Stress Management: Important at Any Age

Around Johns Hopkins: Preparing for the Unexpected

Stress Management: Important at Any Age | Johns Hopkins Medicine

See more in:

Robert “Bob” Maloney (center), senior director for the Johns Hopkins Medicine Office of Emergency Management, leads the “Operation Unplugged” exercise in April 2018. Also pictured are Stephanie Reel, chief information officer for the Johns Hopkins University and Health System, and Andrew Frake, senior director of

health information technology.

In a time of crisis, a hospital’s emergency management team oversees the response. Outside a crisis, the emergency management team is preparing for events through exercises and training.

In this issue of Hopkins on Alert, CEPAR spotlights the emergency management team for the Johns Hopkins Heath System and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Robert “Bob” Maloney, senior director, Johns Hopkins Medicine Office of Emergency Management, oversees the team responsible for disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

Prior to joining Johns Hopkins in 2017, Maloney was the emergency manager for the city of Baltimore for more than a decade, responsible for citywide emergency preparedness and homeland security funding and coordination.

He was also deputy mayor of emergency management and public safety, coordinating public safety, emergency management and related operational agencies. Maloney also served in the U.S.

Naval Reserve, deploying for a year to Fallujah, Iraq.

He recently spoke with CEPAR about his and his team’s efforts at Johns Hopkins.

Q: What is your role in emergency management?

A:  I am part of a remarkable team that is responsible for building resiliency to hazard and crises that may interrupt the mission of Johns Hopkins Medicine, including an efficient and effective response when events occur. 

Q: How did you become interested in emergency management?

A: In 1994, I decided I wanted to join the Baltimore City Fire Department. Around that time, fire service across the country was going through a transition from primarily firefighting to a fire-based emergency medical services (EMS) system, because the majority of 911 calls were EMS-related.

To prepare myself for the fire department, I earned my EMT-Basic certification, and I also volunteered at a local hospital. The first night I volunteered, I watched paramedics bring in and care for a gunshot victim. In that moment, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I wanted to be in a profession where I helped people. 

The field of emergency management really began to grow after the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

When I became the fire department’s chief of staff, I handled day-to-day emergency management tasks for the fire chief, who was the acting emergency manager.

During this time, I gained a tremendous amount of experience organizing a team to work in a unified system when responding to crises. So, after the fire chief retired, I was honored to be appointed by Mayor Sheila Dixon as the city’s emergency manager.

Q: What are some of the unique emergency preparedness challenges The Johns Hopkins Health System and school of medicine face? How are you working to overcome these challenges?  

A:  Baltimore City government, with the exception of essential services, can close. At Johns Hopkins Medicine, however, we must maintain our mission of patient care, teaching and research every day. Our patients and many other people count on us to deliver.

By maintaining our mission, whether it’s for the person who needs a lifesaving surgery, the person who ran medication, the student learning to be a doctor, or the critical research needed to make key decisions, we must deliver. We are the best health system in the world, and so our emergency management program needs to be equal to that.

And the onus is on all the individuals who work in preparedness to do everything we can to enable the caregivers, researchers and teachers to do their job — without interruption.

The breadth, diversity and locations of Johns Hopkins Medicine offer unique challenges. For example, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is in a hurricane zone and, therefore, more susceptible to major storms, while The Johns Hopkins Hospital is fortunate to have most of its entities on the East Baltimore campus, and Johns Hopkins Community Physicians has locations throughout the region.

Q: How do you determine the subject of emergency preparedness drills? 

A: We have a hazard vulnerability analysis that we collectively develop each year. We determine what hazards are most ly to happen, and the magnitude of those hazards on the enterprise. These determine what we drill and exercise.

During the last year, we’ve put a tremendous amount of focus on information technology and building resiliency in that area. We also recently completed a mass decontamination drill, which we did outside the Johns Hopkins Hospital emergency department.

Unfortunately, the events in the country also demonstrate an increasing need to be ready for incidences of mass trauma/surge of patients. We have increased our ability to respond to such events.

Q: Why are preparedness exercises important?

A: It’s an opportunity to test our plans, identify preparedness gaps and make changes, thus building resiliency. First and foremost, during all exercises, we test the command structure to make certain we can coordinate and maintain control. Second, we test our response capabilities, depending upon the crisis. Take, for example, a cyberattack.

We want to test our ability to stop the spread of the attack. Or, if it’s a mass decontamination event, we want to avoid further contamination, so we take the necessary steps to protect patients before entering the hospital. Whatever the emergency, it’s our opportunity to simulate practicing our response to things we may not experience day to day.

What is a hospital incident command system, and what does it take to set up this structure?

It’s an organizational structure that facilitates integration to effectively solve problems and delegate responsibilities. A hospital incident command system relies on a team of people, working in unison, who are trained to respond to incidents such as an influx of patients or a weather emergency. The structure is expandable. So if necessary, we can include all essential stakeholders.

We now have a team of more than 50 people who have been trained to come to a central location, or command center, and perform the specific functions of the staffing positions necessary to set up a hospital incident command system.

When those individuals are notified, they immediately come to the hospital to receive the situational assessment, determine an incident action plan moving forward, provide notification and information to the public, staff and visitors, inform senior leadership and seek advice when necessary.

The team ensures an exchange of timely and accurate information so the best response policy and direction can be implemented.

During an event, the incident command will remain open until the situation is resolved. There are policies and procedures that dictate when we open up the command at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. That is always done in consultation with hospital leadership.

When was the last time you set up the hospital incident command center during an actual incident?

The last time we set up our command center due to a real incident was during last flu season. The Johns Hopkins Hospital was full, and the emergency department was seeing an influx of patients who needed to be admitted. So we set up the hospital incident command center to alleviate stress on the emergency department.

During this activation, patient care in the emergency department was disrupted by a water-related issue that happened at the same time as the surge. Setting up the command center during this event, without a doubt, helped us maintain the mission continuity of the hospital.

In addition, there have been several times that entities throughout the enterprise have set up incident command centers, and my team was integrated into the command structure to assist.

What are some of the projects that you have worked on or are working on at Johns Hopkins of which you are most proud?

There have been many projects. My team worked on the standardization of color codes on ID badges at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

We’ve collaborated with departments to place stop the bleed supplies throughout all Johns Hopkins Health System hospitals to equip bystanders with bleeding control tools in the event of mass casualty events.

We also led “Operation Unplugged,” the largest exercise ever done at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

But I’m most proud that during crises, as a team, we have been able to come together to build a system that’s not dependent on one person to minimize crisis impact and maintain our continuity of operations.

As we continue to build our capabilities — increase radios, supply caches, drills and exercises, and training — and refine our policies and procedures, the system will get more and more robust, and we will be even more ready.

Our job is to be ready. We always have to be prepared.

It’s also important to note that senior leadership has been supportive of emergency management and understanding of the importance of preparedness, resiliency and reducing risk. And that’s huge.

What should faculty and staff know about emergency preparedness?

Faculty and staff should remember to build resiliency at home, because they will ly have to work during an emergency, particularly during snow or severe weather.

If their home and family are inadequately prepared — not equipped with an emergency supply kit, a generator or food, or a family communications plan — they’re going to be at work worrying.

So it’s really taking the opportunity to think about how they could be better prepared.

All of this is easier said than done, especially considering our day-to-day responsibilities. But when we are prepared, loss of life and property damage or destruction will be reduced, and we will get back to normal operations sooner. That’s what you’re trying to do, trying to get back to normal during crises.

Finally, we want everyone on team Johns Hopkins to know how much we appreciate the support and efforts toward resiliency and preparedness. And please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for assistance in building resiliency. We can be reached at 410-502-6122, or visit our website.


Stress Management: Important at Any Age

Stress Management: Important at Any Age | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Linkedin Pinterest Aging Well Managing Mood and Stress Caregiving for a Senior Retirement Planning

Retirement is the time in your life when you can finally throw out the alarm clock and set your own schedule. This new freedom may sound idyllic, but for the millions of adults heading into retirement, it can be a recipe for stress if caution isn’t taken.

Today’s retirees are facing unprecedented challenges: retirement savings reduced by market crashes, increasing health care costs and high rates of divorce. So what can help assure you that you’ll be able to enjoy these peaceful years?

Mapping out a holistic plan for your retirement life, says Michelle Carlstrom, LCSW-C, senior director at the Office of Work, Life and Engagement at Johns Hopkins .

“People think retirement is just a financial decision,” says Carlstrom. “But that alone won’t determine happiness. Even if you feel financially secure, there are other issues to consider.” Here’s what Carlstrom suggests for a less stressful retirement.

Long used in yoga, the 61 points relaxation technique has been shown to reduce heart rate and blood pressure. You can find a guide online (search for “61 points” on .

com), or simply sit comfortably, close your eyes, and mentally focus on every part of your body one at a time, starting with the center of your forehead, moving down to your toes, then back up again.

The idea is to free the mind from other concerns as you focus entirely on the exercise.

How much does your job currently dictate your social interactions and sense of purpose? For many empty nesters, their workplace is where they socialize, engage in stimulating conversations and feel a sense of accomplishment. “It’s easy to focus on how much you will enjoy leaving behind the stress of your job. But you also need to think about the potential social or spiritual void that might be left when you leave,” says Carlstrom.

In other words, you should plan activities that will replace the stimulation and fulfillment you had from your workplace. Those could include social clubs centered around interests such as cooking, reading or gardening. Volunteer opportunities also abound—check with your local library, schools, art museums or Or consider taking a class at a community college.

Consider continued work

According to an AARP survey, about 25 percent of retired folks plan to continue working, whether as a volunteer, a part-time employee or a new small-business owner. “I know someone who decided to become an usher at a baseball stadium so he could enjoy all the games,” says Carlstrom. No matter what you end up doing, don’t wait until you retire to figure it out.

Carlstrom recommends laying the groundwork at least five years out from your retirement date. A survey of job websites now might help you gauge part-time or consultant opportunities for later.

Ground yourself in reality

“Ask yourself if the problems that you are dealing with are real or are imagined and anticipatory,” says Carlstrom.

For example, are you stressed because you are having financial troubles, or is it the anticipation of health care expenses that could pop up down the road? Our bodies can’t tell the difference, so we react with the same amount stress.

So spend time exploring whether you are experiencing real or imagined stress and develop a stress management plan that will ultimately reduce stress by instilling a sense of control over the situation.

Adjust your stress management style

When you are stressed, how do you react? Do you go for a run? Reach for a drink? Call your best friend? Gorge on junk food? Head to the mall? Understanding that everyone uses a mixture of healthy and unhealthy stress relievers is the first step toward focusing on healthier options, exercise, meditation, prayer and social support. “Retirement can be a new chance to really commit to examining how you handle stress,” says Carlstrom. 


Social support: The help you receive from others in your life. Family, friends, peers and other people who care about you and for you make up your social support system or network.


Mental Health – Johns Hopkins Cystic Fibrosis Center

Stress Management: Important at Any Age | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Emotional support

One of the keys to emotional health is a good support system. Most of us are born with a support system—our families. As we get older, the system expands to include friends and colleagues. Amazingly this process happens with little attention from us. But we would certainly take notice if the people who make up our support systems suddenly disappeared.

What is a support system?

A support system is a network of people who provide an individual with practical or emotional support. In real life, your support system is the people you connect with. Your CF care team is part of your support system, too. Some connections may be stronger than others, but they are all important.

One of the challenges for people with CF is the necessity of infection control, which makes CF a very isolating disease. Connecting with other people and families with CF through social media and virtual events are ways to connect with others experiencing CF.

Why is a strong support system important?

Most human beings interacting with other human beings. Going through life alone is difficult. Support systems are also important in managing stress, which is important to physical, as well as emotional, health. Individuals and families living with CF experience many stressful situations.

A strong support system is helpful in maintaining a sense of normalcy, which helps lower stress levels. Also, a strong support system can help people with CF feel connected, even when they’re isolated because of infection control issues.

The professionals at your CF center are also a good source of support.

The Facts on Depression

It is normal to feel sad sometimes. According to the American Psychiatric Association, one in 10 Americans suffer from depression each year. Unfortunately, many people go undiagnosed and untreated because they didn’t know that they were depressed or they were afraid of being labeled mentally ill.

Having a chronic illness CF puts one at higher risk for becoming depressed. Depression can interfere with your ability to keep up with your CF treatment regimen, so it’s important to get help.

It is possible to experience symptoms of depression without being diagnosed as clinically depressed, but you should let a professional make that


You should talk with your doctor or social worker at your CF center if you experience one or more of the following symptoms for 2 weeks or more:

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness, or anger and irritability.
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual.
  • Loss of interest in activities.
  • Changes in appetite with either significant weight loss or weight gain.
  • Loss of energy for no reason.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide.

These symptoms are some of the general symptoms used to diagnose depression. They are NOT meant to be a way for you to diagnose yourself or someone else with depression.

These symptoms should help you to determine whether you or someone you know need further evaluation by a professional to determine whether treatment for depression is necessary.

Additionally, the CF Foundation recommends annual screening for depression and anxiety.

For more information, check out the American Psychiatric Association’s website.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, approximately 1 in 20, or 5 percent, of children and adolescents suffer from depression.

Just adults, children and adolescents with CF are at higher risk of depression. Adolescents may be the most under-diagnosed population because many of the symptoms of depression are similar to typical adolescent behavior.

Also, children and adolescents are unly to be familiar with possible symptoms of depression.

Diagnosis of depression in children and adolescents relies on the observation of others, usually a parent or guardian. While it is often difficult for a child or adolescent to communicate feelings of sadness and hopelessness, a parent may notice a change in normal behavior.

A child who normally is very active and social with neighborhood friends, for example, begins to stay inside more often. Such a change in behavior does not necessarily mean that your child is depressed, but it is a sign that something could be wrong and worth further evaluation.

For more detailed information about depression in children and adolescents, please visit the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Depression

For more information to share with your child or adolescent about depression, please visit Kids Health, Teens Site, Depression and Kids Health, Kids Site, Why Am I So Sad? for children.

Treatment for Depression

Your primary care physician is a good place to start. However, for further evaluation and treatment, a mental health provider is recommended.

Licensed clinical social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors are trained in treatment of depression and other mental health issues.

Psychiatrists are the only providers among this group able to prescribe medication, so often a social worker, psychologist or counselor will work with a psychiatrist to provide care.

Depending on severity, depression can be treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both.

Severe cases of depression are most effectively treated by a combination of medication and psychotherapy, while milder cases may be treated with medication or psychotherapy alone.

Once evaluated, your mental health provider will talk with you about which mode of treatment is right for you.

Accessing Mental Health Care

If you think you need a mental health care provider, contact your CF center’s social worker, who can help you access the appropriate type of care. If you do not have access to a social worker, let your primary care physician, CF doctor or nurse know about your concerns.


Most insurance plans cover mental health services. To find out if your plan has a mental health benefit, check the back of your insurance card for a number for mental health benefits. Some important questions include:

  • What is my co-pay?
  • How many visits are allowed?
  • Do I need a referral?
  • Can you give me a list of providers in my area?

With most insurance plans there is a network of mental health providers. When you call the mental health number on your insurance card, ask for a list of providers in your area.  The social worker at your CF center may be able to help you navigate this system. More information about insurance coverage can be found at the American Psychological Association website.


School-Life Balance | Johns Hopkins Student Assistance Program

Stress Management: Important at Any Age | Johns Hopkins Medicine

In order to optimize functioning, it is necessary to find a balance between the various roles one plays. A student often wears many different hats: partner, worker, friend, classmate, etc. Often times these roles are in conflict, and a student must be adept at attending to a variety of factors and assessing priorities.

How does it impact academics?

School-life balance is important for optimal academic functioning. Students often prioritize academics at the expense of personal factors, including relationships and exercise. This can lead to a decline in academic performance, as general health and well-being are critical to optimal academic functioning.

How does it impact relationships?

The quality of your relationships can determine the health of your school/life balance. A large focus on academics can cause strife in personal relationships, minimizing your sense of support.

Similarly, a preoccupation with relationship issues at the expense of academics or work issues can be detrimental to performance, which can put further strain on the individual and the relationship.

Finding ways to integrate school and personal life is essential.

How does it impact the workplace?

Students juggling work in addition to competing obligations from school and home may experience greater challenges in striking a balance. In these cases, it is even more crucial that you are adept at attending to different roles and setting priorities.

Succeeding as a Graduate or Medical School Student

Succeeding in graduate or medical school means more than simply doing well in your coursework.

In fact, much of what you will learn during your graduate school years will not come from classes but rather through activities such as research, clinical work, internships, attending conferences, serving on departmental and university committees, preparing papers for publication, and joining professional organizations.

Self-motivation, self-discipline, time management, and the ability to prioritize are all essential ingredients to graduate or medical school success. The following tips can help you develop what you will need to succeed in graduate or medical school and beyond.

Manage your time

Time Management is a key component to academic and professional success. It is an essential skill that will help you concentrate your efforts on what is most important.

  • Plan your schedule
  • Make a weekly to-do list
  • Prioritize your work
  • Break large tasks into their smaller components
  • Set goals and deadlines for projects
  • Avoid perfectionism
  • Honestly assess the amount of time you waste

Beware of too much stress

Stress keeps us focused and aware of all the things that need to be done. It can motivate you to study harder and complete assignments and projects on time. But when your stress level becomes more than a motivating tool, or when pressures are too intense or last too long, you may be in stress overload.

Signs of Stress Overload

  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • A feeling of being constantly pressured, hassled, and hurried
  • Irritability and moodiness
  • Physical symptoms such as stomach problems, headaches, or even chest pain
  • Allergic reactions, such as eczema or asthma
  • Problems sleeping
  • Drinking too much, smoking, overeating, or using drugs
  • Sadness or depression

Ways to Relieve Stress

  • Exercise. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to keep stress levels under control.
  • Learn ways to relax your body through meditation, massage, and breathing exercises.
  • Increase your Vitamin D. Take short walks in the sun. Studies show that Vitamin D increases a positive and focused mood.
  • Laugh.
  • Practice positive self-talk.
  • Adopt a mantra such as “this too shall pass” or “I can handle this.”
  • Create an assets column that includes all of the things that bring you joy.
  • Talk to a friend or loved one.
  • Make the best stressful circumstances – be optimistic – your outlook, attitude, and thoughts influence the way you see things.
  • Ask for help. People who have a strong network of family and friends manage stress better.

Strive to be a high achiever not a perfectionist

Perfectionism refers to a set of self-defeating thoughts and behaviors aimed at reaching unrealistically high goals. It is perceived standards of excellence and often fueled by the need for others’ approval.

Contrary to the perfectionist’s belief that it is only through giving 100% to every project, assignment, or cause that they will find success, studies have shown that perfectionist attitudes actually interfere with success by leading to:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Rigidity
  • Lack of motivation
  • Procrastination
  • Obsessive/compulsive behaviors
  • Eating disorders
  • Relationship problems

There's nothing wrong with striving to do the best you can; the key is in knowing your limitations. You can be a high achiever without being a perfectionist through practicing the following behaviors:

  • Set standards that are high but achievable.
  • Enjoy the process, not just the outcome.
  • Monitor your positive and negative thoughts.
  • View mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning.
  • React positively to constructive feedback.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Your physical and emotional well-being plays a major role in your academic, professional, and personal success. Take time to establish and maintain an active and informed wellness plan.

  • Exercise and sleep regularly.
  • Eat healthfully.
  • Make time for yourself.
  • Enjoy and spend time with friends and family.

Managing the conflicting demands of school, work, and family

Managing the multiple demands of your career, school, and personal life can be challenging, but you can be successful if you keep a few tips in mind:

  • Be where you are. Don’t worry about what you aren’t doing. Stay focused on the task at hand—don’t worry about work when you’re in class or studying, and don’t let work or school interfere with spending quality time with family and friends.
  • Set a schedule for the week and get organized. Plan segments of time for study, family, exercise, and other tasks that need to get done. Experiment with the best times for you to study and how frequently you need breaks. Also, figure out the best place to study where all of your materials are accessible and you can truly focus.
  • Reward yourself. You should plan a reward for sticking to your schedule or completing your work before a deadline.
  • Remember that you are only human. Nothing will get done well if you are emotionally or physically drained. Plan exercise and creative activities into your week to help keep you energized.
  • Use your support system. Discuss your expectations for school with your family and friends. Inform them about your schedule so that they know when you can’t be disturbed and when they can expect your full attention. Negotiate household duties your schedule.
  • Don’t focus on getting straight A’s. Since you have already been accepted into graduate school, your focus should be on the learning, not getting 100% on every exam or ranking #1 in your class.
  • Have some fun. Make time to enjoy friends and family; watch a movie; or read non-academic books.
  • Learn to say ‘no.’ This is not the time to volunteer to run new initiatives at work or assume new family responsibilities if you don’t have to. Just meeting your responsibilities at work, school, and home will be enough of a challenge for now. Remember it is only temporary.
  • Know when you need help.

JHSAP can help students cultivate time management, priority-setting, and organizational skills through individual sessions and/or group workshops and presentations.


Reduce and Manage Stress During COVID-19

Stress Management: Important at Any Age | Johns Hopkins Medicine

The COVID-19 pandemic is dominating daily life, and stress related to the outbreak is skyrocketing. Emotions such as anxiety and fear are rational reactions to this unprecedented situation, but they contribute to higher stress levels. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note, everyone responds to stressors in a unique way [1]. 

Coping with stress is essential for getting through COVID-19 with physical and mental health intact. Many of the strategies that can work during COVID-19 are the same strategies that work in other situations. These are some effective ways to reduce and manage stress, and Lark can help you learn about and practice many of them.

1. Identify triggers

Have you been getting panic attacks? Are there times when you feel more stress than other times? There may be patterns. Identifying your triggers can help you avoid them or at least modify how they affect you.

For example, going grocery shopping can be upsetting because lines to get into the store and empty shelves are reminders of a changed world. If that is the case for you, grocery delivery services can allow you to avoid trips to the store and those unpleasant reminders. Similarly, if the news is bothering you, turn off the television and stop browsing the internet. 

It is not possible to avoid all triggers, but If there is absolutely nothing you can do to avoid or modify certain triggers, simply recognizing and accepting their existence can lessen their hold on you.

2. Stick to a schedule

As recently as a couple of months ago, your daily routine may have so deeply engraved in stone that you never even thought about it. It was natural to get up, feed the family and get them ready for the day, get yourself and the kids to and from work and school and activities, fit in a workout, and complete the household chores.

Those required events at specified times might have disappeared overnight with the onset of stay-at-home orders and working and schooling from home. For the first time in years, maybe ever, you may have flexibility about what you do and when. 

Setting a schedule can help keep you grounded and give you a sense of purpose. It does not need to be the same every day, or be as full and rigid as previously, but it does help to plan for certain activities, such as dressing, eating meals, and getting exercise, at certain times. The guidance of a schedule can lower stress that can come from feeling lost.

3. Prepare

Feeling helpless can increase stress levels, while taking action can add to a sense of control and reduce stress. While many things remain our control during this time, there are many other aspects of COVID-19 that you can control. Doing so can lower stress[2].

An action to consider is preparing your home, by stocking up on groceries and other essentials, for a possible 2-week isolation period should you or a family member get sick.

You can also up your hand-washing game and spend a little more time sanitizing high-touch surfaces, such as door knobs and light fixtures. (If you cannot get a hold of disinfecting wipes, it is easy to make a solution of bleach and water to disinfect surfaces).

If it makes you feel better, you can also reach out to a family member or friend to make sure they are willing to be there for you should you get sick.

4. Live healthy

Healthy lifestyle choices can help reduce stress and improve your ability to manage the stress you do have. Along with having regular meals, Harvard suggests eating plenty of vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, fruit, and healthy fats[3]. These foods can boost your immune system and improve mental health and mood, too. 

Other healthy choices to make are to be as physically active as you can, such as walking, gardening, or biking if you want to be outdoors, or setting up a home gym inside if you feel safer there. Getting enough sleep is another way to balance stress hormones and stay healthy.

5. Pause a moment

Stepping back for a moment when a trigger comes can help reduce its effects on your stress levels.

Simple techniques such as deep breathing, counting slowly to 10, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery.

Pausing before reacting can, for example, prevent you from escalating an argument with a family member, or allow you to laugh instead of fume if you realize that you burned the dinner.

Lark has ideas for relaxing and can guide you through some management techniques. With consistent practice, relaxation techniques can become natural so you start to use them whenever you are confronted with a stressful situation.

6. Relax daily

Relaxation techniques can help manage overall stress levels if you practice them regularly. Exercise, yoga, stretching, aromatherapy, and listening to music are all activities you can do regularly to better enable you to manage stress.

7. Be together

Loneliness from physical distancing can add to stress, but it can help to connect with others in new ways.

Video chats with a friend or family member, or a group at a time, can make you feel connected and even give the chance to get deeper into conversation than you may have gotten in recent years when hanging out at bars, concerts, or sporting events.

Staying connected while working from home can be just as important, and it can help to replace some of the coffee-break-banter you may be missing with other conversations, such as over messaging systems or during a lunch break video chat.

8. Be alone

As important and challenging as it is to stay connected during physical distancing measures, it can be equally important and challenging to have time to yourself while these “stay-at-home” orders are in effect. How can you do that while sharing a home or room with a significant other, kids, roommates, and/or parents? 

Taking a walk can get you the home. So can being in the backyard or front yard. Retreating to your bedroom, with an understanding that you are having “alone time,” can work. With kids, you might ask another adult in the household to watch them for a while, or give them an activity that will engross them. 

Another strategy is having an “understood” period of “alone time.” During this period, whether it be for 15 minutes or the entire afternoon, everyone simply goes about their business with the understanding that they are not to interact with each other. Surprisingly, this can work well enough to relieve stress.

9. Change your perspective

Thinking about what “should be happening” is a quick way to feel very sad. Instead, thinking about the reality and what you can do about it can not only lift your spirits, but reduce stress by giving you more control over the situation. 

For example, if there is a birthday coming up, it is stressful to think of the plans you may have had. Instead, starting from square one to make the celebration the best it can be now can be exciting and fun.

There may even be opportunities that were not there before, such as having family and friends from all over the country or world join in to sing “Happy Birthday” over video chat, whereas the plans before COVID-19 only would have included a few local friends joining the celebration.

10. Lower your standards

Setting yourself up for success can lower stress, and the old standards may no longer apply.

For example, before the novel coronavirus pandemic, a typical day may have included a full day of work for you and a significant other, along with a trip to the gym and some errands and chores, and children at school all day before doing extracurricular activities and homework.

That scenario is not going to happen now, and striving for something that is impossible to achieve will only add to stress levels. Instead, a “successful” day may be one that includes a family walk, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with the kids doing their schoolwork for a few hours, and you getting in a bit of work from home. 

11. Help Others 

Research consistently shows that helping out others is great for you, too. There is a need now for whatever you are able to give, such as the following.

  • Time: shop for an elderly or other high-risk neighbor, or pair up with one or more lonely residents of your neighborhood and call them every day for company.
  • Expertise: offer video chat classes for cooking, dancing, sewing, or whatever it is that you are good at, or offer online shows where you sing, tell stories, or give other entertainment while people are stuck at home.
  • Money: Food banks, hospitals, charities are in need of cash donations, and local businesses that need cash flow may be selling gift cards to be redeemed when they reopen. 
  • Talents: Start a community garden, make cheerful thank-you cards for healthcare workers and get-well cards for local hospital patients.

12. Use Lark

Lark is a consistent voice in an uncertain world, so checking in frequently can be comforting and stress-reducing. Lark offers coaching on healthy habits that can lower stress, such as eating right, getting physically active, and improving sleep quality. Lark may guide you through stress management techniques and help you practice healthy behaviors so they become habits. 

One way or another, this historic period of time will end. Until it does, managing stress can help you get through it as healthy as can be. Lark is there for you throughout it all.