“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” – Anonymous
Hard times are unavoidable in this life. It’s what we do with them that matters.
Although it can feel as though self-care is an indulgence during difficult times, in truth there’s never a more important time to take care of yourself.
Protecting and nurturing your physical and mental health enables you to be well so that you can help the people you love be well too. Research shows that physical and mental health are linked, so when you take care of one, you’re taking care of the other too. Here’s a few ways to practice self-care while weathering life’s inevitable storms.
During stressful times, “it is normal to feel anxious,” says Yale Medicine’s Eli Lebowitz, PhD, clinical psychologist and director of the Anxiety Disorders Program at Yale Child Study Center.
Recognizing that it’s ok to feel worried or upset is a good first step. Bear in mind that your family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and everyone else will be experiencing similar feelings. Be gentle and kind with yourself and everyone you encounter – whether it’s teleconferencing with colleagues or passing a neighbor on the sidewalk.
Sticking to routines as much as possible is another good way to normalize life during difficult times. Try to maintain a regular schedule with eating, working, resting and exercising.
“During this legitimately anxious-making time, it is important to develop a strategy for managing anxiety that works for you such as practicing meditation or yoga,” suggests Carolyn Mazure, PhD, a Yale Medicine psychologist.
At Exhale, meditation and yoga are our two favorite ways to mitigate stress. Here’s more on these:
Meditate for mental health
Meditation can have a significant impact on mental health. Indeed, studies show that a regular meditation practice provides a wealth of benefits, helping to decrease stress, depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia.
One of the many beautiful aspects of meditation is that is can be done anytime, anywhere. Consistency is key when it comes to meditation, so if you can manage to meditate for five to 10 minutes a day, you’ll start to notice the benefits. Check out Exhale Studio’s YouTube channel for help maintaining your practice at home.
Movement is medicine
When times are tough you may not feel like exercising or even moving much. Yet research shows that movement is medicine and will help keep the body and the mind well. So, whether it’s going for a daily walk around the neighborhood or simply doing some household chores, moving is a key component of being well.
You might also try guiding yourself through some of your favorite yoga poses. If you’re a seasoned yogi, go for it. If you feel less confident at guiding yourself, start with gentle poses such as supine
twists, cat/cow, tree pose or lie with your legs up the wall. You’ll get benefits from doing all these poses and your confidence will grow as you do, enabling you to try new poses when you feel ready.
While you’ve got this time at home with loved ones, it’s a great opportunity to introduce them to the many benefits of yoga and meditation. Practicing together at a regular time every day will give your little group a chance to bond, boost spirits and hopefully have some much-needed fun.
Practice community care
Studies show that practicing acts of kindness doesn’t only help other people. According to the research, being kind releases hormones that boost mood and wellbeing in the giver too. In these difficult times, check in with family, friends, neighbors and coworkers to see if there’s anything you can do to help. Text, call, Zoom, Skype or even send a letter to let other people know you’re there and ready to lend a helping hand wherever possible.
To avoid becoming overwhelmed, our brains need a rest from the constant deluge of difficult information. In short, it’s ok to take a break from the news.
Choose a specific time when you will check in with the news each day (or week) and try to limit yourself to that. And the next time you find yourself reaching for the tv remote or your smartphone, try a quick breathing exercise instead.
Close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. Focus on the breath as it flows into and out of your nostrils or pay attention to your belly as it expands and deflates. Watch this space for more information and stay healthy in the meantime.