Image: Taylor Kay

Pandemic jitters may not be an official symptom of Covid-19, but after months of trepidation, our collective stress and anxiety are taking a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing. Try these calming pursuits to help you cope.

Try a yoga class.

Yes, yoga makes you more flexible, but scientific studies show this ancient practice also reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure, improves breathing and even allows you to respond better to pain. With its combination of physical poses (asanas) and controlled breathing exercises, followed by a few moments of deep relaxation, it’s no wonder that Harvard Medical School calls yoga “a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health.” You can start a yoga practice at any age, and lots of yoga studios in the Sarasota area can help you do so.

Take a walk.

Movement helps you release the energy you feel when stressed, say the experts at the Brain Health Initiative, the Lakewood Ranch-based consortium of scientists who are working toward building “brain healthy communities.” In a lecture last January, Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and author Dr. John J. Ratey called exercise “medicine for the brain.” “Physical exercise makes your brain better. It optimizes your brain’s ability to learn. It helps regulate your emotions. It improves your motivation,” says Ratey. “A bout of exercise is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin.”

Get out in the garden.

Immersing yourself in a beautiful garden—what psychologists call “restorative environments”—is a surefire way to lower your anxiety level. Plant a flower bed, spend an afternoon at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens or try your hand at growing your own vegetables by joining one of eight public community gardens located around Sarasota County.

Just breathe.

Sarasota certified meditation instructor Shana Rosenthal says that when we use a simple breathing technique that concentrates on a longer exhale than inhale, we calm our nervous systems and our overwhelmed minds. Start by finding a comfortable space to sit or recline, then pick a count for your inhale and one for your exhale—say, five counts in and seven out. Inhale through your nose. As you exhale through your mouth, blow out any uncomfortable thoughts or feelings. Repeat that 10 times. Don’t you feel better already?

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