This is without a doubt an unprecedented time in history for most of us. Without being able to give our input or have any control, we have been forced to adopt a lifestyle we didn’t necessarily choose. Whether it’s being quarantined, working or schooling from home, or being newly unemployed – there is fear, sadness, and anxiety associated with each situation.
Many of us are having the same struggles but it can feel very lonely. I am offering three tips you can use now to help you navigate this crisis and protect your mental, physical and emotional health.
1. Be intentional.
Our behaviors and actions can help us if we are intentional about them. Remember, during a time of crisis, we are more likely to follow our impulses than keep ourselves focused on long term goals. Many of us have the goal to stay healthy but our impulses may tell us to eat junk food, binge watch TV with little movement, or sit through conference calls all day without caring for ourselves, our bodies, and our mental health. Be intentional about making time for movement and healthy eating, you will feel better if you do. Some ideas are – enjoy a walk or hike if the weather is nice, make time for exercise, and experiment with some healthy recipes you’ve always wanted to make.
Remember what they call social distancing is actually physical distancing. Be intentional about reaching out to friends and family to connect. Set zoom coffee dates, facetime family, reconnect with friends you have been too busy to catch up with. With intentional behaviors to connect socially, we are taking care of that social part of ourselves. Feeling connected is an integral part of the human experience, don’t ignore the need for it.
Be intentional with your time. There are many online offerings now for fitness classes, books to read online from libraries, tours of places you have never been, classes you can take, and concerts you can listen to for free. Decide on a couple of things you would like to experience and/or accomplish for the day and go for it!
2. Remember, you are not your emotions.
Many of us are feeling fear, sadness, anger, and uncertainty. Notice what you are feeling but don’t allow it to define you. For example, if you are feeling sad, ask yourself what it is you are missing in your life right now and how you can bring more of that into it. So, if you are feeling lonely, reach out. If you are feeling angry, write to your senators. If you are feeling scared, don’t immerse yourself in the news 24/7. We can choose to take healthy actions that allow us to alleviate some of the intense feelings that come up.
Emotions are there to provide you information about your environment and what is happening. It’s purpose is to help you make good decisions. If we notice how we are feeling, then we can be mindful about how we respond to that feeling. Someone feeling very sad may begin binge eating as a response to that emotion. When we become mindful of our emotions, we can notice we are sad and ask ourselves how we would LIKE to respond to that emotion rather than eating, i.e. taking a walk, calling a friend, playing with your dog.
3. Stay in the present.
Catastrophizing about the future will not serve you well during this crisis. Live day by day, hour by hour if necessary. There are many benefits related to mindfully living in the present. A big one is gratitude – Are you thankful for your health? The health of your family? The home and food you have during this time? When we are truly present we are much more aware of and appreciative of the positives. It helps us not to feel so overwhelmed.
When we are in the present, we are also much more open and playful. Whether it’s playing with your dog or a great board game with the family, being in the moment during those times adds a bit of playfulness and closeness to our relationships. It helps with stress release and protects us from the rabbit hole of worry and overthinking.
Fact: This quarantine is temporary. When this ends, what would you have liked to learn or accomplished during this time? Make today the day you begin – pick one small thing you want to accomplish today and be present while you are doing it. Call a friend, family member or your therapist when you need to, be compassionate towards yourself as much as others, and look forward to replanning that vacation!