Handle Stress Like an Expert
As escape room aficionados, we need to know how to handle stress. We love the pressure of the clock, but if it causes us to panic and freeze, then we’ve let the pressure win. Whether it’s an escape room, a job interview, or an unforeseen event (like COVID-19), we will all meet stress face-to-face. The question we need to ask ourselves is: how will we handle stress?
While we may encounter hundreds of people in our daily escape room experiences, we are not psychologists, so we spend time doing our homework. Lucky for us, we discovered that most medical professionals agree on a few proven ways to reduce stress. As summarized well in this short interview by psychiatrist Sue Varma, the former 911 Director of Mental Health, “Mindfulness, Mastery, Movement and Meaningful engagement” are the essential pillars to handle stress successfully. With the Corona Virus situation evolving, many of us are facing heightened levels of stress, so we hope that one of these areas can be helpful for you and your loved ones!
Is being aware of the present. While it sounds simple, it’s not our default mode; as humans, we live in the past and the future more than we live in the present. Using all of our five senses in the present moment is a great way to practice mindfulness, and it is an incredible technique to handle and reduce stress, especially anxiety about the future.
- Challenge: Take ten slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Each breath should take ~10 seconds. Inhale, exhale, and become aware of your body and your surroundings. Ten breaths are definitely a challenge, but afterward, you will immediately feel more relaxed.
Means spending time using your strengths or thinking of past obstacles you have overcome. In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to feel helpless, as if everything in our world is outside of our control. This is not the case, but it’s easy to slip into that mindset. The best way to remind ourselves of reality is to spend time exercising a skill that you have worked hard to cultivate.
- Challenge: Choose one activity at which you are skilled – i.e., writing, cooking, music, running, etc. Plan for 30 minutes each day to work on that skill. You will feel progress and mastery as you grow, and you’ll notice your stress levels start to calm down.
This is self-explanatory but highly underrated. Exercise has been proven time and again to reduce stress in our lives. With gyms closed and “shelter-in-place” becoming the norm, we might be tempted to curl up and watch Disney all day. Fortunately, we know how important movement is for your mind, and it doesn’t take much space to move.
- Challenge: Set 5 minutes each morning to move before you start your daily schedule – yoga, stretching, push-ups, etc. A little throw-back to your high-school physics class: “A body in motion stays in motion.” Even a short 5 minutes of movement in the morning will start your day in the right direction.
It means spending time with people. The keyword here is “meaningful,” being in the same room as someone on your phone doesn’t count. While it is tempting to watch the news constantly, it’s far more life-giving to have a meaningful conversation with your roommate or family member. Speaking your mind and engaging with others is a great way to help you handle the stress in your life.
- Challenge: The next time you are able, ask a friend or family member to share one positive thing that they have experienced personally due to the COVID-19 ordinances. We’ve done this numerous times as a team, and it’s been incredibly uplifting.
At Red Door, we are on a mission to help people reconnect with those they love, and these four “M’s” of mental health are essential for making that mission a reality.
If you need ideas for ways to engage with people, our escape rooms are a great place to start! Find a location near you and book an episode for some clean fun with friends.
This post has been updated as of July 2020
MSNBC Interview with Psychiatrist Sue Varna