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Stress relief is on my mind a lot these days. As of this writing, we’re concluding week 5 of quarantine here in Brooklyn. And the end is still not in sight. In the past 5 weeks, I’ve journeyed from disbelief to fear to worry and finally to acceptance. The whole situation didn’t feel real at first. It felt like a scene in a movie. But over time, reality sunk in, and I’ve started to adapt to this new, slower paced way of life. Today I’m sharing my top tips for managing stress during this unprecedented situation.

This post is dedicated to all the freelancers and small business owners out there who are hurting financially during this time. Government aid has been frustratingly slow and ambiguous, especially for us self-employed workers. Hang in there, and know you’re not alone!

Stress relief tip #1: Enjoy a creative hobby

I’m a designer. I do creative work every day, and yet I still need a creative outlet that’s separate from my freelance work. For me, that outlet has mainly been drawing on my iPad using the Procreate app. Another hobby I’ve been enjoying for a while now is jigsaw puzzles, which requires just enough brain power to be invigorating without posing any danger of overwhelm.

Having a creative hobby aids stress relief in a couple ways. One, it’s a distraction. And two, getting those creative juices flowing just might spark some ideas for other areas of your life. For example, some of my best design and business ideas come to me when I’m doing something completely unrelated to my work.

A few creative hobbies to consider exploring for stress relief:

  • Embroidery
  • Playing musical instruments
  • Jewelry making
  • Cooking or baking
  • Creative writing
  • Drawing
  • Coloring books
  • Creating collages (I did this a lot back in high school using fashion magazines) or mood boards
  • DIY home improvement
  • Watercoloring

Many of the materials for these activities can be found on Etsy, so you can feel good about supporting a small business while enjoying a new hobby!

Stress relief tip #2: Move your body

It’s common knowledge that exercise is good for stress relief. However, exercising during a global crisis is easier said than done. A lot of us are lacking motivation, space, equipment, or knowledge on how to exercise safely and effectively in quarantine.

Depending on where you live, a good place to start is to simply go for a walk and get some fresh air. Here in Brooklyn, I avoid going outside unless absolutely necessary, but if you’re in a more rural area, take advantage of that!

If walking is unsafe or impractical for you, look online for virtual workout classes or tutorials. Right now, there are a ton of free home workouts out there. Dancing, weight lifting, yoga, pilates, barre, a lot of your favorite activities are accessible online. Personally, I’ve been loving Melissa Wood’s exercise program, which is designed for busy people who need to get a quick, effective workout in at home. It’s not free, but since I use it almost daily, the investment is worth it for me.

Where to find free home workouts:

Another fun and free way to move your body? Dance party! Solo dance parties on the weekend give me life. Just crank up the music and wipe yourself out.

Stress relief tip #3: Journal it out

I’ve kept a journal for as long as I can remember. Journaling helps me process my feelings, even and especially when they seem irrational and incomprehensible. I know it can do the same for you. With the world gone tipsy turvy, journaling is more important than ever.

Journaling can feel hard if you’re not used to it. You might feel like you have nothing to say that’s worth the effort. I promise you that’s not true. Start by writing about how you feel right now, in the moment. Write about why you feel that way–you may be surprised at what comes up! Then write about how you want to feel, and what you can do to make yourself feel that way.

When I’m in need of stress relief, I essentially word vomit all my feelings onto the page. Sometimes it’s a paragraph, and on really bad days, I can go on for pages. When I’m done, it’s like a weight was lifted.

Stress relief tip #4: Vent

Venting has a similar effect to journaling, but can be even more powerful because of the feedback and reinforcement you’ll get from the other person. The trick is to vent to the right person–someone you trust, like a partner, family member, or close friend. Venting to the wrong person can backfire.

I’m an introvert so I like to keep things to myself and journal them out on my own. But sometimes that’s not enough. The best way to vent right now is over the phone or on a video call. Since quarantine started, I’ve been having weekly video chats with my parents, who are out in California, not just to vent, but to check in with each other and make sure everyone’s safe and sound.

Even though we’re in isolation, I’m actually communicating more with my family than usual. And while it’s a bummer that it took a global pandemic for that to happen, it’s one thing I’m grateful for at the moment. Who can you reach out to to share your struggles and experiences with?

Stress relief tip #5: Zone out

My final stress relief tip for you may seem a bit unusual, but it’s one of my favorites. When everything gets overwhelming, I shut it out–just for a little while–until I’m ready to handle it.

There are many ways to zone out. The most effective way for me personally is to put on noise canceling headphones, lie in bed, close my eyes, and listen to music. Loudly. And not just any music, but music that moves me (as silly as that sounds). I have a vivid imagination that gets carried away when all I can focus on is the music. It’s fun!

Another way to zone out is to listen to a guided meditation or hypnosis track. There are tons of these on YouTube. Even a calming nature track can work wonders, especially if you’re quarantined in the city like me. You might fall asleep while you do this, and that’s ok. You should wake up feeling like you hit the refresh button on your brain.

If you prefer to zone out in front of the TV, don’t feel bad. I do the same. In fact, I’ve gone through a lot of movies and TV shows in the past few weeks. No guilt, no shame!

If you found these tips helpful, please spread the word by sharing or pinning this post. Plus, feel free to share your favorite stress relief tip in the comments!

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