These are trying times we are all going through with the outbreak of the current pandemic of COVID-19. It is difficult even for the most optimistic of persons to remain calm and positive in the face of such worldwide adversity.
We must remember that while the situation is serious, there are still many things we each can do to remain calm and sane in face of such turmoil. This is a time when our mental health is fragile because we are being called on to show fortitude under dire circumstances. We must be aware that our physical health very much depends on our mental health as well. The better we manage our minds, the better the outcomes all around for our physical functioning.
The body responds to mental stress by lowering our immune system and making us more susceptible to a host of illnesses. It is more important than ever to quiet our minds so we can remain healthy. While not everyone is interested in “mindfulness” or yoga, there is still plenty one can do that will help calm our anxious brains and allow our bodies to release the healthy chemicals we need to survive this.
Breathing: As simple as this may sound, when we are tense, we tend to hold our breath. Just let go if you are feeling stressed and give yourself a minute or two of deep and slow breaths. The best way to relax the parasympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response), is to do a short breathing exercise. Breathe in for the count of 4 and breathe out for the count of 6. While it may seem unnatural at first, you will only need a minute or so of this to reduce stress and anxiety.
Nutrition: We should not be overeating right now, even though we have tons of snacks at home and tend to eat more when we are anxious. Choosing the right foods is critical to our well-being, both mental and physical. Eat things that are healthy and nutritious because this will bolster your immune response. Leafy greens and fruits are very good for lowering inflammation. Nuts are also a good option for a snack. Eating things that cause inflammatory response, weakens our bodies to be able to fight off infections.
Routine: Even though many of us are currently working from home, it is important for our mental well being to try to adhere to a schedule as much as possible. Our bodies are not meant to be staying up to random hours and then having to be productive during the day. We require a rhythm of sleep and wake to stay healthy and alert. Sleep is very important in giving our bodies the time to recharge and refuel. A good night’s sleep is invaluable as we must fully go into an REM (rapid eye movement) cycle in order for reparative sleep to take place. Poor sleep wears down our bodies, making us more prone to illness. Set a schedule for yourself just as if you were going in to work every day.
Community: We are social creatures by nature and feel better when we have access to other people. Even people who enjoy time by themselves do not necessarily want to be locked inside away from humanity. Social distancing is a misnomer, because we really should be practicing physical distancing. We can continue to be social via online, telephone, from one driveway to another, etc. Do reach out to friends and family, especially people who do not have many opportunities to get out and about.
Overall, keep yourself as positive as possible and try to use this time in a productive and healthy way. A healthy mind is a healthy body.