Lately life has been more stressful than usual for most of us due to our regular routines being altered due to COVID. Depending where you live, you likely have had (or still have) closures at many community centers, gyms, medical offices and support centers you normally rely on. We're not used to staying home as much as we have had to over the last year, and for a lot of people, it means increased anxiety and rates of depression. As a Recreation Therapist, I wanted to give you the best activities (based on research) that might help reduce your anxiety. Of course, we are all different and have different interests but these are some recommended activities.
Creative Arts: Engagement in creative arts activities such as visual arts, writing, music, drama and movement have been shown to help decrease anxiety and stress and promote positive mood and increased confidence and self-identity. Find inspiration at a local art supply or craft store, dollar store, online workshops or YouTube tutorials.
Nature: Increasing contact with the natural environment is shown to promote feelings of well-being, lowers blood pressure, decreases feelings of anxiety and depression and improves physical activity levels. If you can’t get out to the trails to be immersed in nature, accessing urban parks, engaging in gardening or even taking care of indoor plants will have positive effects.
Mindfulness: The practice of mindfulness is beneficial in reducing the symptoms of sub-clinical depression and anxiety and can substantially reduce stress. It helps to improve coping skills, improves sleep, and most importantly, assists with overall feelings of well-being! Simple techniques such as focusing on the breath, meditation, body scans and mindful walking are just some examples of mindfulness tools. There are lots of great mindfulness videos on YouTube to follow. I would recommend Jason Stephenson (guided meditations) as he has a large variety to choose from.
Pet Therapy: There are many benefits to pet therapy or having a family pet and they include reduction of stress, improved mood, increased self esteem, increases happiness and decreases isolation by giving you a companion. If you do not have a pet, trying to visit with a friend who has a pet would be helpful.
Music: The many benefits to music therapy include improved mood, sleep and overall happiness. Make a playlist and throw on some music while doing chores, working, or cooking. Play some relaxing music in the evening to de-stress and calm down from the day. Music plays a huge role in our moods and the way we feel. Play music that works with the mood you are wanting to achieve.
Exercise: Beyond the physical health benefits, regular exercise is shown to help reduce anxiety & tension, promote positive mood, and increase self-esteem and confidence! So many reasons to get moving! Get outside for a walk or look up a variety of exercise classes on YouTube. The best way to get moving is to get outside and double down on mental health benefits (if you can)!