1. Move your body
- Exercise activates a process in our bodies that stimulates our nervous system through actions like increased blood flow and release of endorphins. While some prefer high intensity workouts like spin classes and cross-fit, even low intensity activities like walking, stretching, and yard work can give your brain a much needed boost!
2. Eat food that nourishes your body
- Many of us turn to food as a source of comfort during stressful times but we need to remember that food is simply a fuel source for our body. In general, inflammatory foods such as caffeine, alcohol, sugar, grains, and dairy can wreak havoc on your body, leaving you lethargic, depressed, anxious, and worst of all, craving more. Pay attention to how what you’re eating makes you feel. Once you have a better idea of how your body responds to the food you eat, you can be more intentional about choosing food that boosts your physical and mental energy.
3. DO something to manage your stress
- The current state of our world leaves many of us paralyzed with anxiety. With so many REAL things to stress about, and a lack of healthy coping skills, many of us resort to unhealthy ways of coping (i.e., substances, food, shopping, screens, etc). One way to disrupt this process is to schedule time to actually do something about your anxiety. These activities can include journaling about your thoughts and feelings, making a list of your stressors and prioritizing what needs to be done first, listening to music that matches your mood state, use of prayer/meditation, reading self help books, taking a bubble bath, making music, cooking, practicing gratitude, and the list goes on. The goal here is to find activities that leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed. Once you find those activities, practice them Every. Single. Day.
4. Develop a new routine
- Routines are important because they create a connection of neural pathways in our brains. Once those connections have been made and are maintained, our brain recognizes them as a familiar pattern and reacts instinctively--freeing our mental energy to be directed elsewhere. Similar to driving a car. When many of us drive, we don't consciously think through every single step involved in driving. When developing a routine, make it consistent yet flexible enough to account for unplanned events to occur. Additionally, don't forget to schedule in some much needed quiet time for your family so that your brain has a chance to decompress and download all of the stimuli it's been accumulating throughout the day.
5. It’s okay to feel grateful!
- Since this pandemic started, several people have sheepishly commented to me that they actually enjoy aspects of this new normal. It is OKAY to find the good in this situation. Our brains have the capacity to feel sad, angry, and anxious about all that is going on in the world AND also find joy in the aspects of the situation that are good. It is OKAY to enjoy the slower pace of life, the extra time with your family, or the ability to take a break in the middle of the day. This is what gratitude feels like. Challenge yourself to find one thing each day that you’re enjoying about this current situation (i.e. a sunny day, warmer weather, time to read a good book, flowers in bloom, a good night’s rest) and you will begin to feel a deeper sense of purpose and clarity that feeds your soul.
6. Practice patience
- A lack of patience stems from an inability to tolerate an underlying irritation. So the goal with patience is learning how to develop enough tolerance to withstand whatever is irritating you at the moment. When you notice yourself feeling irritated or impatient, the most important thing you can do is catch it right when it happens. Once you notice it, take deep breaths in and out and then repeat a mantra to yourself that is self-soothing (i.e., "It is okay, I can do this, I will get through this"). Just keep breathing and repeating that mantra to yourself until the irritation has passed.
7. Remind yourself that this is temporary
- If you’re feeling like you’ve lost your purpose in life, it’s important to set a framework around your thoughts and feelings. First of all, remind yourself that this situation is only temporary. You may not know how long it’s going to last or when it will end but we do know that it will end at some point in time. Also, many of you are managing multiple roles right now. So you’re a parent/teacher/spouse/friend/employee/caretaker—and the list is endless. These are all competing demands that are more than anyone should have to take on at one time. Since we don't have the option of changing our current circumstances right now and are forced to deal with competing role demands, practice patience with yourself. Additionally, you can practice by setting an intention for yourself (i.e., How is it that you want to feel today? What is it that you want to accomplish today?). Really try to connect to your inner champion to get yourself motivated.
8. Be mindful of how you’re spending your time
- Some of us have a lot of time on our hands and others are completely swamped. For those who have little time to themselves right now, you’re probably exhausted at the end of the day and all you want to do is turn off your brain and zone out. Even those with significant amounts of time on their hands may be tempted to lay on the couch and watch TV or sleep all day. Regardless of whether you have a lot of time or a little bit of time, it is important to be meaningful and intentional about the time that you do have. Vegging out and turning off your brain are essential behaviors, but it’s important to remember that they can become ineffective in the long term. So if you can, create time in your schedule to do something other than escaping to TV or social media. This could include connecting with your friends, journaling, taking a bubble bath, cooking, having meaningful conversation with your partner, walking, yard work, or listening to music. It’s so important to care for yourself so that you can be in a good headspace when managing your multiple roles.