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Health and Fitness During COVID-19: Stress Management

As we adjust to life under quarantine, our approach to health and fitness should also change and adapt.

Pandemic or no, it may help to understand that the hierarchy of any successful fitness outcome always starts with general health and well-being. The most important aspects of an optimal fitness plan are built on the foundation of restful sleep and stress management. From there, you can better manage your nutrition, daily movement and structured exercise. In this post, I want to focus on stress management as I believe, next to sleep, it’s one of the most critical components that we would benefit from prioritizing right now.

Here are some suggestions to help you reduce stress immediately:

Limit your news and media consumption. Before you take in any more information, ask yourself is knowing this information helpful? and if it is, follow up with what is the call to action here? Essential service providers excepted (and thank you, thank you to all the front line workers out there who can't stay at home right now--you have my deepest respect, concern and gratitude for your service right now), we all know that the best and only way to do our part in this pandemic is to follow the guidelines to protect ourselves and others from transmission. This is what we can control. Unless there is some new evidence-based call to action being offered in the news piece, pass on reading or hearing about it. And if you do check the news, limit your time to a few minutes (set a timer to help you with this) and stick to sources that report facts without commentary or sensationalism such as You can also research the least biased news sources at All Sides and Media Bias/Fact Check.

Engage in healthy distraction.

  • Put on some uplifting or soothing music--I really like listening to cafe jazz music when I need to relax. It reminds me of browsing a book store which calms me down instantly.

  • Breathe--just 10 deep breaths can help move you out of fight or flight mode and into rest and digest mode.

  • Meditation and yoga--a few minutes can help tame your mental chatter and bring down stress levels. You can simply focus on your breath or find different types of guided meditations and gentle yoga videos to suit your preferences on Youtube.

  • Take a walk--get some fresh air, a change of scenery and some gentle movement.

Acknowledge and grieve your losses. Whether you have experienced canceled events, lost income, postponed gatherings and/or disrupted daily routines know that it is healthy and necessary to grieve these losses. Comfort and support yourself as you would a grieving loved one and seek comfort and support from others as well. A good cry can help you grieve your loss and relieve stress.

Identify opportunities and express gratitude. As disruptive and traumatic as this pandemic is, you may also discover it has its upsides. Your perception of benefits may vary, but as a traditionally time-poor society, many of us suddenly find ourselves with an abundance of time. This means we have more time to connect with family and friends, more time to complete home tasks, more time to invest in hobbies and creative projects and more time to contemplate what matters most to us. Expressing gratitude for what this abundance of time affords us as well as taking the time to acknowledge the positive relationships and circumstances in our lives helps to put our immediate situation into perspective and makes us feel lighter. And if gratitude is not an accessible emotion to you right now, that's totally appropriate, too.

Know that you are not alone in this new and uncertain circumstance, we're all figuring out how to get through a pandemic together. Though we may be isolated physically, this situation highlights the fact that we are more connected now than ever. Slow down, breathe deeply and take good care of yourself.

I'm Emiko Jaffe, a weight-neutral fitness coach. If you found this article helpful, I invite you to subscribe to Sunday Coffee, my newsletter about fitness, culture, being more of who you are and doing more of what you love (all through a weight-neutral, non-diet lens, of course). ⁠

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