12 Tips to Help Your Body, Mind and Wellbeing During Stressful Times
There is no denying that Covid has been affecting most of us since the end of last winter. The past nine months has brought on fear — stresses, anxiety, depression, reactivity, loneliness, discord in families, especially in couples — as well as psychosomatic ailments. Psychologists, therapists and healers have never been busier.
With the re-closures of restaurants, fitness centres, libraries and other places (with no foreseeable re-openings), and with winter right around the corner, now, more than ever, it’s important to manage negative emotions and to take very good care of ourselves.
Here are a few tips:
1. FEED YOUR BODY QUALITY FOOD
Eating whole foods (meaning non-processed nor pre-packaged), like dark leafy greens and a variety of vegetables, good-quality meats and fish, whole grains, beans and legumes and keeping the junk and sugar down to a minimum (instead, think nuts, apples, hummus, nut butters), not only feeds your organs and cells, but also has a huge impact on your brain (emotions and thoughts).
If you’re not sure how to get started, I can help to guide you.
2. TONE DOWN THE ALCOHOL AND UP YOUR WATER INTAKE
It’s normal to want to turn to alcohol and/or other recreational drugs in times of stress to “take the edge off” and help you relax. It’s okay to have a drink or two if this is what makes you happy, but try to keep it down. Have a glass of water between each drink and increase your water intake daily. Start by drinking one or two glasses of water each morning before having your coffee, juice or tea, and keep well hydrated during the day by having a pitcher of water nearby. Alcohol dehydrates the body and can also negatively impact sleep, emotions and thoughts.
3. INCREASE YOUR IMMUNITY
Having a strong immunity is key in building up your resistance to colds, flus and illnesses in general. You can do so by eating a healthy diet and supplementing with vitamins, especially during the fall and winter months where our immune system tends to be at the lowest. Start with a high-quality multi-vitamin (drmercola.com has good ones), and increase your intake of vitamin C (I take 3,000 - 4,000 IUs), zinc, vitamin D3 (we can only get this from the sun as the body does not produce it nor can we find it in food) and taking Probiotics (especially when taking antibiotics) either in tablet form, or adding the following to your diet: full-fat yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchee, etc., to keep your gut flora alive and healthy.
4. BREATHE AND SIT UP STRAIGHT
Simple, right? But how many of us are working away at the computer and don’t take the time to take deep breaths — this is especially true when we’re stressed or anxious. During anxiety the breath becomes shallow and doesn’t allow oxygen to flow to the brain properly. A good thing to do when feeling anxious is the 4/4/8 breath: breathe in for four, hold for four, release slowly for eight. This is amazing to calm down anxiety. Place little reminders (sticky notes) on your laptop or bathroom mirror, including reminders to sit up straight while at your desk. There are a few Apps that remind you to breathe throughout the day. And most importantly? Go outside - breathe fresh air! Drink it in! Let it fill your lungs!
5. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
The best thing you can do for your mood (and body) is to be active. I understand that if you’re used to working out in a fitness centre these times are particularly difficult and I feel for you. Increasingly, online programs and practices are becoming available on YouTube. Personally, I’ve been following Yoga with Adriene for about six years (she has great practices for all levels and various lengths of time). Walking is the easiest way to stay active and you also get to breathe in fresh air!
6. BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF AND STAY HOPEFUL
This is not a time to be hard on yourself because of how you’re feeling, reacting, or doing (or not doing). These are uncertain times and we all cope differently. Be gentle and kind to yourself. Choose hope and love instead of fear and anger. Hope is a muscle to be exercised.
Repeat to yourself: “I trust”.
7. HAVE A COMMUNITY
A close friend was sharing how important having a community is to her and I agree. Sometimes you need to vent and discuss how you feel with like-minded souls and you don’t always want to turn to your friends or family. Having a community — which can include friends — where you share ideas, discuss and have weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly virtual meetings is a great way to stay connected and feel supported. There are a variety of communities on social media platforms to choose from — or create your own!
8. NURTURE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
At a time when we all face uncertainty and worry, stress can affect the quality of our close relationships (friendships, family and love relationships) and can cause changes which can make it even harder to cope. We need to protect our relationships and to be aware of how what we do can affect another. Stress tends to bring out people’s worst traits which can lead loved ones to become withdrawn, distracted, and less affectionate. This can cause more conflict, distress, and alienation in any relationship, and nobody wants to be around someone acting their worst!
So let’s try to be more understanding and be extra patient with those we love.
9. READ PHYSICAL BOOKS AND BE CREATIVE
Reading a physical book or magazine helps to not get distracted by social media — it’s too easy to do so when reading from a laptop or tablet. It also gives your eyes a break from the screen. Furthermore, you can use your magazines to create a mood board or vision board — a collage of photos and/or words — a great way to envision your ideal future. And studies show it can improve motivation, coordination, and concentration, while reducing fear and anxiety.
10. BE DISCERNING WITH NEWS MEDIA
Although it is important to stay informed, repeatedly viewing (mostly negative) news stories can be consuming and increase stress and anxiety. Try to keep it down to once a day and preferably not before bed (this can surely can affect your sleep). Furthermore, try getting your news from a variety of media sites so that you don’t hear the same information over and over again and instead have different perspectives, opinions and facts.
11. PRACTICE EMPATHY
Being in judgement or anger towards others for their choices and views, when we’re all overwhelmed with information and recommendations, can bring on us additional stress and anxiety. Everyone is trying their best to navigate these unsettling times. Many have lost their income, have had to work from home while homeschooling and are keeping everyone emotionally and physically safe. Tensions in couples have never been higher and single people and seniors have also found it particularly difficult. With fear and hopelessness, depression and suicides are at an all-time high. So let’s try to be more understanding and compassionate.
12. SEEK HELP IF NEEDED
There is no shame in seeking help. It is indeed a sign of strength, not weakness, to have the courage to speak to a health professional.
As a Health Coach I can help you explore your options on how to improve your health and wellness goals, whether that’s sleeping better, boosting energy, weight loss, stress management, and so much more. I create a safe space for you to explore your health, facilitating behaviour and lifestyle change that can be sustained for the long-term. I play a pivotal role in the greater healthcare team, filling the void that is often left by doctors who don’t necessarily have time to provide nutrition and coaching guidance.
However, if you are experiencing the following you could benefit from therapy with a mental health professional:
Persistently feeling overwhelmed, stressed and anxious
Extreme fatigue and/or apathy
Difficulty in relationships or taking care of your children
Disproportionate rage, anger, reactivity and resentment
Abusing alcohol or drugs
If you are struggling with emotional difficulties and life challenges mental health professionals teach long-lasting skills to address symptoms, making it less likely to require further treatment. If left untreated, however, symptoms can escalate and worsen.
If you feel someone you care about could benefit from therapy, telling then they should go to therapy or that they need therapy can be stigmatizing. A better way to show support is to encourage them to look into possible therapy options, even offering to review potential therapists with them. People who feel forced into therapy may feel resistant and find it harder to put in the work needed to make changes.
For those with financial difficulties, there are free hotlines and chats, and many therapists have a sliding scale for reduced fees.