5 ways to keep calm during a stressful time
Life during Covid-19 is stressful. Here’s what our favorite yoga and meditation coach does to stay calm.
“Keep calm and carry on.” So goes the ubiquitous sign, which has its origins in a pre-World War II motivational poster in the United Kingdom. As with a lot of meme-able advice, though, it’s easier said than done, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. At best, those of us with our health and steady employment are worried that either of those things (or both) might disappear at any moment, while we’re also struggling to achieve a very delicate form of work-life balance. (I.e., figuring out how to keep our pantsless children from crashing our Zoom calls.) And at worst, we are already shouldering the burden of this worldwide sickness, and the fallout from the economic shutdown that ensued. So yeah, we’re all a little stressed right now.
It’s a good thing Jade Alexis knows a thing or two about stress. She’s a coach for the fitness app Aaptiv—which you can subscribe to for no cost with the Haven Life Plus rider that’s included in the Haven Term policy —and she recently went through a difficult divorce. Before that, her fitness journey began with the sudden and tragic death of her sister ten years ago. “It’s all a matter of perspective,” she says. “As impossible as it seems, I honestly don’t think it’s that difficult to stay calm during this time.”
Naturally, that had us wondering how she did it, and what advice she might have on how to calm anxious feelings so that we could do it, too. Here’s what she told us. (Hint: Ridding yourself of anxiety starts with the yoga, meditation and sleep workouts you’ll find on Aaptiv.)
In this article:
Keep it in perspective
At a time like this, it can be easy to stress out about what we’ve lost, or what we might still lose. Doing this is useful when it leads to constructive action—like applying for a term life insurance policy—but less so when it causes us to suffer needless anxiety and fear.
“Focus on what you have right now,” Jade says. “Most people have a roof over their heads. Some people might be losing that, or the comfort of it [due to working from home]. But then maybe you have your health. Or if you’re dealing with something there, maybe you have your partner or your siblings or your children. Whatever else is causing that stress, look at something you have right in front of you.”
Let’s just say, hypothetically, you’re stuck inside your house all day with your spouse and two young children while trying to keep up your career, your kids’ education, and some semblance of the romance that sparked your relationship with the aforementioned spouse. In such a situation, you might be tempted to let your mind wander. You might daydream about life Before All This. You might struggle to focus on your kids when you’re stressed and feeling anxious about your work responsibilities, or vice versa. As writer Paul Theroux recently noted, when he witnessed a time of similar lockdown in Uganda, the stress led to distracted drivers causing a surplus of car crashes.
Mindfulness is a great way to bring yourself back to the present moment and calm those anxious feelings. “Be where your feet are,” as the saying goes. In other words, focus on the tasks in front of you. Doing this takes training—your brain is wired to wander—and meditation provides exactly that. There are a number of guided meditations in Aaptiv, in which a teacher (including Jade) will talk you through your meditation. This might include scanning your body (going from head to toe while focusing on how you’re feeling along the way). Jade recommends starting with 5 Minutes of Peace or Breath and Body.
“Meditation is an easy way to guide yourself back to your self,” she says. “You just become present. A lot of people don’t realize the power of the breath—any time someone is feeling anxious, you can take three deep breaths and it naturally calms the central nervous system.” The benefits of deep breathing are physical and psychological. “My meditation teacher always says everything lasts only for a while,” she adds. “There’s an ending with what we’re going through.”
Practice, practice, practice
You might experience a feeling of calm after a guided meditation. You might experience a lack of calm when, after your guided meditation, your boss emails with an urgent request at the same time your kid drops a bowl of cereal on the floor. The key to maintaining an even keel? Making meditation a habit so you can come back to the present moment.
“It boils down to practice,” Jade says. “Consistently taking care of yourself. It’s like brushing your teeth—if you only did that once a week, they’d only be clean for that moment. Same thing with meditation or yoga.” She compares it to a running or weightlifting program (both, by the way, are offered in Aaptiv). Just like you won’t get off the couch and immediately be ready for a marathon, you need repetition and practice to get in the habit of staying calm and clearing your mind of negative emotions.
Make time—and space
You’ve read this far, which means you might be saying this all sounds great, but who has the time? Especially now, when alone time is at a premium. Naturally, Jade has an answer for that, along with empathy for that frame of mind.
“It’s hard to justify in your mind—to sit still, and be still, and meditate,” she says. Indeed, excusing yourself from a busy spouse or a critical Zoom meeting to simply sit still for five minutes can be a hard ask. If you’re struggling to find time, Jade recommends meditating at bedtime. “You’re going to bed anyways, and you’re doing nothing in that moment,” she says. She recommends several guided sleep meditations in Aaptiv. These include Savan-ahhh, Still Your Mind and Sweet Escape (all by her), plus Deep Healing Sleep by Nicole.
Another tip is setting aside a special space just for meditating and deep breathing. Just as having a home office, even just a desk in a corner, can help create necessary separation between work and life, creating a space for meditation or yoga can help ensure you get it done. “Every day at noon, you have to find a corner or a space,” she says. “You can stand outside your front door. Or on a balcony if you have one. Or lock yourself in the bathroom! Where there’s a will there’s a way.”
Don’t forget to stretch
One downside from all this time at home: You’re probably not using your body as much as you used to. Even if you’re able to work out, you’re still missing out on the regular movement a day at work provides—walking to lunch or to the bathroom; going from your car or the subway to your office; hustling to your morning meeting. As a result, and in addition to all the aforementioned coronavirus-induced stress, you might not be sleeping as well as you should.
You can replicate some of this with some light yoga and deep breathing. Jade recommends searching Aaptiv for Yin Yoga workouts, which are fairly simple and therefore good for beginners. They also tend to be calming, making them ideal for before bed, and / or after the kids are asleep. “Those are all calming, slowing you down,” she says. “If you search that, or even restorative yoga, it’s going to be more of a slowing down kind of thing. You’re moving, you’re exercising, but in a way that will calm you down or prepare you for bed.”
Pair this with one of the aforementioned guided sleep meditations, and you should be on your way to a long, restorative slumber. And good thing, too—because tomorrow, you’ll have to do it all over again.
About Louis Wilson
Louis Wilson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, both online and in print. He often writes about travel, sports, popular culture, men’s fashion and grooming, and more. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he has developed an unbridled passion for breakfast tacos, with his wife and two children.Read more by Louis Wilson
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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.
Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.
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