4 free ways to reduce stress and take care of yourself while at home


In times of stress or uncertainty, it's not uncommon to experience panic or anxiety. And with growing concern about the affects of the coronavirus on both public health and the markets, taking care of yourself is especially important. 

While taking good care of yourself is easier said than done, over half, or 59%, of Americans say it's very important to them, and 3 in 5 would prefer fulfilling experiences over material goods, according to a study about the "treat yourself" behaviors of 2,000 American adults conducted by Eventbrite and research company OnePoll.

"We live in a time when we are constantly being stimulated by the world around us and people have forgotten how nourishing solitude can be," says Ellen Bard, author of "This Is For You: A Creative Toolkit For Better Self-Care." "Taking time to space out, reflect, and be alone can be healing."

The good news is, practicing self-care and cutting down on stress doesn't have to cost any money, and you can do it from the comfort of you home. 

Here are a few simple ways you can find calm amid the chaos.

1. Meditate 

A 2018 study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that daily mindfulness training, like meditation, can improve productivity, job satisfaction, work-life balance, and reduce stress.

"Mindfulness allows you to experience your life in the present without ruminating about what just happened, what should have happened, what almost happened," neuroscientist Sam Harris, the creator of the Waking Up meditation course for beginners, told Grow in 2019. "It is the ability to pay attention to what actually matters."

Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you and set a realistic time limit for practicing. For beginners, that may be five minutes. Find a comfortable position and start by focusing solely on your breath. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body, according to the University of Michigan. 

Your mind will wander. Harris says that's normal. When it does, use a strategy to guide you. For example, the 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as "relaxing breath," involves breathing in for four seconds, holding the breath for seven seconds, and exhaling for eight seconds. It can be done in under a minute. 

Remember, too, that "the goal isn't to stop thinking. Rather, it's to recognize thoughts as transitory appearances in consciousness," says Harris.

He recommends that you try to increase the amount of time you spend meditating each day as it becomes more natural. 

2. Listen to music

A 2013 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who listened to upbeat music could improve their moods and boost their happiness in just two weeks.

"When the market is complex and volatile, we tend to listen to simpler music," says Philip Maymin, a professor of analytics and the director of the Master's in Business Analytics program at the Fairfield University Dolan School of Business.

Maymin suggests that what really drives our emotions isn't whether the market is up or down, but how volatile it is, meaning how much it's bouncing around.

"In such situations when your mind is uneasy and overwhelmed, the best kind of music to listen to is anything with a consistent beat," says Maymin. "You want songs that are more like dance songs. One of the best things you could probably do is watch TikTok."

Maymin recommends artists like A-ha, Ace of Base, and Billy Idol, describing them as "very steady, fun, not too challenging, just something you can listen to on a loop over and over and not even notice." 

3. Read poetry 

Reading poetry can be a great way to take your mind off the source of your anxiety. Seasoned investor Warren Buffett swears by it.  

In 2017, Buffett shared Rudyard Kipling's classic poem "If" in his Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter. The poem's message about the importance of keeping your head "when all about you are losing theirs" helps him, he says, during times of market volatility.

In his letter, Buffett noted that "there is simply no telling how far stocks can fall in a short period." He added, "Even if your borrowings are small and your positions aren't immediately threatened by the plunging market, your mind may well become rattled by scary headlines and breathless commentary. And an unsettled mind will not make good decisions." Poems like these can help settle your mind and remind you of your goals. 

4. Write in a journal 

Therapists often recommend using a notebook to record and make sense of your thoughts. "You'll see that if you're writing and reflecting and journaling over time, your thoughts will be more nuanced and subtle over time," Ed Coambs, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Carolinas Couples Counseling in Matthews, North Carolina, told Grow earlier this year. 

Carve out time in your day to sit down, free from any electronics or distractions, and reflect on your day, how you're feeling, and make a note of everything that's going well. Journaling can help you be more present. As a result, you'll be able to better understand your emotions. 

"Present-moment-awareness is the antidote," says Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, a psychologist and the clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching. "Staying in the here and now, where you're safe and you have everything you need, is a great way to stay grounded."

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