Did you know that during times of uncertainty, our bodies more easily go into “survival mode”? Uncertainty can trigger stress, anxiety, and depression and easily activate the sympathetic autonomic nervous system: the infamous “fight or flight response.”
Too much stress may negatively affect our immune system, sleep hygiene, and amplify stress by activating a vicious cycle.
Still, there are some tips for exercising great self-care and maintaining a positive and growth-oriented mindset.
One positive aspect of the pandemic and wildness of the times is that actually, more people than ever are talking about self-care.
Here are a few ways you can make self-care a priority during the pandemic:
- Get natural light to improve your sleep hygiene: Did you know that seeing sunlight in the morning and at sunset helps our bodies regulate melatonin so we get a good night’s rest? Try seeing the sunrise in the morning and the sunset at dusk. This can help your circadian rhythms stay on track. You can also avoid bright lights in the evening, and consider putting bright lights beneath “eye-level” (e.g., lamps on coffee tables).
- Exercise: we all know exercise is linked to positive outcomes with wellness. However, it’s more important than ever. While many individuals are still avoiding gyms, try to maintain a workout schedule at home or in public spaces such as parks. You can also try doing exercises first thing in the morning, which leads to the production of neurotransmitters that enhance attention space and mental clarity.
- Drink water: We know dehydration is linked to all sorts of sub-optimal outcomes and performance: but did you know that even mild dehydration may dampen your mood, increase fatigue and cause headaches? Make sure you are staying properly hydrated throughout the day!
- Adequate nutrition: Every person has different dietary demands, and we know that nutrition is linked to physical health. A less understood issue is the link between mental wellness and our nutrition. Building evidence shows protective factors of adequate nutrition for mental wellness. What we eat is fundamental to the mind-body connection!
- Deep-breathing exercises: Growing literature shows that deep-breathing exercises may be the fastest way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system! There are different modes, from “Box Breathing” to those that help slow us down OR when necessary, to amp us up. Try these!
- Try Yoga Nidra meditation: Yoga Nidra (also known as yogic sleep) is a powerful technique to activate your body’s relaxation response. It is simple and can be done anywhere! Peruse YouTube for several free guided Yoga Nidra meditations!
- Practice gratitude: Did you know that gratitude practices, such as metta meditation or gratitude journals, may be linked to our serotonin production? At a biochemical level, being in a state of gratitude can help us feel better!
- Find new ways to stay connected: Levels of loneliness and alienation are on the rise. Find new ways to stay connected. You may try video-chatting with family members or friends. You could consider getting involved in a charity that uses Zoom to stay connected. And, during these times, massage therapy may be especially helpful. If you are concerned about safety, remember that experts say it can be safe to get a massage during COVID-19 as long as certain guidelines are followed.
- Boundaries with technology: While we also are using technology more than ever to stay connected, it’s also important to remember that boundaries with technology, social media or the news can be helpful for maintaining balance in our lives.
- Develop a growth mindset: Research actually finds that a great way to react to stressors is to reframe our mindset about fears/anxieties/unpleasant experiences. Carol Dweck’s concept of a growth mindset shows the way our beliefs (both conscious and unconscious) during challenging situations can boost or hamper our resilience. There are many popular misconceptions about growth mindset, and learning how to think about struggles may help us turn distressing situations into “eustressing” ones. Have you been concerned about the economy? Maybe it’s an opportunity to make a career change for the better. Have you been challenged by the social unrest? Maybe you can get involved to help contribute. When obstacles are viewed as learning and growth opportunities, we feel more inspired and hopeful.
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