As we each continue to navigate the uncharted waters of our current unique situations, it’s important that we also continue to keep a close watch on our mental and emotional health. It’s not unusual to be experiencing moments of fear, stress, or overwhelm during this season
Learning healthy coping and stress management strategies can go a long way in mitigating difficult emotions or mental health challenges. Here are some ways to help support and nourish your mental and emotional health.
Being mindful doesn’t have to be complicated! Taking time to focus on where you are and how you’re feeling in the present moment can take some work, but it doesn’t have to be a complex process. Sometimes simply limiting multitasking and choosing to focus solely on the task you’re completing (i.e. eating, drinking, reading, etc.) can be helpful!
Take some time to sit quietly and take deep breaths, breathing in through your nose for 3 seconds, holding it for 3 seconds, and breathing your through your mouth for 3 seconds. You could also put your hand on your belly as you breathe, filling it up with air like a balloon and deflating it when you breathe out. This can have a profound impact on your nervous system and, as a result, your anxiety or stress levels.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive Muscle Relaxation can be practiced briefly and subtly during high anxiety moments or can be a specific mindful practice that you schedule into your day! In a comfortable chair or lying down, flex each muscle group for 10 seconds and then release the tension, relaxing completely for 30 seconds. Some people find it helpful to work from their head to their toes, while others focus on areas of increased tension such as shoulders, jaw, or legs.
Meditation is a way of changing where our attention is focused and, instead, clearing our minds of stressful or disturbing thought patterns. This lowers our stress hormone levels and reduces the harmful effects of anxiety or stress. Apps such as Calm provide guided meditation sessions that can be helpful as you learn this practice. There are also many YouTube videos and online resources that can be very helpful!
Utilize Other Grounding Techniques
Keeping our mind and focus in the here and now is the goal of many of these coping strategies. However, sometimes we need to simplify even further and focus specifically on our body’s physical presence and the space it occupies. Once we can focus on our body, it’s often easier to gain control of anxious or scary thoughts. Touch is a great way to do this. You can find an object you like such as a soft stuffed animal or a stress ball and touch it, focusing on how it feels. You could also focus specifically on your surroundings, such as the smoothness of the table you’re sitting at, the rough bark on a tree during a walk, or the coolness of the pillow on your face when trying to sleep. Describe the physical feelings in your mind (or out loud!) and do so in a calm way. You can do the same with your other senses, using statements such as “I feel, I taste, I smell, I hear, etc."
Regardless of what coping or mindfulness strategies you choose to utilize, consider making a visual list of the methods that help you, along with other healthy, relaxing practices (i.e. drink water, take a walk, call a friend, color, etc.) either on paper or on a device that you can reference when you’re dealing with difficult fears or emotions. This way, you have already given yourself a plan or a path to follow and are better able to quickly and effectively employ helpful strategies.
It’s not unusual to be experiencing moments of fear and/or stress, or feelings of being overwhelmed during this season. Your emotions and mental experiences each day matter. You matter! Especially to all of us here at WU.
Click below to download the complete wellness guide, developed by Waynesburg University's Pathways Center team. This guide includes resources for mental, spiritual and physical wellness, as well as suggestions for taking a break.