The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything most of us have seen in our life. With this unprecedented event has come unmitigated stress. This threat to our health and safety means we must do all we can to reduce our stress levels so our immune systems can keep us well.

Here are five tips to help you get through this crisis:

1. Cut yourself some slack.

While it’s fine to aim for the stars it’s also okay to not always meet that standard. Maybe you didn’t meet the assignment deadline or indulge in more cheat foods than you should. Whatever it is, don’t beat yourself up.

“What I’ve been telling people, and what I’ve been doing myself, is lower your expectations,” says Jessica Thompson, a Kingston counselling psychologist. “If you’re expecting to operate in the same way, meaning with the same level of productivity, or keep the same routine, you’re going to be even more stressed, as you’re going to find that you fall short.”

Remember, these aren’t normal circumstances.  So, be sure to cut yourself, and others, some slack.

2. Keep a routine.

Cutting yourself some slack, doesn’t mean letting yourself go completely. Whether at home working or just stuck in the house idling it’s important to keep a routine. Experts advise maintaining a simple regimen, like going to bed and waking up at the same times or doing some form of movement every day, even if it’s just stretching your limbs. Make daily or weekly calls to key people in your life.

3. Accept your anxiety.

While anxiety can be dysfunctional, it has its place. We are all anxious in this new normal. The trick is to recognize how it changes our behavior and find ways to adjust. Above all, accept the new normal and you are more likely to put yourself at ease. Exercises like yoga and activities like meditation can certainly help. Find out what works for you.

4. Stay connected.

While social distancing is undoubtedly a key strategy for flattening the curve, you still need to keep the link with your loved ones. We are social animals and we need the emotional sustenance that comes from these relationships. Use the technology and be innovative. Virtual connections have replaced our old ways of doing things, so explore the popular platforms and learn to use them to connect.

5. Do nothing.

Or at least something relaxing. Even with all this so-called “free time” many of us now have, with all the stress we’re under, our productivity just won’t be what it usually is. Trying to force it will only set yourself up for disaster. Instead, when you need a break, take one. Try to find some time in the days to take it easy. Read a book or watch a show. If you have a garden or a suitably secluded outdoor space, go outside for some fresh air. You may have a few more spare hours, but don’t feel obligated to fill up every hour of every day.

In this frightening moment in time, do what you can to keep your stress in check and remember what is most important: your health and the health of us all.