So far, these few months of 2020 has felt like a entire year! Presidential Primaries, Coronavirus, and, here in Utah, not one but TWO earthquakes. There’s a lot to take in, a lot to process … a lot. It’s been said before, and it will be said more and more: before you’re able to take care of others, you have to be able to take care of yourself, and for a lot of us, that means taking care of your brain. We’d like to share our favorite techniques for dealing with stress and anxiety, which can be just as important to your health as social distancing.
Breathwork Much of the time, stress reduction starts with the breath. It is the first thing to pay attention to when you feel out of sorts and in need of a baseline. Taking a moment pre-emptively, to focus on the breath - in for five or ten seconds through the nose and slowly out through the mouth - can slow the heart rate and give your mind the clearness that it needs to take on the next task.
Meditation & Mindfulness Meditation and Mindfulness are often misunderstood as an activity that only certain people have access to. In reality, it only requires that you sit with yourself. The goal is usually to give you a sense of control over your own mind - which, in times like these, can often feel impossible; but meditation can also just be time you give yourself away from others’ expectations, time you give to yourself to appreciate your body or to mull over thoughts. The point is not for an ultimate goal that everyone achieves (e.g. “enlightenment”), but a place in your own body where you feel that you are safe and comfortable.
If you’re new to meditation, there are apps (lots of them free!) for you to get an idea of what mindfulness really means, and how you might start your own routine:
Stop, Breathe & Think
There are more social options for those looking for community in meditation. It isn’t a secret that online communities and communications have been booming since the onset of social isolation, and meditation spaces can give you a productive reason to gather your friends!
Here are some free guided meditations that may not be EXACTLY like being in a studio, but are creating burgeoning communities and may inspire you to create your own!
Probably one of the more stigmatized (and MOST proven) methods of stress relief is journaling. It doesn’t matter what you write, or how you write it - one objective of journaling is getting what is IN your head OUT. You can call it a journal, you can call it a diary, you can call it a personal record - anyone who has complex feelings needs a way to process them outwardly. Do you ever need to just hear yourself talk to your significant other, but not really need them to say anything? Writing down your thoughts can often be just as effective a sounding board.
Alternatively, journaling can give you a place to put down your positive thoughts: putting things into perspective, creating a space for what (and who) you are grateful for, expressing personal goals for the future. Making positive thinking a part of outward expression, putting them on a page so that you can look at them over and over, can make those things that might feel artificial or unattainable, tangible and real.
Limit News Consumption!
Without question, sometimes the most positive impact we feel we can make is staying informed, staying up to date, and trying to absolve ourselves of ignorance. However, the burden of that can often be overwhelming - especially when there are so many different issues that flood the news cycle. By no means should you claim to know everything that’s going on, because a lot is going on.
Having awareness is important and being conscious of the issues that may not even impact you is critical. You should pay attention. However, you should also take breaks because, let’s face it: the world is full of a lot of difficult realities that you can’t possibly swallow all at once.
And…. Practice Self Care
Listen to a funny podcast. Get a massage. Watch some Bob’s Burgers. Maybe even give some of your time to a neighbor that needs some groceries. Not everything you do has to be militant, but nor does it have to always be passive. Sometimes addressing the news can take the form of helping others get through it, too.
The term “Self Care” gets a lot of flack, but all it really means is acknowledging your needs and tending to them. Whether your needs are sleeping the right amount or surrounding yourself with the right people, you develop methods of coping to achieve self-care. COVID 19 has forced us into a situation where our go-to methods of coping are not always available - at least not in the ways we are used to. Be Creative. While you might not have the gym, it is springtime, and the outdoors are ripe with options for being active. You maybe can’t go to your friend’s house for movie night, but we live in this crazy age where virtually all correspondence is virtual. This isn’t a forever situation, but we can make the most of it - and reduce the worst of it - by taking care of ourselves and others.
Be safe, be smart, and give your grandparents a call!