No one could have possibly imagined when I penned the title for last month’s Joyinmovement newsletter (Dealing With Changing Circumstances) just how much or how many circumstances can change in a month’s time.
Let me preface this newsletter by saying that I hope this email finds you safe and healthy. These times are scary and surreal for most, and I hope that you and your family and friends emerge from this with your health intact. Like a good chunk of the world, I’m hunkered down at home. In an attempt to put a silver lining on this dark cloud, though, I’m viewing it as an opportunity to not only get in some good family time, but also get to work on some longer-term projects I’ve been meaning to undertake.
I have all kinds of information to share with you about taking care of yourself and relieving stress. One of the best ways to relieve stress is through laughter. So, I even have a hilarious audio to share with you recorded by a friend. Seems like traffic jams have now moved from our highways to our homes 🙂
Together While Apart
A friend told me a touching story. He went for a run this past week (while his area is under a shelter-in-place order, physical activity and outdoor time while maintaining sacred distancing have been deemed essential) and he ran past many “closed” signs on the doors and windows of restaurants and other businesses. We all feel his sadness when seeing signs like this. One sign in particular caught his attention: it read Together While Apart.
This was a reminder of where we are today: everyone trying to do the best they can, and trying to be together while apart. My friend started a ritual called “Brewtiful Mornings”. For 15 minutes in the morning he opens up a videoconferencing tool and his friends and family jump in with their coffee or tea to have a few minutes of togetherness. Great idea, don’t you think?
If you’re a runner, or know people who run, here’s a wonderful read from the New York Times. Exercise and spending time outdoors definitely helps improve mental health.
Let’s Use The Three C’s To Help Us Navigate This In-Between Time
What are the 3 C’s I’m referring to? Glad you asked. CONTROL what you can, COPE with what you can’t, CONCENTRATE on what matters (family and future).
We control our time, thoughts, words and deeds. We control our to-do list and our don’t-do list. Do not skip daily movement or self-care habits. These become your physical and mental diet.
Daily Deep Breathing
Want the #1 wellness “secret”? You can control your body’s physiology and how you feel through your breath. How you take in air through your nose and exhale from your lungs makes all the difference. Slow things down for at least 5 minutes.
Here are some choices for how to do this:
a) 4 seconds in through the nose, 6 seconds out through pursed lips
b) 4 seconds in, 7 second hold, 8 seconds out
c) The above done in silence with eyes closed
d) The above done with calming music
Try doing these daily deep breathing cycles. Try each one. Create your own scenario when practicing them and see which ones work best. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
For many, gardening is a joyful activity. From what I hear, lots of you may be working out in the garden during this time of year. Don’t forget to water yourself along with your garden. Yes, water yourself! Swim, bathe, go in salt water, take long baths, have a hot shower, enjoy a cold shower, wash your hands, drink lots of water and stay hydrated.
One problem that makes everything worse, no matter what time we’re living through is lack of sleep. During stressful times such as these, many people can’t get a good night’s sleep. I write about sleep as often as I can because it is such an essential component to health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three adults don’t get enough sleep.
There’s one thing about sleep that many of us forget. Sleep isn’t just about what happens when you close your eyes at night. For better sleep, you need to focus on the other 16 hours of your day. Eating a healthy diet, eliminating or lowering your intake of sugar and processed foods, moving more and finding Joyinmovement, and managing your stress will all help you sleep better. This is especially true and important when you’re stuck at home and it becomes easier to slip into, how shall I put this, less than stellar habits.
Most people need about seven to eight hours of sleep a night. We need time for the main cycles of sleep, both deep and dream sleep, to cycle. These sleep phases help us heal physically and mentally. The cycles take about 90 minutes, so I’ve started tracking my sleep by counting 90 minute cycles. I aim for 5 cycles each night. That’s seven and a half hours of sleep each night.
Here are a few things you can do to create a great sleep environment:
- Keep electronics out of your bedroom.
- Limit the amount of light when you’re ready for bed.
- Keep the room cool.
- Make your bedroom a place for only sleep and sex.
Other ideas for self-care:
Enjoy a cup of tea. Green tea has lots of immune-boosting antioxidants, and lavender teas help ease anxiety.
Listen to music. Enjoying your favorite music increases dopamine, which lowers your stress levels.
Eat well. Don’t give in to stress eating and binging on junk food. Try to get plenty of greens and fresh fruit. A few studies show vitamin C could lower cortisol levels. Get your vitamin C fix through citrus fruit, broccoli, kale, peppers, strawberries, and tomatoes.
Meditate. We know from imaging studies that meditation quiets activity in the amygdala. It also lowers blood pressure and increases serotonin. You can start with just 10 minutes a day to focus on your breathing and letting other thoughts leave your mind.
This in-between time is also a time for adding or reviving self-care rituals that you’ve either been meaning to begin OR have let fall by the wayside. The main idea I’m hoping to impart is don’t let fear paralyze you. Use the current constraints to create.
Try not to focus too much of your attention on “what’s next.” Instead, direct your mental energy toward this question: How do I make sure I’m prepared, no matter what happens next? Observe, learn, plan and prepare. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
Say No to Tunnel Vision
Tunnel vision can take such a toll on our well-being. Let me explain more about this. All the other things that make life worth living, the people we care about, the goals we have, the changes we’d like to make to our lives and see in the world, all tend to fall by the wayside when we’re under the influence of tunnel vision.
Yes, it’s important that we stay aware of the crisis unfolding around us. And yes, it’s important that we maintain the rituals and habits we’ve had to learn and introduce, at times with much difficulty, into our lives and way of thinking in order to fight off some of the worst effects of that crisis.
At the same time, it’s wise to spare thoughts, time, and brain power, for these other aspects of life. These are the things that make us who we are, both as individuals and as societies.
Thinking about things that exist outside of that ongoing state of preparedness is vital for our sense of health and well being.
Learning, loving, feeling inspired, being curious, entertaining ourselves, challenging ourselves, aspiring to things beyond our current capabilities, experiencing the full range of human emotion, and becoming, every day, a better version of who we were yesterday; these are all priorities, alongside hand-washing and sacred distancing. It’s hard to remember this day-to-day. But life will be even harder when the new normal appears if we haven’t remembered this.
There are legitimate fears and concerns to be feeling right now, and it’s rational to be prepared and aware and to have a healthy respect for the threat we face.
What’s important is that we sometimes take off our blinders and allow ourselves to start thinking about what exists on the periphery of our vision. It’s important that we turn our heads from time to time, to look away, not ignore or discount, but simply change our focus, and think about other things, even if just for a little while.
For those who are already bored of puzzles, baking, and Netflix, I’d like to share some links to help you laugh, dance, and learn. Enjoy!
Dance your heart out with this family! Why do some families have all the rhythm?
Got kids at home right now? Here are some wonderful sites to enjoy with them.
Here are 12 of the BEST museums offering virtual tours. Enjoy them right from your couch.
Until next month, be healthy, be safe, and discover new ways to find Joyinmovement.
P.S. Thank you all for using my Amazon link when you shop. I really appreciate all the support!