10 Tips to Cope with Stress During COVID

Posted by on Feb 25, 2021 in Featured Slider, News | 0 comments

Hathaway-Sycamores’ Lin Min Kong shares tips to cope with stress during COVID

Hathaway-Sycamores' Lin Min Kong As we approach the one-year mark of the beginning of the pandemic, I often hear people struggling to sustain themselves as the pandemic drags on. We all initially rallied together, but how long can we keep this up? During these times it is critically important to pause and reflect on how we are doing. You may be feeling irritable, short-tempered, stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, sad, fearful, unmotivated, tired, unwell – or all of the above. Though difficult, these complex feelings are what make us human.  We honor ourselves and our humanity by bringing our attention to and acknowledging our feelings and being gently curious about them. This allows us to gain insight into our internal world and to keep our hearts open to others.

I once reminded a struggling therapist to practice self-care, and she replied, “Lin Min, that’s just one more thing on my To-Do list that I’m failing miserably at.” I have since thought a lot about what she said. If we care about each other, should we not all be invested in each other’s physical and emotional well-being? Indeed, the term “self-care” should be renamed “community-care.” If we have the courage to express our needs and ask for help, it lets others know they can ask us for help too.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable fosters trusts and builds connection and community.  Asking my husband to cook dinner and watch the kids 3 times a week so I can exercise lets him know I can trust and rely upon him, gives the children time with their dad, and ultimately helps me be a better wife and mother.  Scheduling a weekly call or socially distanced walk with a dear friend allows us both time to feel heard and receive needed emotional support.

Here are 10 community-care strategies to plan together with your loved ones:

1. Set an intention for the day. Verbalize your intention in the morning to your loved ones as you start your day and share your experience at the end of the day. For instance, saying to others that you intend to take a walk during lunch helps you commit to doing it and also get support from others to make it happen. Another example is turning your intention towards kindness towards yourself and others, e.g. I will do one thing kind today. And then ask at the end of the day: How was I kind today? How did someone else show kindness towards me?

2. Exercise. We may feel too tired or that we don’t have the time. However, exercise decreases stress, improves our sleep, elevates our mood, increases our energy, and boosts our self-esteem. If a water pipe bursts at home, we would prioritize it and make the time to get it fixed, no matter how busy we are. But isn’t your health and well-being more important than a plumbing problem? Start with small achievable goals, e.g., walking for 15 minutes 3 times per week instead of 1 hour per day and work your way up. Celebrate your successes!

3. Go outside. Connecting with nature helps us remember that the world is expansive and puts our day-to-day worries in perspective. Look up at the sky.  Having space around you expands the space in your mind. Allow yourself to experience the wonder and gratitude of being alive and being part of our world.

4. Eat healthy. Nourish your body. When we synchronize our mind, body, and spirit, we are better able to access our genuine selves. Notice when we reach for unhealthy foods that make us feel worse later. Pause and be gently curious – is it anxiety, boredom? Name it, and be nurturing towards yourself, or share your feelings with a loved one, then replace the unhealthy food with a healthy alternative or activity.

5. Sleep. When you are fully rested you will be more mentally, physically, and emotionally ready and available for yourself and others the next day. Don’t just set your clock to wake up, set your clock to go to sleep.

6. Practice mindfulness. This requires us to intentionally move from our fast-paced culture focused on “doing,” to slowing down and just “being.” At various points in the day, bring yourself to be fully present in the moment, rather than replaying the past or worrying about the future. Let go of old storylines and allow yourself to see clearly, and to be your authentic self. As exercise helps strengthen our bodies, meditation can help strengthen our minds and keep us grounded. In meditation, we sit as a strong mountain, our thoughts are the clouds that we let drift by without grabbing on to them, and our emotion is the weather, sometimes stormy, sometimes sunny, always changing.

7. Do the things you love. Engage in activities that build on your skills, talents, and strengths – what fills your cup and feeds your soul? Do it as often as you can.  If you haven’t found it yet, then take the time to discover yourself. Have fun and be light-hearted. “The day that people take joy as seriously as they take sorrow, perhaps we can turn a corner.”

8. Spend time with those who nurture you. Spend time with people who bring out your best self. You know who those people are. It may be family or friends, a coach or mentor, it may be God or your spiritual faith.

9. Help others and be kind. We know that helping others is the right thing to do. But did you know research shows that engaging in acts of kindness also decreases pain, stress, anxiety, depression, blood pressure, and even helps you live longer? Click here to learn more about how acts of kindness can benefit your health. When we give of ourselves, we improve our life satisfaction – we are happier.

10. Be gentle with yourself. Our internal critic often tells us what we “should” do or judges us on what we “should have” done. We are so hard on ourselves and frequently question our own self-worth. Did I do a good job? What will others think of me? Am I good enough? Even though we all have room to grow, know this – you are perfect just the way you are. 

As vaccinations role out and we begin to discuss what re-opening might look like, we are beginning to feel more hopeful. Despite the suffering we have all endured, this pandemic has also given us the opportunity for self-reflection and brings clearly into focus what is most important in our lives – each other.

Lin Min Kong is the Director of Clinical Program at Hathaway-Sycamores Los Angeles Office. 

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