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How to best manage stress, anxiety as COVID-19 pandemic continues

A recent study from the Pew Research Center shows that about a fifth of U.S. adults are having-high levels of psychological distress.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — It’s something everyone deals with – stress.

April is Stress Awareness Month and over the last year, mental health awareness has been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You have heard it before, but truly, you are not alone in dealing with stressors.

Dr. Francoise Adan, a psychiatrist from University Hospitals, says managing stress is important, along with self-care.

“It's so crucial to recognize what kind of impact stress has on us,” Dr. Adan says. “We are often judging ourselves and not having a lot of self-compassion, and it's so important to recognize when we are struggling and knowing that help and treatment is right there."

A recent study from the Pew Research Center shows that about a fifth of U.S. adults are having-high levels of psychological distress, and it has only increased over the last year during this pandemic.

So, what can you do to best manage stress?

"One technique is focusing on the right now, the present, the moment,” Dr. Adan says. “A lot of the stress is thinking about the past, what we could have done, should have done, would have done – or the future. The worries, the to-do list, what could happen, and that can be overwhelming – it is overwhelming. We are navigating in three time zones at the same time.”

Dr. Adan says that stress management also goes hand-in-hand with self-care.

"Self-care is not negotiable – it's a discipline – it's not a luxury,” says Dr. Adan. “The most important word in self-care is self. So, what is caring? It's nurturing, encouraging, supporting, healing, guiding, loving – it is something we have a chance to do every single day."

Dr. Adan also wants everyone to keep in mind, not all stress is bad stress.

"There is actually even good stress, like buying a house, getting married, getting a promotion, bringing a newborn home – all of those are wonderful events, but they are causing stress – they are forcing us to adapt, to change and to also face some of the unknown,” says Dr. Adan. “So, normalizing this and knowing that nobody is immune to feeling stress."

University Hospitals recommends trying these five practices to avoid and reduce stress.

  • Eat a healthy diet that includes whole grains, fruits, veggies, and lean proteins.
  • Avoid caffeine, sugar, and alcohol because they increase stress.
  • Aerobic exercises like walking running, swimming and yoga will also help.
  • Visualize a place you want to be by sitting or lying with your eyes closed for 5 to 10 minutes. Breathe slow and deep, imaging what you see, hear, taste and smell in your special place.
  • Practice communication. Talk to someone who is not involved in the stressful situation to get their point of view.

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