Right now, the entire world is responding to a pandemic, and our daily social media feeds inundate us with devastating news and more and more uncertainty.
When we experience stress, our bodies may go into the physiological response of fight-or-flight response: Our brains sense danger and attempt to mobilize us for survival.
Right now, the human mind is working in superhuman mode. Staying safe and healthy at home during a pandemic is an act of survival.
Our basic needs have been compromised, and yet we still have to function in every other high-level aspect of our lives.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow would deem it impossible to be productive with work responsibilities and remain calm, cool, and collected when we are struggling to survive.
Pause. Take a deep breath. Even superhumans need rest and balance.
This is hard, but you are doing a great job. It is normal to feel overwhelmed by a full range of emotions. There are positive ways to cope with these high-stress challenges. It is important to have ways to manage the constant stress and help our bodies and minds find balance.
Whether you experience particular mental health issues or general stress and anxiety, turning inward can help you release some of that negative energy and feel recharged and at peace. Activity-based therapeutic approaches include gardening, freewriting or journaling, or expressive art such as drawing, coloring, painting, or making crafts — especially easy if you have young children!
Other activities shown to reduce stress and improve overall health are meditation and yoga. Matthew Morales, yoga instructor and founder of Quiet Mind Yoga, shares his routines and practices to stay balanced during stressful times. He emphasizes that “during these times where everything is changing, it is imperative that we all partake in some form of self-care.”
The goal of meditation is to invite you to be present rather than stressing about the past or future.
“Mindfulness and yoga help restore balance because they give you tools to be present and release whatever thoughts/energy are going through you that are not serving you,” he said. “With meditation, your mind stays focused on the present moment, which also helps release suppressed feelings. The asana form of yoga is also a beautiful tool to restore balance, utilizing the breath to keep you in the present moment while moving through poses that release energy that may be stuck in the body.”
Quiet Mind Yoga offers free Facebook Live Videos for people of all levels. There are also many yoga tutorials on YouTube and apps that offer guided meditations, such as Waking Up, Headspace, Insight Timer, and Buddhify.
What we eat every day has a direct impact on our overall physical health. The best approach is to focus on eating whole foods, avoid processed foods, minimize added sugars, eat organic when you can, and primarily eat plant-based foods.
Refined carbohydrates, dairy products, alcohol, processed meats, and sugars cause systemic inflammation, so limit these as much as possible, or cut them out entirely if you can. Almond, soy, and oat milk are great options to cut out dairy and extra sugars and hormones. You can also substitute simple carbohydrates with vegetables, legumes, or quinoa.
Fat is a necessary macronutrient and healthy options include avocado and coconut oils for cooking, olive oil for salads and cold meals, and natural fat-rich foods for snacking such as avocado, almonds, and cashews.
“One thing I love to do is drink a hot tea that helps the immune system and inflammation,” Morales said. “It consists of juice from one whole lemon, turmeric, a pinch of pepper, honey, and doTerra Lemon Essential oil (about 2 drops). I also make sure that I am taking multivitamins. Those items stacked with the self-care tools I mentioned will do wonders for you! And, of course, take care with what you eat — it’s all about balance!”
Move Your Body
Physical and occupational therapists utilize exercise as a way to help patients improve emotional regulation and decrease stress and anxiety. Move your body, clear your mind. If you are in tune with your body, it can tell you what it needs.
Exercise sessions that focus on workout quality rather than duration also boost your mood, enhancing your outlook and interactions with others. You are allowed to cherry-pick your approach to wellness, whether for your mental wellbeing or to improve physical fitness. Try different things, find an accountability partner, connect to your spirituality, and nurture meaningful connections with others.
Balance and well-being are not an end goal but a lifestyle. Build that lifestyle with kindness and compassion for yourself one step at a time (even if you take a few steps backward). You can do hard things, and when the going gets tough, know that you have everything within you to return to balance. You got this.