Well, here we are in week 9 of lock down and oddly enough, this new way of being is beginning to feel normal. It’s been a steep, and sometimes painful, learning curve – trying to figure out what this current “new normal” is. And although things are slowly starting to open back up, we still find ourselves facing new ways of being and interacting in the world and with eachother.
Every day, we are reminded on news and social media outlets to protect ourselves from this virus (which shall not be named) by wearing protective masks, to wash our hands regularly and to keep a minimum of 2 meters away from people when we are out – in addition to isolating at home the rest of the time. While all of these measures have been imposed to keep us safe and healthy, I am painfully aware that these same measures can create a sense of anxiety and a feeling of being out of control for many of us. The reason for this is that our focus is on protecting ourselves from a common enemy. It’s not lost on me how much of the messaging we are receiving from all media outlets relates our current situation to being at war. It’s reasonable to expect then, that people will naturally feel scared, anxious and worried.
I’d like to invite you to shift your focus from this place of fear to a place where you do have control and the ability to decide how you experience this time in your life.
Here are 5 Ways to Manage Your Health and Well-Being During a Pandemic
Daily Physical Activity
It’s probably not a big surprise that this one is at the top of the list.
It doesn’t matter what you choose to do. Whether it be yoga, lifting weights,or going for a walk or a run; moving your body on a daily basis is key to boosting your energy levels and your mood- pandemic or not.
There are obviously loads of physical benefits to regular exercise but in the midst of a pandemic, where self-isolation for extended periods of time has become the norm, the mental benefits are an even more compelling reason to “workout” than even the physical benefits.
Studies have shown, that people who participate in regular physical exercise, experience a higher quality of life, improved mood, and a reduction in symptoms of depression in people with mild to moderate forms of non- bipolar depression*.
Of course, I’m heavily biased towards yoga as a form of physical exercise. I love that yoga offers me an opportunity to move and breathe in a slow and connected way. Beyond the physical benefits, I have personally experienced deep mental and spiritual benefits from having a regular yoga practice. Besides yoga though, I really LOVE lifting weights and resistance training.
Weight training is not only a great way to build physical strength, it has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to build bone density – particularly important for people at risk of osteoporosis. It also releases all the feel-good hormones that are so vital to mental well-being.
Whatever you choose to engage in for your physical movement practice, make sure it’s a form of movement that you enjoy. Start small, and over time, you might discover something you really love to do.
Savour your Food
It goes without saying that what you choose to put in your body matters. Good Food not only nourishes your body, it nourishes your soul. But I’m not here to give you advice on what to eat, or how much to eat, or what not to eat – there are enough people doing that already.
What I do want to encourage you to do is to eat mindfully, regardless of what it is that you choose to eat. Mindful eating forces you to slow down and really tune into the senses while you eat. Notice how your food smells, how it feels, how it looks, and of course, how it tastes.
One of the great things that I’ve seen happening over these last few weeks is that people are returning to the kitchen! Even before the pandemic, I often wondered what would happen to all the people who claim they don’t know how to cook? As it turns out, YouTube and other platforms are apt teachers and people have a new found interest in connecting with their food.
Of course, it’s important to try and eat as much fresh, whole food as possible in order to stay healthy but that doesn’t mean you should feel bad about indulging in sweets and treats. I strongly believe that one of the true joys of being human is the ability to enjoy food. No other species on earth manipulates and creates their nourishment the way that humans do. So instead of feeling guilty about what you are eating, I am encouraging you to eat slowly and savour every bite.
Become Aware of What You are Feeding Your Mind
There are many studies that show the deep connection between the mind and body. Your thoughts become your reality so be as diligent about what you feed your mind with as you are with what you feed your body.
Be mindful of how much media you consume – pause and re-read that. You consume media. You take in the messages and those messages affect your thoughts and perceptions of the world around you. Consider how much time you spend on social media platforms. What messages are you being barraged with? Really notice and pay attention to how your mood might be affected by what you are taking in. Notice repetitive thought patterns, feelings of worry, anxiety or stress.
Be mindful of how you start your day. Do you watch the news as you sip your morning coffee? How does that make you feel? Would it be better to start your day some other way? Perhaps journaling, meditating, going for a walk or some other slow and mindful activity.
It might be better to take in the news a little bit later in the day – just enough to keep you informed.
Consider where you direct your mental energy. Rather choosing to place your focus and attention on the things you don’t want or are afraid of, acknowledge those feelings and try shifting your attention to the things that you do want – good health, time with friends, cuddles with your dog, creating something new. Whatever it is that you desire, spend time focusing your thoughts there and notice how your body feels when you do that.
Surrender to a Higher Power
I don’t often share my spiritual beliefs with openly with people but I will share that having a strong faith practice has helped me tremendously through this time. The problems we are facing as a collective sometimes feel so huge and overwhelming, it’s just more than I can handle. When I catch myself falling into the abyss of worry, anxiety and fear, I chose to turn instead to the God of my understanding and surrender. I trust that the solution, much like the problem, is much bigger than me.
If you have a faith practice, even if you’ve been away from it for a long time, I am encouraging you to reconnect with it. Your faith, much like your yoga mat, is always waiting to welcome you back. Find comfort in the support of the divine workings of the Universe. Trust that life is always smiling in your favour, even if it’s hard to recognize that right now.
Present Moment Awareness
This might be the most anchoring practice of all. When we practice present moment awareness, our singular focus is on the here and now. The past no longer exists, the future is uncertain. The only thing we know for sure, is this very moment, this singular breath.
In his best-selling book, A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle teaches “The most important, the primordial relationship in your life is your relationship with the Now, or rather with whatever form the Now takes”.
Practicing present moment awareness is just that – a practice. Each day, set aside just a few moments to breathe. Notice what you sense, your surroundings, your experience in a single moment. Notice when thoughts call your awareness elsewhere. Rather than resisting, allow the thoughts to move through your consciousness and out and then gently guide yourself back to the Now. Repeat this process as often as you like and throughout your day.
I hope that some of these tips help you to feel more in control and supported right now. Remember that life always ebbs and flows and that these suggestions can be employed any time you’re experiencing stress or difficulty in your life.
Please leave a comment or drop me a note to let me know what you are doing to manage your health and well-being.