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10 tips to help you better manage stress

The top of the Tower seen through a cluster of burnt orange leaves on a tree beside the turtle pond.
Photo by Marsha Miller.

We’ve all heard some version of the phrase, “You can’t take care of others unless you first take care of yourself.” But the need for self-care has become even more important — and, for some of us, more difficult to prioritize — because of additional stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Whether employees are working remotely or reporting to campus, this continues to be a complex and stressful time for all of us,” says Susan Harnden, director of HealthPoint. “It is common for people to feel overwhelmed by the changes and challenges COVID-19 has presented in our personal and work lives.”

The good news is there are many things you can try to improve your mental and physical well-being that don’t require much time or resources. Here, we’ve gathered some tips from HealthPoint and the Employee Assistance Program; check the websites for even more information.

Make time to take care of yourself.

Schedule it in just as you would a meeting so that you make it a priority.

Try out meditation.

Being mindful of what you’re thinking and how your body is reacting can help alleviate anxiety. Apps such as Headspace, Insight Timer, Calm and many more will guide you through meditation or mindfulness activities, and many offer free versions to try. You can also find a 5-minute relaxation audio guide at eap.utexas.edu/stress-reduction/relaxation-tracks.

Consider starting a journal.

Writing things out can help to get things off your mind and could improve your mood.

Have structure in your day.

If you’re working at home, it can be hard to separate work time from personal time. Try to set a time to stop working just as you would if you were leaving the office.

Bond with your pets.

Research shows that interacting with pets increases levels of oxytocin, a hormone associated with love, comfort and relaxation. Take your furry friend for a walk or hang out together on the couch.  

Physical activity helps our mental state.

You don’t have to be a marathon runner; even a relaxing walk will improve your mind and body. HealthPoint offers free yoga classes weekdays via Zoom: healthpoint.utexas.edu/virtual-healthpoint-fitness-classes. You can also find a series of videos on yoga for anxiety: eap.utexas.edu/stress-reduction/yoga-anxiety.

Find a hobby that brings you joy.

It’ll give your brain a break and let you focus on something positive.

Connect with others.

You might feel isolated at this time. Find discussion and support groups at eap.utexas.edu/coronavirus.

Seek out helpful resources.

Visit the EAP website, eap.utexas.edu, for handouts about sleep, resilience, burnout, compassion fatigue, stress management, communication and more. Visit healthpoint.utexas.edu for videos, links to wellness resources and more.

Sometimes, self-help isn’t enough.

HealthPoint EAP offers phone and video counseling to all university health insurance benefits-eligible staff and faculty members, as well as dependents age 18 and older or retirees. To make a confidential video counseling appointment, contact EAP’s main office at 512-471-3366 or eap@austin.utexas.edu.