Yoga and meditation are often recommended for managing stress, as seen in “Coping with Coronavirus Anxiety,” an article published by Harvard Medical School.
Yoga teaches us how to be mindful, aware of our thoughts. Our meditation practice boosts the mental strength we need. We can change our thought patterns when appropriate.
Still, even the most dedicated yogis are beginning to feel the stress of the coronavirus pandemic. We might imagine that, as yogis, we’re immune to the effects of stress. That’s a good theory, but it doesn’t always play out in real life. After all, yogis are human too.
The Importance of Recognizing Signs of Stress
Change causes stress. And we’re all experiencing change right now. We can benefit from noticing how stress is affecting us. Then, as we work to reduce our stress response, we’re more inclined to see improvements.
Some symptoms of stress are easy to recognize. Others are less obvious. WebMD and Healthline are good resources for in-depth explanations of stress response. Several of the effects of stress listed on these websites are listed below.
You might recognize some of them. If your symptoms are a recent issue, you could be having a pandemic stress response. Make note of your symptoms and then read below to learn how yoga can help you feel better.
Common Symptoms of Stress Response
- Low energy
- Digestive upset: diarrhea, constipation, appetite changes
- Nausea, dizziness, headaches
- Aches, pains
- Chest pain, rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Decreased immunity, frequent colds
- Teeth grinding, aching jaw
- Increased/decreased weight
- Muscle tension in neck, face, shoulders
- Skin conditions: eczema, acne
- Depression, anxiety, general unhappiness
- Anger, irritability, restlessness
- Feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, unfocused
- Constant worry, anxious or racing thoughts
- Moodiness, irritability, anger
- Loneliness, isolation, withdrawing from others
- Difficulty remembering or concentrating
- Making bad decisions, poor judgment
- Seeing only the negative
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
- Using alcohol or drugs to relax
- Nervous habits, like nail biting and pacing
Helpful Advice to Reduce Stress Response
Yogis tend to take life’s challenges in stride. Our practices give us the skills to manage mental negativity. Yet as I mentioned above, we’re living in unusual times. We might need to work a little harder to retain our sense of calm. Read through the following recommendations. If you find something that appeals to you, add it to your daily routine.
Connect with People
People like to get together and share experiences. Social distancing is not in our nature. It’s important to know this and take some action to connect with your friends and family. Make phone calls. Send texts. Video conferencing has become more popular than ever during this pandemic. There are many free apps and platforms that connect us through our computers or mobile devices.
Connect with Nature
Walk and play with your dog more frequently. Spend more quality time with your cat. Cat’s purrs are known to be effective stress relief for humans. (I confess to searching YouTube for some purr time.) Lately, I’ve been spending more time in the garden. I talk to the birds, bugs, and plants. It might not change their lives much, but it enhances mine.
One of the best stress-busters is physical movement. Of course, we can’t visit our favorite gym just yet. But we can spend some time outdoors. Take a brisk walk through the neighborhood, waving to neighbors who you might otherwise have never met. I understand from family and friends that their homes haven’t been so clean in years—housekeeping is great exercise!
Online exercise classes and apps have been available for years. Maybe now is a good time to explore those offerings. Many doctors and clinics now conduct phone and video consultations. If you have doubts about starting a new exercise regime, it’s easier than ever to ask your doctor. At any rate, there’s no need to overdo. The idea is simply to get moving.
An online yoga class might be a good fit for you. There, you can learn more about how to relax and breathe through anxiety. The studio I attend now offers hatha yoga classes online.
Engage Your Senses in Something Pleasant
Normally, yogis don’t deliberately pursue sense pleasures. There’s a danger in overindulgence. However, by making wise choices, we can use the senses to direct our minds to healthy activities. Here are a few suggestions:
- Watch a favorite movie—one with a happy ending. Even better, watch an old musical that you can sing along with.
- Revisit your music collection. Whether you find it on your phone, iPod, or even on vinyl—revive your tunes for a cheerful stroll down memory lane. Chosen wisely, music is a proven mood therapy that instantly lifts your spirits.
- If you enjoy cooking, prepare some favorite comfort food. But imbibe carefully; remember, one of the signs of stress is weight gain.
- Take a bath or foot soak with Epsom salts. An inexpensive therapy, salt soaks are soothing and relaxing. You might also enjoy including some of your favorite essential oil for aromatherapy. Relax in your bath and add a few drops of gratitude.
Help from Quiet Karma
As noted earlier, medical professionals recommend yoga because it helps decrease stress. Many of Quiet Karma’s articles published before the pandemic are especially useful now. Here are a few suggestions:
- Read an interesting yoga book
- Difficulty sleeping or meditating
- Yoga chanting for peace
- Avoiding bad company
The last link in this list is especially important. Although we’re tempted to remain current on the constantly changing situation, too much news has a negative effect. Try to limit this input and add some of the nurturing activities listed above. Your health, happiness, and peace of mind depend on it.
What are your favorite stress busters? Please share them with others in the comments section below. If you’ve found this article helpful, send it to a friend—use it as a reason to reconnect with someone you love.
Chityānanda has been a disciple of Svāmī Gurupremānanda Sarasvatī since 1975. She teaches meditation and yoga as a spiritual path in Santa Cruz, California.