ASK THE EXPERT:
What are the best ways to reduce stress as we head into this busy back-to-school season? 2020 has definitely been a stressful year thus far with COVID-19 and the racial tension across the nation, says Teela Maxwell, a program director for healthy living and membership, certified personal trainer, fitness instructor and holistic health coach for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City.
“Everyone is feeling stress to some degree from children to adults,” Maxwell says. “And families and students are coming to terms with a new look to the school year.”
Stress is a feeling of emotion or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry or nervous. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand.
“Stress may look different between the various age groups, but there are some things everyone can do to help reduce their stress,” Maxwell says.
Here are Maxwell’s tips to reduce stress:
Exercise: “Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can make your frown go away! Exercise has been proven to boost mood while impacting your overall health. There is no right or wrong exercise when it comes to this. Just find one that makes you happy, and you can complete and feel accomplished afterward. I also tell members at the Y that the body can biologically release sweat two ways, by crying or sweating. So my motto is, ‘Don’t cry it out, sweat it out!’
“To help you stay active, join a center like the Y that focuses on holistic health where you can have access to a variety of healthy living activities through membership as well as through online exercise programs.”
Plan Ahead: “With schools being virtual or partial days in some areas, planning ahead and creating a schedule to help manage tasks for the day will help not only the student, but the family stay on task and be more productive. Also, get creative about ways to support your student with virtual learning. New programs like the Y’s Learning Academy are available to support kids in-person with their learning and provide a solution to working parents, relieving the stress of juggling your kid’s needs and work responsibilities.”
Relax and Unwind Time: “Find an activity that you enjoy doing that puts you in a good mood or relaxes you. That could be a spa day, massage, reading a good book or taking a walk in nature.”
Keep in Touch with Loved Ones: “With most travel being postponed and family gatherings put on pause due to COVID-19, try another way to connect. Most phones come with a video chat feature or you can download other apps where you can stay in contact, talk and share your feelings.”
Put Yourself First: “Learn to set boundaries and say no from time to time. Don’t over commit or overextend yourself. You are only one person.”
Breathe: “Take time to smell the roses, as they say. Breathing is a function that our bodies do unconsciously, but most of us don’t breathe properly only utilizing a small part of your lung function. Breathing should start with the nose and move to your stomach and your diaphragm, allowing your belly and lungs to fill with air. This is what most refers to as the singer’s breathing.
“Try it at home: Lie on your back with your hands on your belly, focus on expanding your belly as you breathe. Try exhaling for a count of four, holding at the top of the breath for six counts and exhaling for a count of eight.”
Listen to Your Body: “Last but not least, listen to your body for signs of stress to be proactive. In extreme situations where you are feeling stressed to the point of depression or feelings that you can’t handle your stress successfully, always speak to a medical or behavioral health professional.”