Staying Healthy and Holding Hope Amid Difficulty
These are difficult times
These are difficult times and there are many who are providing thoughts and advice as to how to manage to stay healthy while in social isolation and complete routine upheaval. I have compiled a list of my favorite ideas that I would like to share with you. I want to keep it simple and hopefully beneficial to you.
Practice relaxation breathing. Taking deep breaths and then exhaling deeply is a simple practice with potentially powerful results. Intentional oxygen to the brain can help to calm the Autonomic Nervous System and bring degrees of calm to the system. Having a daily practice that involves deep breathing exercises may be best, even if you are feeling fine at the moment.
Consider the following exercise:
· Breathe in for five seconds, hold for a second and then exhale for ten seconds (this can trick the brain into relaxing the body).
· Imagine breathing in good and breathing out anything distressful or upsetting.
The body holds distress and when distress is prolonged it can start to cause significant chronic troubles in the body. To help to relieve the body of stress I suggest using progressive relaxation techniques. You can follow this outline, or there are some great apps that may help you to learn them.
To use progressive relaxation:
· Starting at your head and moving downward tense a group of muscles then relax them and breathe.
· Repeat if needed and change the order if desired.
One technique that I will often use with individuals experiencing high levels of anxiety or panic is a grounding exercise that I call the 5,4,3,2,1 method. To use this, you will:
· Name 5 things that you see and breathe
· Name 4 things that you hear and breathe
· Name 3 things that you feel and breathe
· Name 2 things that you smell and breathe
· Name 1 thing that you taste and breath
· Repeat any or all if desired
Stay busy and continue to reach for your goals
If you are like me you have found yourself with more free time than is typical. While I continue to work, it is not at the same pace as it has been and this has given me time to pursue personal and professional goals that I have been putting off. I recommend that you do similarly. Look to goals that you have been putting off and consider ways that you might be able to use the time to meet those goals. With changes in structure and routine, this may be easier said than done, however, working toward goals can help us to feel a sense of accomplishment that can help us sleep better (literally and figuratively) at night.
Stick the schedule as best you can offer yourself and others compassion when you/they cannot.
COVID-19 has thrown us for a loop. Fortunately, as humans, we have the ability to adapt. We may not want to, but we can. Almost all of us have had some kind of significant disruption to our schedules, routines, and structures. This may have thrown us off, but we can manage and move on. I recommend finding routines that work for you as best as you can under the circumstances. When we fall short, I recommend applying principles of self-compassion. That we learn how to be kind to ourselves to 1. recognize that suffering is a part of being human, 2. unless you are over 102 years old you have not seen anything like this before, we are all of us just making this up as we go along, 3. because we are making it up as we go along we are not going to get it just right every time and it may take some time for us to find a “good enough” let alone a “right,” and 4. it is ok for us to be where we are. When we judge ourselves harshly for floundering and or not getting it right, we are actually creating conditions in which we are less likely to get it right. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others. To do otherwise will create a greater challenge in your efforts to adjust.
Control what you can
One of the most uncomfortable feelings that we as humans can experience is powerlessness. I believe that powerlessness is the foundation of traumatic stress. The thing is that at this point in the history of the world we are, in many ways. powerless and this is painful. Be kind to those parts of you that feel disempowered and do those things that are within your power. For example, it is within your power to do what you can to “flatten the curve.” It may also be within your power to reach some of the goals that I referred to earlier. It may be within your power to reach to others within your household and strengthen bonds with them or to reach to others (albeit remotely) and strengthen connections with them. Find ways to be empowered.
Exercise and nutrition
Getting exercise and continuing a focus on proper nutrition will help you to feel physically well and can decrease complications were you to contract COVID-19. Food will either help or hurt us and many of our feelings of depression and anxiety are more a reflection of food that we have eaten then the circumstances which we are experiencing. Boosting the brain through healthy food and appropriate exercise is always good policy, however, it is especially important during these strange and anxiety-provoking times.
I hope that something that I have addressed in this post has been helpful to you. There are great resources out there to your efforts to remain healthy during the COVID-19 crisis. Look for more from me in the next few days to provide you with more resources that I hope will be helpful to you.