3 Ways To Manage COVID-Related Anxiety

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: April 12, 2020

We all react to stress differently, but during times such as these, fear and anxiety are almost unavoidable. Whether the worry is stemming from concern for our personal health and the health of our loved ones, or the unease of what’s happening to our society and economy, it’s clear that we all need tools to manage our mental health more than ever. To cope with the stress of the pandemic, the CDC recommends taking conscious breaks from social media and news, seeking to incorporate consistent exercise and a good amount of sleep, taking deep breaths, meditating, and eating well-balanced meals. With so many resources available to guide us through this unimaginable time, we’ve combed through and compiled a short list of three of our favorite ways to unwind and deal with stress that is inevitable, but not uncontrollable.

  1. Mindfulness Apps
    Whether dealing with a pandemic or the day-to-day stressors of what we know to be ‘normal’ life, mindfulness apps were popular well before the COVID-19 outbreak began. In late 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that more than 2,000 new meditation apps hit the market between 2015 and 2018, assisting in the more than tripling of reported meditation rates in the U.S. over the last five years. Of the onslaught of options, two apps are by far the most popular, accounting for 85% of total revenue generated by the top 10 apps in the Health & Fitness category.

    Headspace: When starting a new mindfulness practice, we feel it’s important to know the ‘why’ behind what we’re doing. Before each meditation, the Headspace app provides an informative (and fun) lesson on the particular practice you’re about to engage in. For example, if you’re brand new to meditation and unsure how to begin, the app will walk you through three easy steps on how to set yourself up for success, and the purpose of each suggestion. Meditations are organized into clear categories, including Stress & Anxiety, Work & Productivity, Kids & Parenting, Sports, Life Challenges, and even a sector specifically for Students, as well as several more. While many meditations are available for free without signing up, Headspace also offers a two week free trial allowing access to all courses app-wide, before entering into a subscription. Right now, the app is also offering a wider range of free courses in a newly created category called “Weathering the Storm”, which includes meditations, sleep, and movement exercises to support the community through a time of crisis.

    Calm: When looking for a truly serene meditation experience, we turn to Calm, which gently guides through practice with accompanying soothing nature sounds. Similarly to Headspace, Calm organizes meditations into easy-to-pick-from categories for personalization, including Sleep, Anxiety, Stress, Self-Care, Emotions, Relationships, Beginner, and Less Guidance (for the more meditatively advanced). Calm has also gained notoriety for including well known celebrities as guest instructors, including three-time basketball champion and MVP, Lebron James, who guides a “five-part playbook for mental fitness” called Train Your Mind. Additionally, included in Calm’s innovative section of Sleep Stories, Matthew McConaughey and Bob Ross guide calming bedtime stories, another in-app offering, to help with deep and natural sleep. While Calm only offers a 7-Day Free Trial, they also offer a Calm for Life option to bill only once for forever access.
  2. Relaxing Breath: 4-7-8 Breathing
    Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, Relaxing Breath, or 4-7-8 breathing, is based on the ancient yogic art and science of utilizing breath control to calm the body and mind, release stress, and improve mental clarity. Studies conducted by the National Center of Biotechnology Information (NBCI) and the European Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research (EJMPR), showed that breathing exercises play an important role in decreasing perceived stress as well as improved cognitive function. With these benefits, 4-7-8 breathing was also designed to strengthen the parasympathetic nervous system, by increasing oxygen supply to the brain, and allowing the body to switch from ‘fight or flight’ mode, to ‘rest and digest’, allowing for feelings of stress and anxiety to release through this simple practice. Follow these easy steps up to twice a day initially, and then as often as needed to support moments of unease:
    • Sit with your back straight (but relaxed) or lay still and comfortably with the tip of the tongue behind your upper front teeth
    • Noisily (with a whooshing sound) exhale completely through your mouth
    • With a closed mouth, inhale quietly through your nose for 4 counts
    • Hold your breath for 7 counts
    • Noisily (with a whooshing sound) exhale through your mouth for 8 counts
    • Repeat three more times for a total of four cycles

    The ratio of 4:7:8 is the beneficial factor of the practice, so if need be, reduce or increase according to ability and comfort zone.
  3. At Home Workouts
    While mindfulness and meditation are proven to be beneficial to overall mental wellness, taking care of the physical body also helps to support the mind. With gym closures across the country, some of our favorite classes are now offering streaming to reach those of us in physical isolation.

    The Class (by Taryn Toomey): Designed as an ‘expansive, heart-clearing and body-strengthening release’ The Class guides a cathartic, challenging, and comforting workout to support our most stressful days. Each instructor provides modifications for each plyometric or calisthenic movement to accommodate all skill levels. Stream live classes up to 7 times a day, every day of the week, now offering two weeks free to start.

    CorePower Yoga: With such an extensive offering, CorePower on demand is sure to have a class for every level of yogi. Classes are coded for ease (C1 for all levels, C2 for a more strength focused workout, and C1.5 for those transitioning), and organized by length (up to 60 minutes) for accessibility. Each class provides an overview of suggested props, target areas, and sweat level to pre-determine if the class is right for you. Working on one move in particular? Try their ‘Break It Down’ section of one minute videos to perfect your Warrior One, Side Plank, or for advanced yogi’s, Crow Pose. While studios are closed, CorePower is offering free access to a weekly curated offering of classes.

    The Yoga Collective: Developed as an interactive workout platform, The Yoga Collective was born for social distancing. Connecting attendees through Zoom, live classes offer a sense of camaraderie that is hard to come by when not in a true studio setting. Offering over 400 on-demand classes, including a post-natal series to do with your little one, and a chair yoga series for added support, The Yoga Collective platform also offers fresh recipes, mindful meditations, and guided breathwork for a full spectrum restorative experience. Currently offering a 15-day Free Trial, this is also one of the more affordable memberships at $15/month.

Whatever the current stressors, be it a global pandemic or a work deadline, a mindful practice will help to support and care for the mind, body and soul.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.