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JOHNSTON: Managing stress during a pandemic

Managing stress is a lot for anyone, but especially during these uncertain and unprecedented times.

We’ve all been feeling it. But my 10-year-old really put it into words when he asked me over the weekend, “Mom, is it normal to feel like you want to cry all the time?”

Oh my. Yes, yes, so much yes.

We talked more about his feelings, about how sad he was that he can’t see his friends and that he misses school.

I normalized all this for him, and then he asked me the million-dollar question: “When will it all end? When will it be normal again?”

As I battled my feelings of helplessness, I was honest with him and told him I really didn’t know. I reassured him I believe that things would be normal again. We just had to keep doing what we were doing to be able to get there.

Self-care is one of the most important things we can do now to try and manage these feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed.

Self-care can look different for everyone, and we can’t do all things all the time.

The goal is to reduce those stressful feelings so we can focus on other, more positive thoughts.

Here are a few tips for practicing self-care in uncertain times:

— Limit the ways you receive news or information. Choose one or two trusted sources of information, and unfollow the rest. Turn off unnecessary phone notifications. Do not keep the news on your television constantly. Pick one or two times a day to watch, and otherwise turn it off.

— Plan times to check social media. Do not let yourself scroll continuously. This will often leave you feeling more stressed and even emotionally drained. Put a limit on it.

— Move your body. Go for a walk, find a free online workout program, do stretches in your home, etc.

— Begin your day with positivity. Write down something you are grateful for and a way you can help someone else today.

— Share something to which you are looking forward. This is a great way friends and family members can stay encouraged and hopeful each day.

— Go outside. Sunlight and fresh air help improve mood. I know I have been very thankful the sun has been shining and the weather has been beautiful for many days of these last few weeks. The flowers are blooming all over the place. You can’t help but smile when you see all the daffodils and tulips. It just screams spring and renewal.

— Keep a regular schedule. Beginning and ending each day with a routine helps your body deal with situations that may be different or challenging.

— Learn a new skill. If you find yourself with extra time, make a plan to learn a new skill. You can learn many skills and hobbies by using videos on the internet. The Extension Facebook page has some great resources, and I just saw a new video go up on the Clark County Public Library Facebook so check those out too.

— Stay connected to people who matter to you. In these times, I feel like this may be one of the most important methods of self-care. We are being asked to stay healthy at home and social distance as much as possible. So try using video calling, text messaging, phone calls, letters or postcards to stay in touch with friends or family members. On Sunday evening, my kiddo was invited to a video chat meeting with some of his theater friends.

Watching him connect with his friends brought me to tears as I realized how necessary those connections are and how he had been missing them (thanks, Leeds family. My boy needed that).

In an attempt to provide other ways to engage in self-care, the Extension Office has put together some Brown Bag Projects with an activity and information to learn something new.

This week we had gardening bags with seeds and information on how to start seeds indoors.

The response to these bags was amazing, and they went quickly.

We hope to have more bags this week, so call the office at 744-4682 or check out the Clark County Cooperative Extension Facebook page to see when those have been replenished.

Next week we will have some Stress Away bags to pick up for anyone who is interested.

These bags will have activities to do in an attempt to reduce some feelings of anxiety and stress. Again, check out the Facebook page to see what will be in the bags and when they will be available.

As the governor reminds us each night, we are in this together, and I have been loving how our community has responded to the situation.

Keep connecting and caring for yourselves, and things will be normal again. I feel certain of it.

Shonda Johnston is the Clark County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. She can be reached at 859-744-4682 or by email at shonda.johnston@uky.edu.