It is no doubt a time of high stress and anxiety as the world is facing profound uncertainty amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. While many are taking precautions to shield their physical health from COVID-19, protecting both themselves and others through self-quarantining and social distancing, the disruption of routine, diminished socialization, and probable financial impact may consequently be putting our mental health and wellbeing at risk.
As an occupational therapist, who knows engagement in meaningful occupations is crucial to optimal health and wellbeing, it apparent that now is as an important time as ever to start focusing on them. While not under ideal circumstances, COVID-19 has subsequently granted many of us the time to slow down and reset from the usual fast-paced and often work-centered lifestyle. Amongst all the chaos, we may find that we actually have a chance to think about what adds value to our lives, and despite what may feel like an indefinite period of isolation, we have the opportunity to engage.
Whether you are off of work all together or have an extra hour or two each day without your normal commutes, we have been given the perception of “more” time. More time to create simple, yet meaningful, moments with loved ones, whether in the household or through virtual communications. More time to sit down and reflect on the life we have and the life we want to create. More time to catch up on those to-do’s around the house we’ve been putting off for months. More time to read the book we keep hearing about, cook a homemade meal we’ve struggled to find the time to make, or finally start learning a new skill or future hobby that’s been sitting on the back burner.
Here’s what I’ll be doing with more time to keep my spirits high and wellbeing thriving:
Practicing Mindful Breathing + Meditation
In the past, I always looked to practicing mindfulness through meditation to ease my anxiety. However, at the beginning of the year, I had my breath analyzed by a breath expert and learned about the impact the breath has on our overall wellbeing. (FYI, it’s hugely impactful.) I was instructed to practice coherent breathing (breathing at a rate of five breaths per minute, or inhaling and exhaling for six seconds each) daily, but despite its importance to my health, I didn’t make the time for it as much as I could have. Now, I’m setting aside 5-10 minutes each night before I go to bed to simply focus on my breath. I’ve also noticed my sleep has improved since I’ve added it to my night-time routine…coincidence? I think not.
Now is the time to start diving into those books that have been gathering dust on the shelf. Choose books that challenge you to learn new ideas and open up to differing perspectives. I just finished Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (yes, it’s as good as the reviews) and recently started Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life to learn about the Japanese concept of finding one’s purpose in life. After that, I’ll keep chipping away at my seemingly never-ending list of books to read.
Cooking for others is something I have always loved to do, but – as we all know, between the prepping, cooking, and cleaning – can be quite time consuming. I’m using this period to cook more hearty meals and try new recipes (like homemade gnocchi!) for myself and others to enjoy. Take time to gather with your loved ones around the table and connect through meaningful conversations shared over delicious food (technology is not invited).
I’ll admit, between school and life, I don’t put as much time into writing or journaling as much as I’d like or intended to do. So, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing to keep my mind busy and challenged: curating more article posts and taking time for some self-reflection through journaling. There’s a lot of change and uncertainty unfolding during these times, and there’s no better way to foster the mind-body connection than through journaling our thoughts.
While it may seem counter-intuitive that social distancing can equate to social connection, it is imperative at this time that we remain socially connected, as it is critical to our wellbeing. With more friends and family working remotely, I’m finding that it is actually easier to regularly communicate with them. Yes, there may be more time for the endless scroll through social media, but join me in using that time to instead use technology for the better. Call a friend, shoot someone you haven’t caught up with lately a quick text, set up a FaceTime dinner date with your significant other – get creative!