How’s your anxiety level?
That’s been my first question to friends, clients and classes lately. My own answer to the question changes day-to-day (sometimes hour-to-hour!) as the details of, and the response to, this pandemic evolve, from Def-Con 5 to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy!”
Much of this anxiety is being fueled by uncertainty, of not knowing what’s next. At times like this, it is important to recognize that some things are beyond our control, and it doesn’t help to obsessively “wonder and worry” about those things. We can’t control the outcome, but we can control our own actions that contribute to that outcome.
Consider these things that affect your health and well-being that you CAN control:
Most people know that movement and other purposeful exercise is a great way to deal with stress. But remember, exercise itself is also a stressor to your body; as much as you may feel you need it, going all out during your workout may not be the best decision. Take a quick self-check and listen to what your body is telling you.
On the other hand, don’t give up your workouts entirely. Your gym or studio may be closed, but you can get creative with at-home workouts. Use whatever you have, and do whatever you can. Doing something is always better than doing nothing!
Take a mental break
This one is hard, since you want to be informed but not overwhelmed. I have heard from more than one person that they were maintaining an even keel on their emotions and anxiety, until they took a deep dive into their email or news feeds. Recognize when you need to step away. Get out in nature if you can, and leave the phone behind. I am fortunate that I live in a rural area, where I can take long walks without coming within 6 feet of another person. I also have a big yard, and since the weather has been agreeable lately here in The ‘Shire, there are opportunities to clear the mind while clearing some brush. If you are in a more urban area, look for some open space, like a park or roof deck, to get some sun on your face and wind in your hair. Still stick with your safe containment practices: keep your gloves on while you swing on the swingset, and don’t lick the flagpole (even if someone triple-dog dares you!)
Meditation is also great for calming the mind and body. It doesn’t have to be anything woo-woo or New-Agey if that doesn’t appeal to you; finding a quiet space to sit and focus on your breathing for 5 minutes can do it. Apps like Headspace can get you started as well. I was introduced to the meditations of Jack Kornfield by the instructors at the yoga studio where I practice, and have found them very helpful in quieting my mind. (Practicing yoga, by the way, is also great for physical and mental benefits. There are many styles of teaching out there; try out some classes if you can, to find one that is a good fit for you. Online options are out there!)
Focus on nutrition
It’s called “comfort food” for a reason. I’m sure we have all been tempted lately to take a deep dive into the snack aisle for whatever is going to soothe us, whether creamy or crunchy, sweet or salty. But unlike a snow day, where it may be OK to live on potato chips dipped in ice cream for a day, this disruption to our regular routine may last a while. Good nutrition, along with adequate sleep (see above if you are having a hard time turning off your mental feed at night), is going to keep you better prepared to maintain your health.
As much as possible, every meal should include lean protein, colorful fruits and vegetables, and slow-digesting carbs. Minimally processed whole foods are best, but fresh veggies may not be an option if you are looking at being hunkered down for 2 weeks. Canned or frozen veggies are fine, but as with all processed foods (anything in a box or bag with a label) read the label for undesirable ingredients and additives. Non-perishable foods have been disappearing rapidly from store shelves, but when I was shopping this week, there were plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits available. If you are able to get out and shop, pick some up; if you don’t get some fiber in your diet, you are not going to need that toilet paper you’ve been hoarding!
There have been concerns lately that we as a society have become more isolated, interacting with each other only through our devices. Now that it is being limited, we are learning just how much in-person contact affects our daily lives, and our on-line connections are becoming more a blessing than a curse. Reach out to your friends and family, and try to recreate that in-person connection as much as possible, by hearing their voices and seeing their faces. You know, I hear that that little computer in your hands can make phone calls, and the real fancy ones have this thing called FaceTime!
As always, please reach out to me with any questions or concerns regarding your health and fitness, or to learn about my on-line exercise and nutrition programs.
In these trying times, it is important to be patient and kind, both toward yourself and to others. I offer to all of you this meditation from Jack Kornfield:
May you be filled with loving kindness.
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May you be well in body and mind.
May you be at ease and happy.