The coronavirus crisis has upended life as we knew it. Travel has halted, offices have emptied out, and masks and gloves have become necessary, everyday accessories. Everyone has been affected by the virus in some way or another, whether it is dealing with the loss of a loved one, struggling with unemployment or trying to adjust to life during stay-at-home orders.
Not surprisingly, prescriptions for anti-anxiety medicine have jumped 34 percent since COVID-19 broke out, according to a new report from Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit management organization. But there are also some natural remedies that can help relieve current anxiety. David Romanelli, author of "Happy is the New Healthy: 31 Ways to Relax, Let Go, and Enjoy Life Now," shared tips in a recent webinar hosted by Goodman Speakers Management for managing coronavirus stress.
"Obviously, this time we're living in right now is unprecedented. No one's ever been through something like this. It's causing a lot of disruption and there's so much uncertainty," said Romanelli. "But it doesn't really make a lot of sense to be your most worried, anxious self because then we just add to the problem. When we are able to be calm and poised, we can become part of the solution."
Romanelli offered five tips for navigating this trying time with a sense of calm.
While many are accustomed to running a mile a minute, Romanelli encouraged people to slow down. This new challenge requires a new mindset. Taking time to reflect on and adjust to the new normal is critical before one can spring back into action.
"In this stage that we're all going through right now, it's really important to stop and reflect. It's not going to be possible to just jump back to how things were before the pandemic," he said. "Everyone's changing right now. The world is changing, and we have to take this time to reflect and ask ourselves how we're going to evolve, what are the new skills that we're going to build, how are we going to grow and be different in this new world, post-pandemic?"
Resilience and adaptability are key traits during tough times. Those who will come out of this stronger than ever must be forward-thinking and flexible. The meetings industry is already paving the way to weather this storm and prepare for recovery, with planners pivoting to digital and hybrid meetings, and hotels and CVBs offering virtual site visits for future events.
"Everybody gets knocked down, but not everybody gets back up," said Romanelli. "People that are evolving and pivoting to this crisis are thriving, and I think we all have that opportunity. Resilience is a state of mind. Resilience is an attitude. Resilience is a choice you make."
Romanelli also advocates for meditation, which is a proven coping mechanism during stressful times. According to the National Institute of Health, meditation has been shown to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression and can also help with insomnia.
"Some people under crisis are really calm, cool and are able to keep their head together," said Romanelli. "Other people under crisis lose their marbles. When you get nervous or anxious, remember to breathe through it, rather than react to it. There's nothing more soothing to a stressed-out mind than deep breathing."
A number of meditation apps are available for those looking to try out the mindfulness practice. Popular picks include Calm ($14.99/month), Headspace ($12.99/month) and Aura ($11.99/month). Research from the University of Waterloo suggests that as little as 10 minutes of meditation a day can yield big results.
Despite all of the bad that has been dominating news cycles for the past few weeks, there are some pockets of good to be found in the world and in one's own life. Romanelli advises practicing gratitude on a daily basis and shifting conversations to focus on the positive when possible.
"This is a really healthy habit to integrate into your life right now," he said. "When you're surrounded by people who are afraid and anxious, and sometimes we all get into that state, you can change the conversation. You can say, 'OK, here's what brought me joy today. Here's what I'm grateful for.' It's a really powerful shift that we all can make to bring positivity and light to our families, coworkers and communities and just change the conversation."
The impact of gratitude has been well documented. According to Harvard Health, those who practice gratitude often feel better about their lives, are more optimistic, exercise more regularly and have improved relationships with others.
To cultivate gratitude, Romanelli has a mantra he practices daily, which he calls the "BFD Mantra": that a beautiful, funny and delicious moment a day keeps the stress away.
"Make a mental checklist before you go to sleep at night. What was a moment where you stopped and watched the sun set or just experienced some beauty? What was a funny moment in your day where instead of squeezing tight, you loosened your grip and remembered to smile? What was a delicious moment where you didn't scarf down your food, but you actually savored that piece of chocolate at dessert?" he said. "If you can find moments of joy and calmness in the midst of these challenges, you can find joy and calmness anywhere. So, the idea is how are you going to embrace this time and make the most of it?"