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2021 is finally here, but if we’re being completely honest, not much has changed. COVID-19 still has most of us shut inside of our homes. Distant learning, working remotely, social distancing when your at work and out in the world, and this potentially deadly virus are all still very much a part of our reality. And while we are thankful to have made it to see another year, it doesn’t mean that the stressors that plagued us in 2020 have vanished.

According to a study published in Science Advances, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an increase of symptoms associated with acute stress and depression in Americans.

“The pandemic is not hitting all communities equally,” said the study’s lead author, E. Alison Holman, PhD, University of California Irvine’s professor of nursing. “People have lost wages, jobs, and loved ones with record speed. Individuals living with chronic mental and physical illness are struggling; young people are struggling; poor communities are struggling.”

The realities and consequences of this pandemic have been extremely harsh and there’s no doubt that they are taking a serious toll on our mental health as well as our relationships. While this pandemic has caused us to stop and recognize the things that truly matter, being on lockdown with family can be emotionally overwhelming, and heightened stress levels can cause us to lash out at the people we care about more than usual.

Here are four stress management techniques that may help you to avoid lashing out at the people you love during these complicated times.

Take walks regularly

When things were normal, we were able to do things like hit up the coffee shop (or the bar) with friends when we were feeling stressed or overwhelmed. However, COVID-19’s impact on social gatherings has dramatically altered this simple coping mechanism.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy has benefits that far exceed pleasing scents. As explained by WebMD, “Experts think aromatherapy activates areas in your nose called smell receptors, which send messages through your nervous system to your brain,” as well as your limbic system. It is believed that aromatherapy can help to ease symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Turn off the news

“The media is a critical source of information for people when they’re faced with ambiguous, ongoing disasters,” explained one of the UC Irvine study’s lead investigators, Roxane Cohen Silver, professor of psychological science. “But too much exposure can be overwhelming and lead to more stress, worry and perceived risks.”

Spend time alone

Self-care may have been one of the most overused phrases of 2020, but in order to survive what we’ve been through and continue to go through, commitment to personal care is essential. Further, with all of the time that we spend shut inside with loved ones, taking advantage of me-time is completely necessary.

“Self-care is essential. With everyone’s schedule changed, it’s important to establish and maintain some kind of a routine,” Dr, Chris Kraft, a psychologist and relationships and sexuality expert told Johns Hopkins Medicine’s digital publication.

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