We are now more than halfway through 2020, a most unusual year that will surely remain in our memories for decades to come. Winding our way through a pandemic, and the subsequent economic realities related to it, many of us have experienced some mental health challenges these past months. With lots of uncertainty still on the horizon regarding Covid-19, it is a good time to pull together a wellness action plan to tackle the balance of 2020.
- Stay active. Remaining physically active is critical to maintaining mental and physical wellness. Exercise helps promote dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, the neurotransmitters that help regulate mood. Pick a few activities that you enjoy and incorporate them into your routine. Anything that gets your blood pumping is great, such as running, rock climbing, hiking, cycling, cross fitness training, or swimming. To avoid exercise becoming a boring routine, mix it up.
- Check your diet. Some foods can work against wellness during a period of intense stress. Make 2020 the year you overhaul your diet. Avoid processed foods, sugary beverages, and limit caffeine and alcohol intake. Add nutritious foods that enhance mental health and help control anxiety, such as whole-grain bread and pasta, almonds, blueberries, dark chocolate, kefir, avocados, turkey, asparagus, leafy greens, nuts, and chamomile tea. Build up your immune system to help battle the virus by supplementing with vitamin D, vitamin C, and zinc.
- Learn to relax. Increase relaxation and improve overall wellbeing through stress-reducing techniques like mindfulness, deep-breathing exercises, and guided meditation:
- Mindfulness is the purposeful practice of focusing on the present moment.
- Deep breathing exercises quickly reduce stress and lower blood pressure.
- Guided meditation apps can transport you to a calm, peaceful state through mental imaging.
4. Staying connected. During the lockdowns, many of us felt lonely and isolated. Humans are social beings, so stay-at-home measures were not good for our mental health. Whether or not we are in lockdown, the best thing we can do to for our emotional health is to stay connected to friends and family. Reach out to loved ones on the phone, on FaceTime, or using Zoom meetings to maintain social connections. If permitted, why not meet a friend for a socially-distanced hike or bike ride? Stay safe, but stay connected.
5. Improve sleep quality. Getting quality sleep is essential for a positive mood and healthy cognitive functioning. Make it a daily self-care priority to get adequate sleep (7-8 hours is recommended) by cultivating a healthy circadian rhythm. Stick to a nightly schedule so your body begins to expect rest. Avoid caffeine after mid-afternoon, or eating a heavy meal after 7:00 pm. Turn off smartphones and other electronics an hour before bedtime. If needed, use a white noise machine, sleep mask, earplugs, or blackout panels behind curtains.
6.Practice yoga. Yoga is a superb activity to help reduce stress and improve overall wellness. Yoga involves purposeful movements and poses while focusing on the breathing process. There are many diverse types of yoga to choose from, widely available on YouTube channels and yoga apps. Find one that is suited for your fitness level, age, and ability and add yoga to your other exercise routine during the coronavirus event. Even just once or twice a week will help to calm the mind and body, reducing stress and worry.
7. Grow a garden. Gardening is actually a very therapeutic activity that bonds us with nature and offers an opportunity to nurture our spiritual side while we toil in the soil. Growing vegetables or flowers is a process, giving you a sense of accomplishment when the fruits of your labor become visible. Gardening is also an excellent intervention for anxiety, reducing stress while soothing our souls.
8. Stay productive. Many folks have unfortunately lost their jobs, at least temporarily, adding to financial stress on top of everything else. Losing the ability to report to work can lead to boredom and negative lifestyle habits. If a job loss has hit your household, engage in some projects or new hobbies that can offer a sense of productivity. Completing a new task or project boosts self-esteem and lifts mood, which improves mental health overall.
Throughout the remainder of 2020, let’s remind ourselves that there is a powerful connection between mind, body, and spirit. By attending to all aspects of our wellness we improve our overall quality of life, pandemic or not.
Alliance Experiential Provides Natural Strategies for Improving Wellness
Blake Ruble, LPC, NCC, is the founder of Alliance Experiential, a movement-based mental health therapeutic approach serving the greater Denver metropolitan area. In addition to providing experiential therapy for ADHD, Blake also holds a CMHIMP certification for holistic and integrative treatment. For more information about the program, please reach out to Alliance Experiential today at (720) 990-5033.