Staying Well in Mind and Body

“Every Human Being is the author of his own health”

Buddha

Any disruption, be it mental, physical or emotional can be challenging. Recently the world as a whole has been rattled. In an odd way it is uniquely unifying. In my optimistic utopian mind I am deeply curious to see what changes and growth come of this struggle. Yet – in this moment, the emphasis is STRUGGLE.

We have a lot of uncertainty and many are fearful. Our daily lives have become suddenly and drastically different. Amid times of fear and upheaval certain aspects of life become harder to maintain. Much like when illness strikes (and in many cases that is part of this C19 journey too). I want to offer some of what I have learned in my personal health and healing journey, as it applies and could be useful NOW.

Sleep:

photo of woman sleeping

No matter who you are or what you are coping with, YOU NEED SLEEP. Sleep is your body’s opportunity to rest, heal, integrate new learning, and process experiences. Without appropriate sleep we can not achieve or maintain health mentally or physically. (An inescapable truth). Without adequate rest our stresses feel more difficult, our problem solving skills are diminished and our ability to make rational decisions is compromised. If you want to overcome adversity, maintain and health immune system, heal and THRIVE you need to sleep.

On average most of us require a sleep opportunity of at least 8 hours. Sleep is often difficult, especially during times of stress when routine is disrupted or we are experiencing change. I think it’s fair to say CHECK CHECK CHECK for us ALL right now! If you can not fall asleep do not try to force it. Allow yourself to rest and know this is still helpful to your body and your efforts. Sleep will come. More so when other aspects of health are addressed….see below.

Nutrition:
Meals are not only important for our physical and mental functioning but also an excellent check point to create structure in our days. When we are stressed we may forget to eat, or lose appetite. Maybe you are rationing due to feeling insecure about going out, or low supplies in your area. Meals do not have to be large or complicated. Just set regular times for a healthy snack. This will balance energy and help maintain health. It will also emphasize a sense of structure.

Try to insert 3 -5 nutrition opportunities into your day. Work with what you have. Some inexpensive foods to keep on hand are oatmeal, frozen or canned fruit, apple sauce, seeds, yogurt, bananas, carrots, celery, peanut butter, and beans.

Oats, whole grain breads and bananas tend to be easy on an upset stomach and do not require much effort in preparation. Treat food with the same attitude as medications. We don’t always want to eat but we have to support our bodies best functioning.

On the other hand, taking the wrong food or too much of one thing can also be a problem. Make choices that support your health.

Hydration:
The human body is 60% water. The brain in particular is 73% water. Understanding this should help in reinforcing how important water is to clear thinking and optimal health. Proper hydration supports essentially every function of the body. During times of stress our bodies are flooded with hormones to trigger fight or flight.
Drinking water helps flush the body and restore balance. When you are drinking properly you will feel better in general with better energy which will help you feel more secure, motivated and able to focus on other priorities.

Medications:
It is all too easy to forget about medications when we have other things on our mind. Forgetting to refill or take our medications can lead to serious consequences. Attach medications to another solid aspect of your routine to ensure you are taking medications properly and consistently.

Knowing and understanding your medications is another important aspect of your health. Understanding possible side effects and knowing when to ask your pharmacist for advice are key. Know when to seek help and when to self monitor.

Chores:
Chores are a necessary reality. As much as they feel unpleasant or boring, they are important. Simply by completing the chores around our own home we benefit from some movement, stimulation and satisfaction. They also create a sense of normalcy. Though no one really loves doing chores we all benefit from a tidy, healthy home environment. During times when we feel lack of control it helps us gain a sense of power. You will find your mind less cluttered and mood less vulnerable when you have control over your space.

Make a list of chores; divide that list into manageable chunks and pace your week to allow all the jobs done. Assign tasks to all family members. Put on some music, work in teams. Make it FUN!

Activity:
We like to fool ourselves that exercise is not a big deal. It is especially difficult to motivate ourselves when have ongoing stress or anxiety. Exercise does a great service to our body and our mind and should be made a BIG priority during difficult times. Among the many benefits is that we experience increased energy, increased capacity to think clearly, manage stress, manage pain and emotions. Regular exercise supports mood, memory and learning. It also decreases the effects of stress while supporting healthy bodily functions including sleep, immune system functioning and digestion.

Adding activity does not have to be painful or exhausting. Begin by setting the time into your day. Add a very manageable task such as walking 5-15 minutes or 15 minutes of stretching/yoga. Increase your time commitment by 1-5 minutes per day. Do not be critical or impatient with yourself. Just start moving gently.

Fresh Air:

“Patients should have rest, food, fresh air, and exercise – the quadrangle of health.”

William Osler

There are multiple studies on the benefits of nature. Even if you are not a person who loves the outdoors there are many important impacts for your health. Just getting some fresh air and exposure to natural light helps boost mood and immune functioning.

If being outside is not something you often think about, begin with a simple commitment to opening a window or stepping outside your home once a day for 5 minutes. Let there be an exchange of the air you are breathing and the fresh air from outside. Let yourself feel the contrast in temperature, the freshness, and the scents. Find a sunny spot and give your body a chance to produce some vitamin D. It can be a mindful activity or simply a way to freshen yourself up.

As you proceed , challenge yourself to small extensions of outdoor time. Maybe drink your morning coffee outside. A little is better than none, and sometimes is better than never.

During these times of social distancing it is especially important to find a little place where you can feel safe and get some fresh air.

Connection:
Humans are social creatures. This is going to be struggle during the social distancing measures we are coping with world wide. We will have to be creative and flexible while keeping in mind how important this is to our health.

Connection can be a weekly phone call to a friend. Chatting on a web community group, face time and Zoom call. Find a way to interact with others in some positive manner.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of ‘connecting’ through gossip or complaining. If you notice these patterns in your life try to make a commitment to more positive statements and observations. The way we speak affects the way we think and feel! Act well to feel well.

THAT IS NOT TO SAY that you shouldn’t express your fears, worries or needs. Allow yourself to be open and honest. Allow your friends and loved ones to support you. Take your turn to offer support. We are most definitely ‘in it’ together.

Pleasant activities/hobbies:
Everyone needs some time to enjoy just being who they are and doing something amusing. Music, art, crafts, writing, singing, playing cards or computer games. Fishing, hiking…whatever pleases you, make some time to do it.

If you don’t have hobbies get curious about trying new things. Try things you aren’t sure you will like. You may be surprised to find you actually DO! And if you don’t enjoy those things you are still doing a good deed for yourself by experiencing new opportunities.

Music:

“Music can heal the wounds which medicine cannot touch.”

Debasish Mridha

Music is the sound track to our lives and provokes all kind of emotions. Use music to soothe yourself, uplift yourself and keep you company. Fill the spaces and gaps in your life with music. Dance to stay active and be joyful. Play music and invite your neighbours to join you on their lawn for a distanced dance party! Get creative and let music be a part of it in some way (and many ways).

Learning:
When we stop learning and using our knowledge, our minds become inactive. Memory, learning and mental energy start to fade. There is such a thing as being ‘under stimulated’ and it feels like fatigue. In fact, it can feel like depression. This is a vulnerable time for many of us. We need to gaurd against depression. All the suggestions in this article will help support mood, learning something new is a highly useful strategy too.

Learning is fun, and can lead to wonderful new discoveries. Best of all – it can be about anything. You do not need to dive into a topic that you find frustrating and difficult. Seek out something you are actually curious about and topics you have a good mind for. It’s okay to let this be a process of discovery. You may find you are great at Sudoku but terrible at knitting. You may find a particular interest in sea life and a love of languages. Who knows! The world is at your fingertips….and right now…we all have TIME.

Learn to draw (there are great free videos online), paint, play a new game. Learn a musical instrument or a dance. Learn to sew or knit! You can search the internet and learn about machines, geography, different cultures, and even new trends. There are countless opportunities and many of them are inexpensive.

Thoughts and feelings are interesting in that we experience them differently depending on our circumstances. Speaking to a friend or trusted individual often helps us better understand our own thoughts and process emotions. Writing in a journal also helps with those processes and organizing our thoughts in a way that can be extremely helpful.

Be it that we need to speak with someone about an important topic, release pent up emotions or track behavior that is causing us concern, and journaling can be very effective.

Journalling

Including journaling in your routine as part of a healing journey can be particularly important. In the pages of your journal you can release tension, set goals, check your progress and notice patterns that might otherwise go unseen. Managing stress is an important part of any wellness journey. Journaling helps manage stress by allowing self expression and a creative outlet without critique or correction.

As an added bonus it can be an eye opening experience to look back through the pages of old journals to see how far you have come. The changes and patterns in your life and recognize your own growth.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a topic I could go on about for pages and pages. When we practice mindfulness we provide our mind and body with an opportunity to rest and heal. So many illnesses start with or cause disruption to our central nervous system. By calming the mind, resting the body and giving ourselves time to breathe we support and heal the nervous system. We also begin to develop habits that support coping. Being in the present moment is psychologically easier than reliving the past, or worrying about the future. During times of stress mindfulness can anchor us and help us conserve energy for coping and responding. With use of breath and grounding (mindfulness practices) we can maintain clear thoughts even in the midst of very stressful events.

Mindfulness invites joy and pleasure. Allowing ourselves to fully experience a thing can be extremely impactful. Even something as simple as stopping to enjoy a warm breeze can become transformative. Feeling the breeze on your skin, allowing yourself to observe and absorb the warmth or the coolness. Smelling the scent of grass, trees or flowers. Perhaps the sounds of rustling leaves or playful children – birds – waves etc. Mindfulness reminds us of the world around us and our connection to all things.

Let yourself discover the power you hold to guide you own personal journey. Be patient, the habits and benefits will build over time. Keep coming back, trying again, knowing the end goal is well worth the effort.

Be well!

KATE

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