i.e., what am I thinking or doing)?”
- “What you would like to feel?
- “What focused set of thoughts or actions would help you feel the way you want to feel?”
How it works
When we overthink about a stressful situation, the more upset we feel. This is commonly known as stuck thinking or over-ruminating, which also releases stress hormones in our bodies With that and the associated feelings of frustration or fear, we also shut down areas of our brains responsible for creative and flexible problem solving, which hinders us thinking rationally especially when facing challenges.
The next time you are stuck in a pattern of negative thinking, take a moment to acknowledge your feelings and thoughts. Then, quickly redirect yourself to positive thoughts.
Tip 3: Write a gratitude list (5-10 minutes)
What you do
- Write down 10 things that you are grateful for in life
- Close your eyes and feel gratitude from your heart
- Now imagine people or places you like in front of you
- Smile and extend the feelings of gratitude and good tidings towards them.
Why it works
One of the fastest ways to induce your body to produce feel-good hormones is via gratitude The mind cannot tell what is real versus perceived. Once you start using your imagination to picture happier, calmer scenes, you will start to feel better.
If you have never written a gratitude list before, here’s a tip.
Be grateful for the simplest things in life that you may have taken for granted. For example, access to clean, drinking water; a roof over your head; food on the table etc. If these are readily available to you, remember that you are already better off than millions of people around the world.
As a variation, you can also use gratitude to help yourself feel better when dealing with challenging situations or people. Besides the five steps listed above, try adding five things about the challenges that you are grateful for, and extend feelings of gratitude towards the situation or people.
Main image: Fabian Moller/Unsplash