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Using Joy to Tackle COVID-19 Stress

woman cooking and dancing in the kitchen with wooden utensils

When we sense a threat, our mind and bodies spring into action and initiate a stress response. Once sensed, our brains release natural chemicals to prepare our body to address or avoid the threat to help us survive (i.e., our “fight or flight” response). However, during COVID-19, this survival mechanism may be in overdrive and lead to higher levels of stress.

While there are many ways to manage stress, an often-overlooked way is regularly doing things that bring meaning and joy to our life. Things that fill our cups.

When we engage in pleasurable activities, there are many benefits. The benefits include:

  • Release the “feel good”: Our brain releases chemicals called endorphins that boost feelings of well-being and block perceptions of pain; for example, the “runner’s high” that runners experience after a few miles.

  • Clear your mind: By engaging in joyful activity, your mind can refocus on what’s in front of you and break the cycle of focusing only on stressful thoughts.

  • A creative outlet: Re-discovering once pleasurable hobbies, or discovering new ones, can allow your creative side to come out and play.

  • Connect with others: Engaging in fun activities does not have to a one-person show. Especially during the time of social distancing and stay-at-home, remotely sharing this experience with friends and family helps you stay connected. And if you are trying out new activities, you may just make new relationships, too.

  • Feel better about yourself: Not only are we doing something fun, we are feeling great about ourselves in the process. By doing meaningful activities, our confidence increases, we think better about ourselves, and we feel accomplished.

Whether you have meaningful activities that you don’t do as often, you used to engage in fun but stopped, or you never really had joyful activities, you can bring joy into your life now. Several ways to find those activities include:

  • Brainstorm: Take a history of those things that you loved to do as a child or when you had more time for fun in your life. What did you do that brought you happiness?

  • Google it: Research activities online that you might enjoy or talk with others about what they enjoy. By doing so, you may find a new outlet for joy and meaning. Your search may bring you to a new hobby, such as gardening, learning a new language, or volunteering. By doing so, you may find an online community of new friends with similar interests.

  • Make a list: Once you rediscover what you used to enjoy doing or find new joyful activities, make a list of the activities, and keep it in sight as a visual reminder of your commitment to engage in fun.

  • Make it social: Reach out to friends and family to join you in the fun or to help you with your list.

  • Ink it: Schedule time as you would for work, exercise, and other important life events. Research has shown that writing it down is a great way to increase your commitment to engaging in joyful activities.

Bottom line: the activity itself is less important than the meaning it has for you. So, find what you love.

TrestleTree is here to help people discover, or rediscover, those meaningful activities that bring joy. TrestleTree Health Coaches find personalized ways to help people manage stress and put these activities and other good coping skills into place. Unique life circumstances and sources of stress drive the content of coaching. TrestleTree Health Coaches also have an awareness of resources available and will provide referrals as needed.


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