A Little Blog of Hope
Updated: Jul 10, 2020
After taking some time to process the magnitude of our collective situation, I want to focus on how to serve our wellness community best and be a source of encouragement, support, and hope for you all. Beyond the virus itself, the worry and stress of this pandemic can be unhealthy for many people, and it’s crucial that we all take care of ourselves and each other during this time.
We are all in this together, a global community, and with that in mind, I wanted to share ways to support your body and mind, and therefore build up your immune system during this pandemic.
Things within your control:
1. Your Thoughts
Be mindful of how much news you are consuming and root yourself in facts, not fear. Look for science-backed information and try to stay away from the social media-driven hysteria. Once I started reading news based on facts rather than perceived opinions, my anxiety lessened tremendously.
Take this time to look around at all the things you are grateful for; there are silver linings if you choose to focus on them. Expressing gratitude is a shortcut to feeling a sense of abundance and happiness. An existing body of research supports an association between gratitude and an overall sense of well-being. For my family, this has been a time of slowing down, connecting, lots of Uno and Rummikub games, cooking meals and eating together, and even doing household chores together. My children are sleeping a ton, 12+ hours a night, and learning to make nutritious meals for themselves. I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring, so I choose to see this extra time with my children as a gift.
2. Helping Others
Do you have family, friends, or neighbors that have preexisting conditions like cardiovascular disease or diabetes? No doubt, life is more stressful for them right now. Perhaps check in with them if you haven't already to see if they need help with groceries or errands.
Order take-out from your favorite local restaurants or buy gift cards from them/other local businesses to use later; many are going to need their community's support to remain open. If you are unable to do this, then leave 5-star reviews for all your favorite local establishments, so when people can revisit them, they’ll spend their money there without hesitation.
Donate money online to your community food bank or local homeless shelter. Many at-risk communities, including low-income and homeless people, will be hit hard during this pandemic, and donations will help them.
3. Your Sleep Routine
Getting restorative sleep is imperative for positive mental and emotional health.
Here are some tips to get a better night sleep:
Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day. Get adequate sleep each night, here are the recommendations for appropriate sleep durations for most age groups from the National Sleep Foundation.
Try to end each night by listing things you are grateful for in a journal, listening to a meditation, or soft music, or counting your blessings. Please, for your good, do not consume stress-inducing news that will impede your ability to fall asleep.
Block any blue light in your bedroom from alarm clocks, phones, TVs, etc. Blue light suppresses the excretion of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating your wake-sleep cycle. Try to sleep in complete darkness.
Keep your room cool to sleep; around 70 degrees is ideal.
Avoid caffeine afternoon if you are sensitive to it.
4. Moving Your Body
All forms of exercise, from yoga to walking, can ease anxiety and stress by increasing the production of endorphins, your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters.
With workout facilities closed, we have moved into an online work-out era.
If your current facility/instructors were able to move classes online, here are some options that are great for work-outs at home:
TMAC Fitness - 20 Minute Workouts: No Equipment, No Excuses- Currently running a free 15-day trial. This is tried and true and who I work out with a few days a week. They have unlimited access to 60+ beginner and advanced workout options, yoga classes, and every session ends with a brief meditation.
Jason Williams Wellbeing- Jason offers LIVE streaming home yoga, barre, and pilates workouts via the ZOOM app. at $10 a class, and FREE workouts and meditations (which are great for centering) if you subscribe to his YouTube page. I appreciate Jason's calm and enthusiastic instruction technique.
Get outside- We took our dogs on walk #247 today. The fresh air and sunshine do wonders for enhancing mood and clearing your mind. It is nice to feel the sun, listen to the birds, and see all the new spring blooms. Research has shown that walking can have a significant impact on your health by lowering your chances of heart disease.
5. Supporting Your Immune System
Along with getting optimal sleep and stress reduction, the food you choose to nourish your body will significantly determine your health. The quote by Greek Philosopher Hippocrates, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food," really speaks to the healing power of food.
Fruits and vegetables are packed with numerous vitamins and minerals and are essential for living as air and water. Not only do they keep your body and mind healthy and functional, but they also protect you from a variety of diseases and viruses.
Eat The Rainbow- the more variety you eat when it comes to fruits and vegetables, the more detoxifying, anti-inflammatory, health benefits from phytonutrients you'll take in. Each color in fruits and vegetables is said to represent different health benefits:
Orange/Yellow (carotenoids)- decreases inflammation, keeps our immune system strong and skin healthy, and helps prevent cancer
Green (lutein)- boosts the immune system, help detoxify the body, inhibits carcinogens, good for blood and bone health
Blue/Purple (anthocyanins)- prevents blood clots, reduces BP, delays cell aging
Red (lycopene)- heart-healthy, improves skin quality, helps fight cancer
White/Brown (allicin)- anti-cancer, anti-tumor, lowers cholesterol and BP
Please see this informative article that gives options of produce in each of the categories listed above, and also the Environmental Working Groups' dirty dozen list that informs you on which produce to buy organic to avoid harmful pesticides.
To keep your immune system healthy and to prevent illness, you may need to limit the amount of added sugar you consume. Here is the added sugar recommended daily limit from the American Heart Association. Stress eating is a real thing, but eating foods with added sugar is linked to increased risks for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and inflammation in the body. Other studies have also linked high-sugar diets to a higher risk of depression and anxiety, not what we need at this time. The good news, and contrary to popular belief, a new study is showing that whole, fresh fruit probably does not contribute to obesity, and may have a place in the prevention and management of excess body fat.
6. Being Mindful
Social distancing during this time is hard on many, and it's essential to invest in your mental health while at home. Here are some ways to calm and refocus your mind:
Connect with friends and family when you a feeling overwhelmed. I've seen some great ZOOM meet-ups/happy hours, Marco Polo chats, and even TikTok dance-offs between friends. I was recently texting with friends about which movies to watch with our families, we came up with Ferris Bueller's Day Off and 13 Going on 30. Even though we are physically apart, we can remain connected with technology.
Meditation- hold on before I lose you here, the main thing to understand about meditation and what I have learned from years of practice is that while it won't change the circumstance of your situation, it greatly improves your outlook and how you relate to it. I have learned to be more present in the moment and not think about the gazillion things I have to do later. Also, it helps me to be more aware of what I am doing, where I am going, and where I put things; I used to walk into my kitchen and wonder what I was doing in there, haha. Some great apps I have used are Insight Timer and Headspace, Deepak Chopra is also a great resource for mediation experiences and is currently leading a 21-day meditation, Finding Hope in Uncertain Times.
Learn something new; take a course on Coursera. Courses are taught by top instructors from world-class universities and companies, so that you can learn something new anytime, anywhere. Hundreds of free courses give you access to on-demand video lectures, homework exercises, and community discussion forums. Paid courses provide additional quizzes and projects as well as a shareable Course Certificate upon completion. My mother and I are going to start The Science of Well-Being offered by Yale, where we will engage in a series of challenges designed to increase happiness and build more productive habits. It's a free 10-week course with an average of 2-3 hours a week of instruction and coursework. Let me know if you decide to take it too, and I'll start a discussion group for it!
7. When to Ask for Help
If this time has got you down or you are having to self-isolate by yourself, please reach out to a friend, family member, whomever you trust in your life. This will pass, but the stress and anxiety in the meantime can be hard to navigate. If your usual coping mechanisms are proving unhelpful, get a hold of someone ASAP, you'll never be a bother or imposition, and I hope you have people ready to be there for you in a second's notice.
I'm sending you all lots of love and hoping you stay well and strong. Hopefully, this time will be short-lived, and life will go back to "normal" soon. If we focus on the positive, we can see this time as an opportunity to take stock of the things that matter and pay better attention to how we live our lives. Maybe it will give some a greater appreciation for social connectedness and others a reason for living a more purposeful life with a focus on their health. Whatever it may be for you, please know that I am thinking of you and wishing you restful nights and good health.