We all have stress.
It can consume us
and damage our
But we can find
peace and calm
And joy with a few
If you are feeling stress, you are not alone. Most people in the world feel it in different ways and settings. At home, at work, for yourself or family or friends. Before coronavirus, there was a stress epidemic already at play. COVID-19 has understandably added more and we need to address it. Fortunately, there are great and no cost ways to do so.
To help, we decided to create this resource page to provide you with some collated information regarding ways to manage stress. To help you better understand what stress does to people, we have provided some background. It is, of course, intended to help motivate rather than induce additional stress, similarly to how learning about diet and exercise need some context why people need to lose weight or be more physically fit.
The good part–the reassuring part–is that if you decide to help yourself, you can be empowered to make a big impact on your own health. At a time when many things are out of our control, we can reassert control over this. This is really positive–it does not require any medication or new technology to access. We are born with the technology in place–we just need to access it regularly.
While we have looked at all of the sources below, we have not been able to test or research all of them. Please use them as a starting place—find what works for you, then go with what you like. There are lots of paths to get to the same thing. Finding the path that works for you will make it sustainable.
These lists, of course, cannot be all inclusive. We apologize for those that we may have inadvertently left off. We always welcome suggestions.
Finally, if your stress level is high and feel that you need help beyond what you can do on your own, please reach out to a mental health professional. Here are links to the American Psychological Association and the CDC that can provide some guidance.
Stress comes in two general forms: psychological and physical. For most people, it is psychological stress that we think of. That kind of stress could be self-doubts, fears, loneliness, depression, or anxiety.
The stress response—the kick in of the “fight or flight” mechanisms—are dependent on how the person perceives these stressors. For example, in the coronavirus age, maybe it is the fear of us or someone we care about getting the disease. Maybe it is concern over losing work. In regular times, maybe it is feeling that we are excluded or not liked.
Physical stressors—illness, injury, etc., add to the burden of our disease if they continue too long. They can worsen our physical condition and bring out new problems.
The stress response depends on how much we react to these thoughts, whether real or simply perceived. What is important to know is that how we feel mentally affects our physical state and, in turn, our physical state affects our mental health. And what is also important is to know this is addressable.
The reason we need to care about managing stress is that it affects our mental and physical health. Stress, particularly when endured for long periods of time, can induce depression, anxiety, anhedonia, and sleep disturbances. It can affect how clearly we think and how we make decisions. More rapid onset of dementia is also associated with stress.
For our physical health, prolonged stress affects immune regulation and inflammation. It can make us more susceptible to infectious illnesses, particularly viral illness. It can induce or worsen asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and other medical problems. In fact, there are a lot of common diseases that stress is such an important part of creating.
Understanding this is really important–and hopefully a motivator to do something about it. You can–and if you choose to, you will find yourself happier, less reactive to challenges and outside stressors that you can’t control, and ultimately, healthier. And it could affect how you would respond to being exposed to coronavirus.
In addition to the personal terms, stress has a financial cost, too. Before COVID-19, we knew that workplace stress alone cost ~$300 billion each year in the US. The total price tag for government, business, and society is likely much greater.
We need to fix this–and the great news is that it is addressable by people using “technology” that we were born with. When COVID-19 is behind us (it will end), these techniques will help us in our everyday and more “normal” lives.
Four types of resources are shown below. These include:
- Kindness and Compassion
- Smiling and Laughter
Meditation is an ancient technique practiced in different ways to help quiet the incessant chatter in our minds. Almost everyone has these thoughts to greater or lesser degrees. These thoughts often surround fear and/or ego and, in turn, generate stress when we focus on them (e.g., “what will happen if I can’t work?” or “will we get infected?” or “I’m not good enough”). The same thoughts often replay themselves.
Simply put, the purpose of meditation is to help you be more present and aware. By doing so, the myriad of thoughts, often worries and fears, start to die down. That makes us happy and more able to be calm and focused.
The goal is not to suppress negative thoughts or be distracted from them. The intent is to not allow those thoughts from distracting us from what we need to do, particularly being in the present. Martial artists, for example, practice meditation to quiet their minds so they can react better during a fight. Athletes and many others also do so. Musicians meditate through their music–if they did not, it would not flow well. Some might call it “being in a groove.”
Meditation is also not intended to blind us to or remove real concerns like solvency or the health of our families. By being more present, meditation can help calm the mind so that we can deal with problems themselves. By changing how your thoughts affect you, you have a great skill to buffer against overreacting to stressors and challenges.
When these thoughts are coming too fast or won’t move on, they distract us from living–from enjoying life to its fullest. Meditation helps us be aware of those thoughts but not attached to them. That way, we can deal with our problems more calmly and not induce the stress response.
Meditation is easy to start but like many other activities, requires practice to get good results from it. Like any other exercise, it takes time to get better. But if you practice regularly (daily), you will get the rewards, just like lifting more weight or running further or faster. You will find a lot of thoughts streaming while you meditate—keep going. It is like finding your wind while you are doing physical exercise.
The practice is relatively small—a few minutes each day will suffice. At first this can be 5 minutes or so. Getting up to 15-20 is the goal. Out of 1440 minutes in the day, can you spare around 1%? If you do so, you will find that you get in return calmer, happier, and more productive minutes in the day.
Here is a list of resources for you to consider. Some are free (noted), others available for a charge.
To understand more about meditation:
- Dan Harris narrates a very good free introductory video from Happify:
We have created a short video that explains what may be going on in your mind and get you started with meditation. It starts off discussing the issue of negative thinking (worries, fear), followed by some ways to practice. You can see it below:
The set by Andrew Weill and Jon Kabat-Zinn is very insightful for those interested in more depth. Soundstrue also has more resources (for a fee).
The following is a list of sites to find different meditations: we recommend that you try a few and see what appeals to you.
Think of it like a buffet and you need to taste a bit to see what you like. Some of it may be the quality of the voice, some may be the imagery they use. All of these are free.
- Meditation Oasis has a lot of meditations to choose from, all for free during COVID-19
- Dan Harris’ TenPerCent Happier site offers free meditations from some great experts in recognition of need due to coronavirus (usually a charge).
- UCLA provides well done meditations—also have them in Spanish
- Free Mindfulness Download is just what is sounds like: . Just requires downloading.
- Happify (happify.com) has free track with content from Rick Hanson, PhD.
- Spotify: search guided meditations (available with free version). See what you may like
The following sites have a fee associated with them, several with free trials.
- Headspace is a popular site that has a free trial. Has a large number of explanatory articles.
- Calm (has free trial)
- Omvana is an extensive site that has a free trial
- Mindful is a rich site with a lot of helpful articles
And if you like the Beatles, the following songs may be provide some additional insight:
- Fixing A Hole (Sgt Pepper; the room is the mind)
- Tomorrow Never Knows (Revolver; by turning off our minds and letting go, we can gain clarity and see true meaning)
- Within and Without You (Sgt Pepper; on the nature of what is important)
As gyms are no longer available, a lot of organizations have shared workouts that you can do in your home. As with meditation this is a starter’s list. Please feel free to search for yourselves. Do exercise that works for you both for stamina and interest. And never continue something that hurts or is discomforting. Finally, remember to stretch!
Gyms offering at-home work out routines and videos for free:
- 24 Hour Fitness They provide an app.
- Blink Fitness: These workouts can be found on their Facebook page. They also have an app for members.
- Orangetheory There are daily workouts posted on this page.
- Planet Fitness
Some other sources include:
Here is the necessary disclaimer—for any workout, please be sure it is right for your level of fitness and health. If you have any questions, consult your physician first.
Yoga in particular may be attractive as it incorporates stretching and relaxation with many meditative poses. If you have not yet done yoga or are inexperienced, here are some sites for you to try as recommended by a dear friend of Envision Kindness.
- Sky ting Yoga— Week free of SkytingTV on Instagram
- Class pass – in app. Tons of videos . One free month.
- Yoga with Adriene – A very popular Youtube based set of videos. Also has meditation.
- Sputnik Yoga – Instagram LIVE sessions given for free
- Corepower Yoga – online classes / first week free for new users
- Y7 Studio – instagram LIVE 3-4 times a week
- YogaWorks – live streaming classes – free
- Finally, Tai Chi, also known as moving meditation, is a martial art that is very relaxing and emphasizes body control, energy movement, and philosophy. We will post more about this soon.
KINDNESS AND COMPASSION
At times like these, we need to help one another. We need to stay away from one another, think about others and how we can help (even if just washing our hands and not hoarding supplies), and support causes and those who are on the front lines.
But kindness and compassion are a gift that Nature has given us. It turns out that when we think kindly or compassionately of others, the reward systems in our brains light up. It’s the same response as when people are kind, which people have colloquially referred to as “helper’s high.” Kindness and compassion are natural de-stressors. So are related concepts like gratitude and forgiveness. They allow us to connect positively to each other and the wider universe.
They probably work by fulfilling what Nature had intended for us—to help others so that the group has the best chance of survival. Science, including Envision Kindness’, has shown that simply by seeing kindness and love and connection we feel much happier, more grateful, and optimistic. People feel inspired. All of this is the opposite of stress. If you are interested in the science, we have been publishing a blog on the Science of Kindness. Its installments can be seen here.
If you want to see more kindness, please check out all of the images on this site. Read the stories. See how you feel. Then you will know it’s for real.
For suggestions on what to do, there are a variety of sites, especially with ideas while people are fairly separated. Do what you are comfortable with to start. Lean back, see how it feels. And then do some more, at your own pace. We believe that if everyone did a little bit more, incredible things would happen.
Here are some sites to check out:
- Random Acts Of Kindness Foundation: A great organization with a lot of inspiring content. They have a lot of suggestions, too.
- Charter For Compassion: a lot of course offerings on compassion, resilience, etc. Remember, compassion for ourselves is key to being compassionate to others.
- Greater Good Science Center: Out of UC Berkley, has a lot of well researched and written articles by experts. Many ideas for practice
Like with meditation and exercise, the key to kindness is to practice regularly. Many people combine the idea of kindness and compassion into a meditation. That is, people send loving kindness and compassion to others while meditating. Here’s how:
- Sit upright in a chair with legs flat on the floor—be sure that you are comfortable
- Breathe regularly, allowing your belly to expand
- Once ready, start sending loving kindness and compassion to those you care about. Stay there for a few minutes, experiencing your breathing and extending compassion.
- Then extend this thought to others who you know but don’t have substantive connection. Stay there a while.
- Then send your meditation out to all people in the world. Stay there awhile.
- And then, if you are able, send it to people whom you don’t like. The last group is the most difficult—but if you can forgive them for their errors, you will release something fantastic inside of you.
LAUGHTER AND SMILING
Like these other techniques, laughter and smiling beneficial to health. Norman Cousins popularized laughter as a healing therapy in the 1960s. Dying from what was diagnosed as a terminal disease, he pulled out every comedy film he could find. These helped him smile and laugh. And he went on to live many more years. Subsequent research has provided supportive evidence that laughter is helpful for immune function and lowering the stress response.
As for recommendations, you know what makes you laugh. Seek those out, as long as they are not at someone else’s expense or damage. Watch those movies, listen to stand up comedians, share jokes with your friends. It’s all about seeking joy and letting our spirits and bodies experience it.
You may also experience them with others—over the phone or in person. Like Corona virus, both laughter and smiling are incredibly contagious. By doing it with someone else, you can amplify the experience for both of you and fight back against Corona!
As part of our work to inspire people towards kindness, we created some humorous pieces on the subject. Here is one—suitable for all ages!
Here are a handful of websites to get you started. As with other recommendations, there may be jokes that you do not care for or that younger children should not see. Please choose as you see fit (we could not review all of these in full).