In times of prolonged transition, adding play to your day can reduce stress and increase resiliency.
Most of us are creatures of habit. We thrive on routines and like to feel in control. But what happens when life throws a curveball or better yet–a series of curveballs? For instance, a global pandemic, stock market volatility, social distancing, remote workforces, community mask mandates, extreme political divisiveness, vaccine distribution, and the re-opening of cities across the country.
These are just some of the challenges we’ve been facing for about eighteen months now—although it may feel like much longer.
Anxiety and stress.
Drastic and prolonged changes to our way of life can lead to panic and stress. We may have stockpiled hand sanitizer, hoarded toilet paper, or even moved large sums of money in to or out of the market.
A January 2021 Harris Poll conducted on behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA) found that adults in the United States are reporting the highest levels of stress since the beginning of the pandemic1. According to the APA’s senior director of health care innovation, no one is immune to stress right now and our bodies were not meant to maintain this level of stress for this amount of time2.
That same poll reveals that money is a top cause of stress and 72% of Americans felt financial stress in the month leading up to the poll3.
Novelty and fun.
Yet people looked for ways to cope and rise above the challenges of their extremely altered environments. While many families quarantined and limited their social engagements, they also played.
People gardened, tried new recipes, and took on rainy day projects. Teenagers educated parents on the fine art of making TikToks. Parents introduced old-school games to their kids, bought new bikes, ordered basketball goals, and caved on allowing the purchase of blow-up pools.
- Bike sales soared in 2020, leading to almost no retail inventory and current wait times of up to 24 months4
- Puzzle makers saw sales go up by 300-400%5
- Manufacturers have seen a 50% increase in sales of inflatable pools and water toys6
Increased Playfulness. A Need for Laughter.
Author and psychiatrist Stuart Brown compares play to oxygen: “It’s all around us yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.”
As humans, we are born with an instinct to temper fear and anxiety with fun and games at times of uncertainty and stress. It’s our innate response to the need for self-preservation. Our bodies and minds know what we need. We need play, we need laughter and we need the novelty of new experiences7.
The health benefits of play and laughter are well-documented. According to HelpGuide.org, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide evidence-based education on mental health and wellness, play can add joy to life, relieve stress and better connect you to others8.
Their research also highlights the health benefits of laughter. By increasing infection-fighting antibodies and improving blood flow, laughter can:
- Strengthen your immune system;
- Release endorphins—your body’s natural feel-good chemicals; and
- Help protect you against a heart attack or other cardiovascular problems9.
Our instinct to play prepares us physically, mentally, and emotionally for change. It builds resiliency and better equips us for those inevitable curveballs that life will throw our way.
Reduction of Stress. Improved Health.
Consider using this continued and unprecedented time to leverage the power of play. By harnessing your natural but often latent ability to embrace the lighter side of life, you’ll be forming new habits that will provide a lifetime of dividends long after the effects of this pandemic have passed.
But you will also be giving yourself a gift—building a unique and stress-reducing practice that will enable you to build resiliency and improve your overall health.
In today’s highly digital environment, intentionally finding ways to add a little joy and fun provides a great opportunity to connect with others in a very human way.
Forging a new normal. Piquing curiosity.
Keep in mind that fun is different for everyone. No one person has the same predilection to play. Get creative in adding a little fun to today’s unique circumstances. The options are limitless—from puzzles to podcasts, Netflix or nature walks, baking or board games, reading or writing. When was the last time you went on a scavenger hunt, rearranged a room, or tried your hand at a new hobby?
The pandemic is well into forging a new normal. So, temper the moments of anxiety with some fun and a healthy dose of child-like curiosity about new possibilities that await you on the other side.
For more information on the health benefits of play, spend a little time today with Dr. Roger Hall: The Power of Play in Times of Uncertainty and Change and The Power of Play Part II.