24Mar

During times of crisis, a person experiences unfamiliar emotions, and new kinds of pressure, which makes it difficult to cope and release that bound-up energy. As a health-focused professional, there’s a responsibility we have to support our clients and community during these heightened times of stress and uncertainty.

Although the foundational elements that support good health—such as diet, exercise, sleep, and social relationships—may seem out of reach now (in your client’s eyes), there are many ways we can guide them to more stress relief and increased well-being.

In this article, you’ll find new brainstorming exercises and challenges that can help your clients find the balance they need. I’ve also highlighted lessons we can share to help them dig deeper and release new insights. Lastly, you’ll see several ideas that involve family and community in the activities.

Here are 21 ways you can help your clients cope with coronavirus stress:

Brainstorming Exercises and Challenges

1. List Your Favorite Stress-Relieving Activities

I recently made a list of my favorite stress-relieving activities I can do at home. It ended up being very helpful and comforting to me, so, I now ask my clients to do the same thing. I suggest that they take time to “make it pretty” with colored markers, or a design program like Canva, so they like referring to it often.

2. Create a Daily Schedule

For clients who are being forced out of their daily schedules or workplaces, it is extremely helpful for them to create a new schedule. It can be very detailed if they like, or it can consist of a few anchoring occurrences such as a routine dinner time, a daily walk, morning meditation, or even just a phone call that occurs at approximately the same time every day.

3. Make a List of Loved Ones

Your clients have an ever-growing list, in their minds, of the people they are concerned about or intending to check-up on. Have your clients make a list of their loved ones, friends, and even businesses, whose well-being is important to them so that they have it all in one place (and outside of their minds) whenever it’s time to connect and check-in.

4. Establish Boundaries for Social Media & COVID-19 News

The constant flood of information and corona-related posts can zap our energy levels and mood. Ask your client to consider placing boundaries on social media, or the news, to help them gain emotional control, be more productive, and take much-needed breaks.

5. Commit to Journaling Throughout This Historical Time

Over the course of a person’s lifetime, it’s rare to experience something with this kind of magnitude; a story that will be told for generations to come. There is no better time for your clients to start journaling. These can be one-sentence entries or pages filled with freeform expression—whatever suits the individual.

6. Try This Choose 3 Strategy for Life’s Overwhelm

Choose 3 is a strategy I use in my coaching, quite regularly. It’s a thought-provoking exercise to help someone choose which areas of their life need the most energy and focus, right now—and which areas can wait. This is for anyone who feels like they’re spinning too many plates at once (or wondering how to focus on their diet at a time like this), and I did an entire podcast episode on it.

7. Daily Mindfulness for Beginners

With so much anxiety flowing through our bodies now, mindfulness is a critical practice that helps us feel in control and more content with our circumstances. Anyone can learn meditation and mindfulness, no matter how skeptical they are, thanks to approachable material inside the book Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, and a complementary app called 10% Happier.

8. Track Daily Wins, Big and Small

No matter the size, tracking daily wins helps to accentuate the positive, and drown out the negatives, during stressful times. Sometimes wins are small, like getting up on time or telling your partner, “I love you.” Sometimes wins are bigger, like finishing your to-do list, prepping family meals, and helping an elderly neighbor.

9. Plan Time With Nature

The benefits of spending time outdoors, or among nature, are especially important while we’re socially isolated. Help your clients commit to 10+ minutes a day, either outside for fresh air or inside watching a nature show, like Our Planet. Even looking at images of nature, or listening to Spotify playlists with birds chirping, can provide many of the same benefits as the real thing.

10. Adopt a Daily Movement Plan

Working out at home has never been easier, with hundreds of free apps available for exercising at home. Exercise releases emotional stress and stagnant energy building up inside. Encourage your clients to track their stress levels with their exercise habits, or exercise together with the kids or spouse.

11. Restart a Long-Lost Hobby or Talent

Ask your clients if they miss any talents or hobbies they participated in at a younger age. Examples include painting, drawing, sewing, dancing, or playing an instrument. If your client can’t think of a former talent or hobby, ask them, “What’s one thing you always wished you could learn or do?” Now’s a good time to start.

Lessons We Can Share

12. How Does Emotional Eating Affect Them?

Help your clients identify their emotional eating tendencies, and determine where they turn up once they’re highly stressed or missing the structure of a familiar routine. Together you can come up with strategies to combat those tendencies and stay true to their overarching wellness goals.

13. Philosophy and Faith-Based Lessons on Impermanence and Suffering

No matter someone’s spiritual beliefs, there are secular and faith-based philosophies, grounded in human experience and wisdom, that are helpful during times of uncertainty and despair.

Consider the two most significant lessons in Buddhist philosophy: the nature of Impermanence and The Four Noble Truths of suffering. The latter teaches us how to address and embrace the unavoidable experience of suffering. The former teaches us something best summarized by an excerpt from No-Nonsense Buddhism:

“We live life moment by moment, with uncertainty our only certainty because the present moment is all we’ll ever have…When we understand that all things are impermanent, we can begin to find meaning and joy in every moment as it passes.”

14. Have They Released Any Repressed Emotions?

Many of our clients are trying to stay strong for their families and friends, or keep up with the demands of daily life, so they don’t take a moment to recognize and release emotions that are building up inside. Ask your clients if they’ve had time to scream, cry, punch an inanimate object, or express their deepest fears. If not, help them decide when and where that will happen.

15. The Sleep-Anxiety Connection

Teach your clients the importance of deep and sufficient sleep by sharing research by Matthew Walker, PhD, who is the author of the revolutionary book Why We Sleep. Walker’s 20 years of research and human experiments show that quality sleep reduces anxiety levels, and a lack of sleep increases emotional reactivity and anxiety levels by up to 30%.

16. Cooking Inspiration and Kitchen Tips

Many people are being forced to cook and store food in quantities or frequencies that surpass their related experience. Help your clients by teaching them how to freeze foods for long-term storage, increase the lifespan of perishable foods, and how to make quick meals from only 3-5 ingredients.

Family and Community Ideas

17. Set Recurring Plans for Socializing

Suggest that your clients decide on a recurring weekly commitment, such as a virtual call with a friend, family game night, or a daily morning coffee chat with an elder or coworker.

18. Incorporate Physical Touch

Let your clients know that physical touch is an essential experience that fosters human comfort and connection. By incorporating family hand massages, partner shoulder massages, or dog petting sessions, they’ll boost a soothing brain chemical known as oxytocin which is scientifically proven to help regulate stress.

19. Sharing Gratitude With Others

For people like me, who’ve tried daily gratitude journals and never felt the impact, it’s a great idea to share a daily gratitude message with someone else in your household. This is as simple as writing down, “Today I am grateful for_______,” on a post-it note, and leaving it on your spouse’s vanity (for them to find in your absence). Sharing it, covertly, with my spouse helped me experience a deeper level of the peace I was seeking.

20. Read an Inspiring Poem Together

A comforting and satisfying poem by Kitty O’Meara has gone viral on the internet during the coronavirus pandemic. The poem begins with “And the people stayed home…” and it ends with “…when the danger passed, and the people joined together again…they had been healed.”

You can imagine why it’s touching so many hearts. Share this poem with your clients and suggest that they read it with their loved ones, each night, before bed.

21. Sign Up for Virtual Events

Encourage your clients to take some time and enjoy the many virtual group events inspired by the pandemic. One idea is to send them this impressive calendar of online events by WellSet, an online marketplace for wellness practitioners. Events are free to the public and aimed to support radical self-care and collective consciousness.

Remember to let your client guide you through sessions, focusing on what motivates them. You can provide additional support by compiling a list of your favorite resources, like this one by happiness expert Gretchen Rubin, or start crafting your free content to better fit the needs of others during this time.

Between Facebook Lives, weekly email newsletters, quick recipe ideas, and virtual workshops, you’ve got plenty of ways to help others all over the world.

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