During an unprecedented global crisis, it’s natural to feel worried – whether it’s about your personal situation or for those you love. Here are some simple ways to cope with stress and regain a sense of calm.

As the world reacts to the financial, social and health impacts of COVID-19, it can be tough to maintain a positive outlook. While it’s normal to feel anxious, worried, or scared during a crisis, it’s important to learn how to manage your stress early – so you can keep it under control.

The good news is that, even in social isolation, there’s plenty you can do to help keep negative thoughts at bay. Here are some simple yet effective ways to enhance your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Clear your mind
In times like these, we want to keep up-to-date with how the national and global situation is progressing. But being exposed to coronavirus stories around the clock can quickly lead to feelings of alarm. That’s why it’s a good idea to switch off occasionally and free your mind from the constant news cycle.

Mindfulness is a meditation technique that has been around for thousands of years. It has proven benefits in reducing stress, anxiety and depression, as well as helping to boost memory, concentration and even your immune system.[1] That’s because it releases hormones which increase activity in the areas of your brain associated with happiness and decrease activity in the areas linked to stress.

The practice of mindfulness involves focusing on your thoughts and feelings to clear your mind of the surrounding noise. As with other types of meditation, it can help you regain some inner peace when the world around you seems out of balance.

Move your body
When we’re feeling stressed, it’s common to reach for things that give us instant relief, such as comfort food, television, or alcohol. But while these might make you feel better for a short while, they’re not great for a healthy immune system – which is vital for fighting coronavirus.

Research shows that stress has an impact on your entire body, not just on the brain.2 In addition to the physical benefits, exercise can help reduce the effects of stress and improve your mood. That’s because it increases oxygen to your brain and releases endorphins – the body’s natural feel good chemicals.[3]

Try to get out at least once a day, even if it’s just to take a walk around the block and breathe in some fresh air. You can also exercise in the garden or inside the house, even without any equipment. Just look up some YouTube workouts and get your body moving.

Stay connected
Because we can’t be physically close to our loved ones during this period, it’s more important than ever to stay socially connected. Without your usual contact with friends, family and colleagues, feelings of loneliness can quickly set in – especially if you live on your own.

Receiving support and care from others can make a powerful difference in your ability to cope with challenging situations. That’s why you need to think creatively about how to stay in touch with the people you love – which may mean finding new ways of connecting.

Thanks to technology, it is possible to engage in social activities while maintaining physical distance. Videoconferencing enables you to call multiple people at once, which means you can continue regular activities such as your book club, group workout, or choir. There are even online platforms for board games that you can play as a group – so you might get the gang together for a games night.

Try something new
If you’re finding yourself with some extra time on your hands, it’s easy to fall into a slump – and lack the motivation to use it productively. Instead of spending hours scrolling through the news or binging on Netflix, now’s the perfect opportunity to take up a new hobby.

Whether it’s learning a language, playing an instrument, or writing a novel, keeping your mind active and stimulated is a great way to stave off the effects of stress – and focus on something other than the current pandemic.

Need some advice?
Every Australian has been affected in some way by coronavirus – whether physically, mentally, financially – or all three. While there are things you can do for your mental health, when it comes to the financial impact of COVID-19 you may benefit from expert support. We can review your situation to see if you’re eligible for stimulus package support and tailor a financial plan to help you and your loved ones through the crisis.

1. Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley, Five ways mindfulness meditation is good for your health, October 2018.
2. EXCLI Journal, The impact of stress on body function: A review, July 2017.
3. Harvard Health Publishing, Exercising to relax, July 2018.