'It takes a while for people to combat the drama of their mind'-- Alaskans look for ways to reduce stress

Published: Mar. 17, 2020 at 2:31 PM AKDT
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Alaskans, you look tense. All over town, people are gritting their teeth, slumped over desks while working at home. I see you checking the internet for the for coronavirus and Stock Market updates on your phone.

Look, let's be honest, we're all stressed. The usual places to let out some of the anxiety are closed or not operating normally: yoga studios, gyms, restaurants.

The coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, continues to disrupt life as we know it.

So, what should we do to be calmer?

The Harvard Medical School said in its latest health guideline that yoga, meditation, and controlled breathing are "some tried and true ways to relax."

The article 'Coping with coronavirus anxiety' was published this week.

"Regular meditation is very calming. Many apps teach simple forms of meditation, such as Headspace or Calm," wrote John Sharp, a board-certified psychiatrist on the faculty at Harvard Medical School and the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"Not a yoga person? No need to start now unless you'd like to try it. Sometimes trying new things and discovering new activities you can benefit from and enjoy can be a welcome, healthy distraction," he said.

But, yoga studios were also closed this week by Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz as a way to proactively stopping the spread of coronavirus. Some yoga teachers have turned to Facebook and Instagram Stories to stay connected to their students and guide them through simple meditation practices. AYC will begin free yoga classes soon on its social media platforms. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization officially declared the virus a "pandemic," with many cities across the country implementing preventative measures, like "social distancing," to try to mitigate the number of cases.

Meditation involves breathing, and postures and sometimes poses that are challenging in their simplicity — like just being still.

Katey Inman co-owner of Anchorage says she doesn't like to use the word 'meditation' but but instead a 'conscious pause.'

"It's more giving people a platform to shut down their exposure to social media, news, community input and even the analytical mind during this time," Inman said.

Inman suggests pausing for five minutes a day, twice a day.

"Pay attention to your inhalation and pair that with my favorite affirmation, which is, 'I am breathing in,' (as you breathe in), and then as you exhale, you say to yourself quietly, 'I am breathing out,'" Inman said.

It works best in a quiet room, with your eyes closed, but being surrounded by chaos also is possible. Focus on breathing.

"It takes a while for people to combat the drama of their minds," Inman said.

Anchorage Press Pick for best yoga instructor David Westlake from Anchorage Yoga and Cycle and Turiya of Alaska, which teaches yoga inside prisons, posted meditation video this week on Facebook.

It starts with the chime of a bell.

"Good morning everybody. I'm not sure where you are right now in this whole experience or how you're feeling. You might be feeling anxious, a little bit fearful," Westlake says in his soothing voice from his home via Facebook.

"It's a simple, simple process breathing in through the nose and, breathing out. Just start to notice the breath moving in and our through you. And, now that you're aware of the breath, I ask you to breath in through the nose and out of the mouth letting the breath go all the way through to completion," Westlake says.

His Instagram post has multiple people tagging each other.

Westlake says he was surprised by the positive responses he's received about his post.

"I think the best thing would be to find someone like myself, or an app, or even beyond that just to take some moments of quiet, sit down, focus on the breath. Maybe make yourself a hot beverage, and just sit and just allow yourself to be there and before you know it you're meditating," Westlake said.