When we are stressed, our breathing can become very shallow. There are specific breathing methods that can help to reduce stress, such as box breathing or belly breathing. Below are some websites and apps to help practice different core breathing skills.
This distraction game can help you focus and quiet your mind. Go through the whole alphabet and name a positive word that starts with each letter of the alphabet. The word can be a personality trait, favourite food, favourite people, etc. Try this activity using categories, like places you would like to visit, or countries of the world. When done in groups, this activity usually makes people smile and laugh. It triggers positive neuropathways. It is a good exercise to help with sleep. Even children can do it.
Mindfulness Using the Five Senses
This is a core grounding or mindfulness skill. This exercise is a way of focusing your attention on the present. Use your five senses to focus on what is happening at this moment. It quiets the mind and leaves you with a sense of being fully present. Visit the website below for more information.
Mindfulness Exercises: Awareness of the Five Senses
Thinking and Anxiety
The way that we think directly affects our mood. We think at the rate of 600 words per minute. That means 60,000 thoughts per day. Think of the difference it would have on your mood if you changed the thought, “Will this quarantine never end?” to “I have done this for a week and I know better now what works for me than I did a week ago”. Don’t scare yourself with “what if” thinking, like “what if I get COVID-19”. These thoughts are valid, but it is a much better use of your mind power to focus on self-care and the things you can control, like washing your hands, quieting your mind, and practicing physical distancing. Use your coping skills. Avoid letting your thoughts go around in circles.
Our grandmothers knew how to relax at the end of the day. Research into knitting has shown that the health benefits of knitting were “both physical and mental, and included lower blood pressure, reduced depression and anxiety, and delayed onset of dementia. Knitting was deemed as relaxing as yoga”. In these times of physical distancing, this is a great skill to learn. There are many websites and videos to help you learn to knit and many of us have yarn at home. Give it a try.
Many of us will often put on music as a way to relax. There is growing evidence that it can have a very powerful positive effect on health. Music has the power to inspire and entertain, but it can also improve your health and well-being. Put on some music while at home, you might find that you feel more motivated, happy, and relaxed as a result.
Random acts of kindness
One powerful way to improve your mood is to focus on the needs of others and do acts of kindness. Giving blood, donating to a food bank, picking up groceries for a neighbour, or loaning books to a friend may help you feel like you are supporting others during the pandemic. People are suggesting that what we will remember most when the pandemic is over are the acts of kindness. Try sharing one positive news story that happens each day with your family or friends. Remember, news outlets tend to focus on sensational items and not on positive things.
Explore apps that benefit mental health
There are many apps available that teach ways to meditate, breathe and manage anxiety. The apps below have recently announced free trial periods or free memberships.
Anxiety Canada also provides apps and resources for parents, children and teens. BounceBack and Big White Wall are excellent Canadian online platforms that provide good mental health support.
Write it out
Research shows that journaling can have a improve our health, happiness, and how we manage stress. It is one way to work through anxious or sad thoughts and feelings. When anxiety is left unchecked and your thoughts go around in circles, the problem that has you “stuck” becomes bigger than it really is. Writing helps to get your concerns and fears out of your head and into the open. It is also helpful in looking back to have perspective on the hard times you have gone through and builds resilience.
What activities do you enjoy that you can engage in at home?
- Start a virtual book club with friends. Read a chapter a day and then discuss it over the phone, Facetime, or another platform. This keeps you both stimulated and connected.
- Play “Words with Friends”, “Yahtzee”, “Connect 4” or other app games with people you know.
- Set coffee dates. Call a friend or family member while you both have your morning coffee or tea.
- Watch movies “with” friends on Netflix Party.
- Listen to online concerts.
- Access free library books and movies online.
- Make jigsaw puzzles
- Paint or do crafts
Some information in this resource was adapted from the Medical University of South Carolina.