From Paige Zaporzan, Red River Co-op’s Health and Wellness Advisor
Adaptation is the word I feel most of us are becoming familiar with! Having new rules and regulations in place has forced us humans to “adapt” to new routines and new norms. Our mental and physical wellbeing is important to bring attention to during such times and finding new and creative ways in which we can nurture our mind, body and soul.
Let’s start with human connection! Naturally as humans, connection is a basic need we desire and crave. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), lack of human connection can be more harmful to your health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. With physical human connection being removed in the short term, it is important to find new creative ways to connect with family, friends, colleagues etc.
Here are some fun ways in which you can stay connected with others while physically distancing:
1. Connect virtually
FaceTime/Zoom call dates
- Start the day with a virtual “coffee date” with a friend or family member
- End the day with a virtual “happy hour” with a friend or family member
- Host a digital dinner party – you can cook or order the same dishes and share it virtually together
- Play online games together (House party app)
- Join online classes, events etc. that are currently being offered online
2. Send care packages to loved ones
Flowers, notes, etc. to show someone you are thinking of them! By sending care packages, we express our gratitude and love for the people we care about in our lives. Activating gratitude will not only feel good for you, but will also put a smile on the face of the people receiving your care packages!
3. Reconnect with family/partner
If you are quarantined with your loved ones, this is a great time to re-connect with each other
- Cook and eat dinner together- organize “themed” dinners. Each family member picks a theme, rotate each evening or a couple nights a week and have a fun themed dinner at home
- Play games/puzzles
- Movie nights
- Have a dance party! Dancing is a great way to lift spirits up and get the body moving while having some fun!
Self – Care
Taking care of ourselves is not only important for our own wellbeing, but also for the wellbeing of others. By focusing on self-care, it allows us to show up for ourselves and others with more energy and greater presence. If we are showing up run down and exhausted, that doesn’t serve ourselves or anyone else any good. Here are some ways in which you can think about incorporating as part of your daily self-care routine.
1. Adopt an attitude of gratitude
* Fun fact- gratitude has been shown to improve psychological and physical wellbeing *
It is sometimes hard to focus on the good when our world is in the midst of such crazy times. However, by shifting our mindset (which is in our control - we have the power to do so) to looking at the good in our life, we can start to create new brain circuits and perspectives that support our mental wellbeing in a healthy way: adopting an attitude of gratitude.
- Before going to bed, write down three things you are grateful for and why you are grateful for these things. You can also do this first thing in the morning too!
- Send a message to someone you are grateful for, expressing your gratitude for them. This will not only fill-up your soul, but will make the person you are expressing gratitude towards feel loved and special.
- Through-out the day, if you find your mind wandering to worry, fear etc. stop and ask yourself, “in this moment right now, what am I grateful for and why?”
2. Set an intention for the day
It is important to kick-start our day with choosing how we want to feel for the day. This will help set us up for our day ahead. By choosing how we want to feel will allow us to select activities and do things that are in alignment with this feeling. For the most part, this is something in our control.
- First thing when waking (you can do this lying in bed or while you are having some coffee, tea etc.) write your intention for the day. Ask yourself, “how do I want to feel today?” By setting an intention that supports your wellbeing, you will start to create behavioral actions throughout the day that support how you want to feel.
- Choose activities that are in alignment with how you want to feel that day. For example, if I want to feel “connected,” for me, that may look like connecting virtually with the ones I love, connecting with nature/getting outside, or meditating to connect with being present in that moment.
3. Make a self-care date to yourself!
I believe self-care is the least selfish thing we can do! By putting our own mental and physical wellbeing first, it allows us to show up more present to life and with the ones we love.
- Schedule a date to yourself daily! This can be anywhere from one minute of “me time” to a full self-care day if you have the opportunity to do so.
- Create a self-care menu of activities/hobbies etc. that fuel your wellbeing. Ask yourself: “what makes me happy, what are the things I enjoy doing?” This could be anything from taking a nice relaxing bath, meditating, getting in nature, connecting with friends or family virtually, reading, watching your favorite show, journaling, turning up some good tunes and dancing your heart out! It is nice to have a menu of activities you enjoy doing, select from the menu according to what best suits your needs and how you want to feel that day.
4. Un-plug from social media/social media cleanse
Right now we are surrounded with constant news, social media updates, and posts of COVID-19. I am all for being informed on what is happening in our world with the pandemic (as it is important to be aware) however, sometimes it can become “too much” cognitive overload and can mentally and emotionally feel exhausting and overwhelming. Disconnecting from news and social media feeds for a day or two, or even a few hours, is healthy for us to re-fresh/re-charge our minds and focus on things that make us feel in control and overall good! This is really important for our mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
- Shut off any news notifications on your phone if you find these notifications are surfacing every time you pick up your phone.
- If you find yourself going on social media or checking the news too frequently and feel mentally and emotionally exhausted afterwards, ask yourself the next time you pick up your phone to check notifications, “What can I be doing right now that will best support my mental, emotional and physical wellbeing? What does this look like? How will I feel mentally and emotionally if I choose to disconnect from social media/the news for just today or for a few hours?”
- Shutting your phone off for a few hours (or if you can, for the whole day). This can help you in completely unplugging from the digital world.
- Put your phone in another room from the current room you are spending time in (I personally do this as much as I can when I start to feel digitally overwhelmed. I also turn my phone on silent and it feels great!)
5. Get in nature!
I truly believe nature is powerful medicine. Nature is nurturing!
While practicing safe social distancing, it is important to get outside and connect with nature. Studies have shown that being immersed in nature (or evening viewing scenes of nature) can reduce stress, fears, anger and instead increase happiness and other pleasant feelings which have a positive impact on our emotions. Nature is also good for our physical wellbeing. It lowers our blood pressure and heart rate, reduces muscle tension (usually built up from stress) and more.
- Go for morning walks with your coffee, tea etc.
- Choose a new trail, or walking route to experience new scenery of nature
If you feel more comfortable, select times to go outdoors when there may be less people
- Listen to some of your favorite music while being in nature
- Eat outside and have a picnic on the grass
- Go for a bike ride
- Take your pet for a walk (if you have a furry friend!)
- Walking meditations. There are various walking meditations you can do (paying attention to the sights or sounds or smells while you are walking can help your mind stay focus on the beauty of nature and being present).
- SMILE! Yes, smile to others when you pass them while walking, a smile goes a long way in making you internally feel good as well as others. This is a hard time for all of us and a smile can brighten someone’s day!
- Do an outdoor workout! Nature is the best playground to be creative on when it comes to physical activity.
6. Get your body moving!
It is important to keep our bodies moving in any creative way we can. With gyms, pools and rec- centers being closed, it is important we maintain movement into our daily routines. Movement is important for our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Moving our bodies and getting our blood circulating can benefit our digestion, metabolism, immunity, regulate hormonal activity, cardiovascular health, our circulatory health and much more!
- Get outside to move! With our weather being so beautiful, use nature as one of the best playgrounds to get creative on (keep in mind safe physical distancing while doing so).
Go for runs, bike rides, yoga outside, sprints up hills, walks, body weight workouts on the grass, etc.
- Join online Yoga, Pilates, HIT classes etc. There are lots of gyms, yoga studios and online apps offering at-home body weight fitness classes that require no equipment. It is incredible how much of a sweat we can get on by just using our own body weight!
- Get a group of friends together virtually to do a workout together, this can help you and your friends hold each other accountable to get your sweat on!
7. Increase nutrient dense foods
It is important we are keeping our diet rich in nutrient dense foods, the best we can! Eating foods that will help build and strengthen our immune system can help our body fight against viruses when or if they enter our system. Here are some foods to keep in mind that will help build/strengthen our immune system:
- Probiotic rich foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, kefir, probiotic supplement)
- Protein (Eggs, beans, legumes, lean clean meat, collagen powder, bone broth, wild caught fish)
- B-vitamins (Eggs, whole grains, meat, wild caught fish)
- Vitamin A,C,E, K, and zinc (Fruits: oranges, berries. Veggies and lots of greens, meat, eggs and seeds)
- Essential Fatty Acids (Algae- spirulina, wild caught fatty fish, flax seeds, hemp hearts, avocado, beans, legumes, seeds)
- HYDRATE- drink lots of water, water is needed for our mental and physical health. Water will also naturally cleanse our system.
8. Reduce stress and worry
Stress and worry are common words and feelings currently surfacing as we face such pandemic times. It is important we keep our bodies and mind in a state of rest and digest (parasympathetic nervous system) vs. a constant state of fight or flight (sympathetic nervous system) as much as we can. When our bodies are constantly in a fight or flight mode (how our bodies respond to stressors, therefore the stress reaction to such stressors), cortisol becomes the master hormone and puts all of our energy to prepping our bodies for fleeing or fighting something deemed as “threatening.” During this time, your digestion, immune and reproductive health gets little attention since our body’s energy is too busy dealing with the stressful situation (therefore leading to gut issues, lower immune system etc.). Here are some ways in which we can tap into our parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and digest system), which can help lower/manage our stress responses to stressors.
- Breathe! Breathing will lower your heart rate and reduce muscle tension in our bodies. Physiologically speaking, it is important we do something to relax our bodies physically when we are experiencing a stress reaction. By doing so, this will signal to our bodies that we are physically safe and no longer in a “threatening” situation. There are different types of breathe work you can do:
- Box breathing – breathing in for four counts, hold for four, exhaling out of mouth for four, hold for four, and repeat. If this feels too long to hold, you can try two counts each hold.
- Nose breathing – calms central nervous system – breathe in your nose for four counts, hold for two, and breathe out through nose for four counts
- Deep stomach breathing – relaxes muscles – breathe in your nose for four counts, hold for four to six counts, and exhale out of mouth for eight counts. The longer you exhale, the less tense your muscles will feel. This is great to pair with stretching!
- Relax your tensed muscles (stress is naturally stored in our muscles)
- Progressive muscle relaxation technique is a technique that can help release any tension built up in your muscles from stress. Activate muscles in your body that feel tense. Lightly tense (not overstrain) that muscle for five seconds, and relax for ten seconds. Repeat from head to toe and work on releasing tension in your body. ** There are progressive muscle relaxation scripts to follow if you google** Make sure to always breathe, and focus on your breathe or current muscle being activated. This will keep your mind present and focused.
When it comes to our cognitive well- being, it is important we find ways to use positive self- talk to keep our minds in a healthy state. I know there is lots of unknown and fear right now, but even though we can’t control our thoughts and the unknown, we CAN however control how we respond to these thoughts; what thoughts we want to give air time too, and re-focus on being in the present moment. These are all things we can control. We can master our mindset and create new hardwire circuits in thinking differently. Here are a few simple tools you can use whenever you are having a negative, self-limiting, or fear-based thought:
- ABCDE method:
- A- activate. Activate, bring awareness to the situation/stressor that is creating a fearful based thought.
- B- belief. What is your current negative belief around this situation/stressor? What is your fearful-based thought?
- C-consequence. What is the consequence if you continue to give air time to this fearful based thought?
- D- dispute. Dispute this current fear-based thought into a self-statement that better serves you.
- E- energy. Put new energy towards this new self-statement that better serves you. **For every one self-defeating thought, it takes 12 positive self-statements to counter act that negative thought. This begins to hardwire new neuropathways in your brain.**
- Engage in activities that will lift your spirits, focus on things you enjoy doing (refer to your self-care menu!)
- Journal- journaling can help sort through our thoughts and feelings/emotions. Starting off your journal with, “how did I feel today?” will get your pen flowing. Keep asking yourself the question “why” for each feeling you experienced. Eventually this can help uncover the reason behind the way you are currently feeling.
- Meditate – meditation has been linked to increasing happiness, reducing stress and worry. There are great guided meditation apps such as Calm, Headspace, and Meditation Oasis to listen too!
Adapting to such new norms and being creatures of habit, it is important we activate a schedule and routine that supports our overall mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. I know this is lots of information and can feel overwhelming to think about (we definitely don’t need cognitive overload!) Therefore, I encourage you to choose one thing from the Human Connection section and one thing from the Self-care section to incorporate into your daily routine this week! This will start to build new habits. Slowly add on as you feel comfortable to do so!
Stay safe, healthy and make time to connect with yourself and the one’s you love. We all need each other right now more than ever - we are all in this together!
If you would like to set up a free, private over-the-phone wellness consultation with me, please call: 204-230-0871 between the hours 10AM-4PM, Monday to Friday to schedule your consultation.
In advance, please fill out the Health and Wellness Consultation Form and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.