Staying well when the world is unwell
So many things may be on your mind during this trying time in the world – finances, not being able to work, loneliness and boredom from staying home, taking care of your loved ones while maintaining “social distancing.” It’s a crazy, surreal experience we are all going through right now, but one of the easiest things to control is your health and wellbeing.
Yes, you must wash and sanitize your hands, avoid touching your face, and distance yourself from others to avoid spreading the virus, but you must also focus on taking a few precious minutes each day to take care of your mental and physical wellness. For the next 3 days, focus on the following principles. You may just discover that on day 4 you’ll want to continue these practices and expand on them…
· Breathe – Try what yogis call equal-parts breath. Sit quietly – no need for any special yoga poses or props, just find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. Breathe normally for a minute or two and notice your normal breathing pattern. Then slowing begin to count to 4 as you inhale, hold your breath a moment, then count to 4 as you exhale. Set a timer and do this for just 1 minute. Mindful breathing has a calming effect on the sympathetic nervous system, and can suppress the “fight-or-flight” response.
· Stretch – After mindful breathing, perform some gentle stretching exercises. Start seated with legs extended and gently lower into a forward fold. Then lie back and hug your knees to your chest, holding for a moment, and then releasing the knees to one side, then the other for a slow, gentle spinal twist. Finish by extending into a full body stretch, reaching your hands above your head and gently bending to the right and left. Stretches and twists help lessen soreness and improve digestion.
· Nourish your body – Consume healthy foods and try your best to avoid processed and junk foods. Sounds simple, right? But ice cream and wine can be more tempting when you are bored, stressed, and isolated. Treat yourself occasionally, but don’t overindulge. Lean proteins (eggs, poultry, fish, tofu), vegetables, and fruit should make up the most of your diet, with just a little dairy and whole grains added in. This is not the time to be on a strict weight-loss regimen. Mindful and healthful eating will strengthen your body, which is essential during stressful times.
· Nourish your mind – Turn off the news. Stay up to date on current events, as things are changing multiple times daily, but do not leave the news channels on all day. The 24-hour news channels tend to repeat themselves over and over, hour after hour. Prolonged exposure will only increase any anxiety you may be feeling right now, so turn it off. What to do instead? Read a book that you bought but never got around to reading. Listen to podcasts. There are so many podcasts available for free that you will easily find something of interest – true crime, cooking ideas, child development, and just about any topic you can think of. Play your favorite music while cleaning and organizing a closet. Learn to knit, crochet, or sew from a YouTube tutorial. Complete a 1000-piece puzzle with your family. Watch a movie. Basically, keep your mind occupied on pleasurable topics, and lessen your focus on negative emotions.
· Movement – I get it. I really do. Your gym is closed and you feel lost and unsure of what to do. Instead of getting caught up in the mindset of losing gains and progress, try to look at this time as a physical reset for your body. While we are encouraged (or mandated) to stay home, we are able and allowed to go outside! Fresh air and sunshine are vital to staying mentally well. You can practice safe distancing from others while taking a walk, riding a bike, or starting your spring planting. A friendly smile and wave from your neighbor will feel wonderful, and something we previously may have taken for granted or avoided altogether. As for at-home workouts, I have this to say: I’m seeing so many people sharing their at-home workouts and fitness tips, many for free. Don’t pay for an “influencer” or “expert” to give you exercise advice when there are so many kind souls who are sharing simply because they love helping others. Trainers and fitness center owners in my local area are all providing their clients and community with free daily workouts, and I think it’s so beautiful. So go easy on yourself. Gyms will reopen and you will go back to your normal routine, but for now, focus on daily movement and know that you will be ok.
We will all be ok.
Til next time...