Union for Reform Judaism Member Congregation

Ways to Help Keep Calm During the Pandemic by Dr. Rabbi Michele B. Medwin, D.Mi. LMHC

I have spoken to many people who are getting anxious about having to be home and worrying about themselves, friends, and family. I am going to put on my mental health counseling hat and offer some ways to help you cope with the stress you are feeling.

First, know that it will pass. We may not know how long it will take, so be patient, understanding, and flexible. But there will be an end to this. For now, we have to find ways to adjust to a new, but temporary, normal.

  1. Moving: Moving around can really help calm you down. As the weather is getting warmer, and you are able, consider going outside for a walk. You can do this alone and not be near anybody. Outside air can be refreshing. More than something to do, physically moving releases endorphins which naturally help to calm down anxiety and lift depression. You can also do some exercising indoors. There are many different apps or You Tube videos you can exercise or do Yoga or stretching with. Rather than waiting until anxiety is high, schedule these things in your day. Actually write it in your calendar. “Every day at ___ a.m. and ___ p.m. I will walk/exercise/do yoga.”
  2. Slow Deep Breathing: This helps to calm down the physical changes caused by anxiety and stress. Take a slow deep breath in and then a slow deep breath out. To time it right, count to four each time: breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, breathe out for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts.
  3. Use a mantra: Pick your favorite blessing, or line of a prayer or psalm. Repeat it over and over. You can do this during your deep breathing.
  4. Muscle Relaxation: This also helps calm down the physical changes caused by anxiety and stress. Do the slow deep breathing during this exercise. Sit or lay down in a comfortable place. Starting at your toes, consciously relax the muscles in your toes, then your ankles, then your calves… slowly, mentally work your way up your body focusing especially on your shoulders, neck and face.
  5. Imagery: Think of a peaceful place you enjoy being at, either real or imaginary. Picture yourself there. Using your five senses, describe what you see, what you feel, what you smell, what you hear, what you taste. (i.e. being at the beach – I see the waves, the sand, the sky. I feel the warmth of the sun on my face and a light breeze. I smell the salt water. I hear the sound of the waves and the cry of the seagulls. I can taste the ice cream cone I just bought. Stay in that place for a while.)
  6. Put Your Thoughts on Trial: What you think affects how you feel. Are you imagining the worst? Are you worrying about the future and imagining things that you really don’t know will happen? Question your thoughts. How true are they? How accurate are they? Is there a different, more realistic way to look at this? Can you find the positive in the negative and focus on more positive thoughts?