During this unprecedented time, a person may begin to experience emotions that they may have never experienced before. This may include feelings of sadness, anxiety, stress, and worry. Although these feelings can be uncomfortable, they are normal as our brains continue to process what it means to be isolated from others and “stuck at home.”
In order to bring a sense of encouragement and hope to those around them, the graduate students of Chi Sigma Iota, an international and professional academic honor society for counseling students, counselor educators, and professional counselors, have come together to share some techniques that have helped them remain focused and calm during this unprecedented time. These techniques include a deep breathing exercise, a grounding and mindfulness technique, and activities for stress relief. Additionally, resources for further assistance with mental health or basic needs are provided.
Deep Breathing Exercise
Breathing can be a powerful tool to ease stress, relax your mind, and make you feel less anxious. There are many deep breathing exercises that can be found on the internet, and many exercises are modeled on YouTube. One deep breathing exercise is as follows:
Close your eyes.
Place one hand on your stomach and another hand on your chest.
Breathe in slowly through your nose and imagine filling your stomach with air. Feel your stomach rise. The hand on your stomach should be higher than the hand on your chest.
You may think, “I breathe in peace and calm.”
Breathe out slowly through your nose and imagine your stomach letting air out. Feel your stomach lower to let all the air out.
You may say in your mind, “I breathe out stress and tension.”
Repeat three more times or as often as you need to.
A Grounding and Mindfulness Technique
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing on one’s awareness on the present moment. Some of the benefits of mindfulness activities include relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, and improving sleep. Try this mindfulness activity while looking out the window:
Can you find five objects? This may include a tree, flower, bird, house, lawnmower, bush, car, children running outside.
After you find five objects, can you imagine what four of those objects feel like? For example, can you feel the fluffiness of a cloud, the warmth of the sun, the wind blowing by a tree?
Of those objects, are there three that you can hear? For example, a bird chirping, a car’s motor, children laughing, the wind blowing, the lawnmower mowing
Are there two things you can smell? For example, can you smell the flower or the fresh-cut grass?
Is there one item you can taste? For example, fresh air, a cup of coffee, etc….
Activities for Stress Relief
During this time of isolation, mental health is just as important as physical health. Some activities for stress relief may include journaling thoughts, ideas, or memories, scrapbooking or crafting, listening to music, contacting loved ones, sitting outside in the sunshine, coloring or drawing, playing a game, going for a walk, and/or taking a hot shower or bath.
Resources for Assistance
There are many mobile applications, or “apps” that can be downloaded to a cell phone or personal tablet and may be a helpful addition to those who need more guided support. Many of the creators of such apps are offering free access for COVID-19. These apps include: Calm, Headspace, Ginger, Lifesprite, and Shine. Additional resources accessible by phone or email are listed below.
- Allegheny County Crisis Hotline: 1-888-424-2287
- Childline: 1-800-932-0313 or 412-473-2000, keepkidssafe.pa.gov
- Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank: pittsburghfoodbank.org/covid19
- National Crisis Text Line: Text “LISTEN” to 741-741
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- Pittsburgh Coalition Against Domestic Violence: 1-800-799SAFE (7233)
- Pittsburgh Crisis & Suicide Hotline: 412-820-HELP (4357)
- Resolve Crisis Network: 1-888-7-YOUCAN (1-888-796-8226)
- Washington County Crisis Hotline: 877-255-3567
- Washington Drug & Alcohol Commission, Inc.: 724-223-1181
- Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh: 412-687-8005
- If you need assistance with shopping or running errands during the COVID-19 pandemic, or want to help, Pittsburgh Cares has a buddy program that can match you with an individual to help! Contact: (412) 471-2114 or visit pittsburghcares.org/covid19
Together, we can get through this!