Reducing Stress During Anxious Times

November 18, 2020 Reducing Stress During Anxious Times With everything occurring in the world right now, it’s natural to feel stre...

November 18, 2020
Reducing Stress During Anxious Times

With everything occurring in the world right now, it’s natural to feel stressed and anxious—not to mention, the ever-present stressor of living with restless legs syndrome (RLS). Although RLS is not caused by stress, it can contribute to and exacerbate symptoms. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, whether from extenuating circumstances or from dealing with your RLS, that stress can worsen RLS, which in turn, may lead to more stress. During times like these, it is especially important to not only develop strategies of coping with RLS symptoms, but also coping with stress and anxiety in general.

RLS symptoms can be relieved by engaging in mild-to-moderate exercise and mind-engaging activities. With many of us continuing to follow the stay-at-home orders in place and take necessary coronavirus (COVID-19) precautions, we sometimes have to get creative. Here are some ideas on how to keep your body and mind active while also coping with stress.

Physical Activity: exercise contributes to your overall health and your sense of well-being. Virtually any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever. Try these:

  • Yoga/Stretching/Breathing. Studies show that yoga practices enhance muscular strength and body flexibility, promote and improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, and enhance overall well-being and quality of life. Whereas rapid, shallow breathing is a common response to stress; slow, deep, regular breathing incorporated during a yoga practice, is indicative of relaxation. Look for videos or apps that guide you through deep-breathing exercises.
  • Running/Walking. The mental benefits of aerobic exercise include reduced levels of the body’s stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol and increased production of endorphins (also known as the “runner’s high”), which are responsible for feelings of relaxation and improved mood. For a change in scenery, try visiting parks near your house to limit travel and plan your outings carefully to maintain appropriate social distancing boundaries.

Mind-engaging Exercises: the motor and sensory symptoms of RLS begin or worsen during periods of rest or inactivity. Rest includes both lack of motor activity and decreased mental activation. Any activity that stimulates the brain can help significantly in controlling your RLS. Challenge yourself to word puzzles, reading, knitting, playing an instrument, writing, or the following:

  • Transcendental Meditation. Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a technique that involves sitting with your eyes closed for 20 minutes and repeating a mantra specific to you. When done properly, people experience a shift of awareness to a wakeful but deeply restful state. Studies show that regular practice of TM has an impact on brain functioning and attention.
  • Consider therapy. Simply writing down your thoughts and feelings can be very beneficial. It can also be helpful and necessary to speak with a trained counselor or psychotherapist, who can provide strategies for coping with stress through specific therapies.
Managing Stress and Anxiety
  • Get out in nature. Studies show strong evidence between exposure to natural environments and recovery from physiological stress and mental fatigue. According to an article published in the journal of Advances in Environmental Psychology, viewing nature alone can help restore cognitive performance associated with stress, especially with tasks involving attention.
  • Maintain a routine. We are all adapting to new routines. To the best of your ability, try to start your day at a specific time. Use a whiteboard, diary, planner, to-do-list, and/or an electronic calendar to plan your time and structure your day. Build in breaks!
  • Know the facts. Understanding the risk to yourself and people you care about can make the COVID-19 outbreak less stressful. Help stop the spread of rumors and misinformation by going to credible sources of news and information, such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization websites.
  • Take breaks from the news. Although it is important to stay informed, being inundated with news can become overwhelming. Set designated times away from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. There are apps available that track the amount of time spent on social media and will allow you to set daily limits.
  • Connect with others. Take the time to talk with people about your concerns and how you are feeling. Utilize all platforms to check in with your loved ones via telephone, email, letters or postcards, text messages, video chat, social media, etc. It can help to know that we are all in this together!

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Stress can manifest as changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems, worsening of mental health conditions, and increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.

It is important to note that if you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others, please call 911. You can also find support 24/7 year-round by contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

You Might Also Like


Flickr Images