COVID-19: Three Strategies for Your Vitality & Mental Health
This past month, we’ve been living in unprecedented times. Faced with many new uncertainties, we are challenged in staying up to date with what is happening next, battling the fears of what everything means for us, and grieving the many choices that have been taken away.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed us down and waits for us to stand-up and hold our ground. Are you able find solid footing when all that surrounds you feels so unstable? Perhaps you can hear the voice of a coach from the past shouting at you from the sidelines “FOCUS! You need to focus!”
But on what?
As I see it, there are three options:
- Focus on what is within our control
- Focus on what is outside of our control, or
- Resign, avoid, ignore
Giving attention to what is out of our control looks like scrolling through endless stories of how this situation could get worse, pushing ourselves into a heightened state of anxiety. Avoidance looks like binge watching Netflix at all hours of the day to forget everything in existence beyond the storyline and that might lead to feeling depressed. In these states, our fear can grow.
Let me be clear, the cost of staying in fear is damaging to your body, mind and spirit.
I keep hearing from my clients that their inner alarm bells are going off repeatedly. Overwhelmingly the response is stress induced by their fear. They, like many of us, are experiencing our nervous system being hijacked on a daily and sometimes hourly basis.
It easy to see how contagious fear is as an emotion. Spend any length of time on social media, watching the news or going to a grocery store and you will witness the power of emotional contagion. When in fear, our bodies stay in a heightened state of stress which can lead to anxiety or depression.
While collective efforts are being made to protect our physical well-being, fear is eroding our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. We need to be creative and resourceful in how we combat it.
At One Life, our team of registered psychologists, psychotherapists and personal coaches are here to help you move through this fear. We can introduce you to the tools and strategies to regain control of your mindset and find meaning and purpose in these challenging times.
Here are three strategies to get you started.
- Let go of expectations of yourself and create new ones (for the time being). The world is operating at a slower pace right now, it’s okay if you are too. But that doesn’t mean doing nothing. Its mean’s doing less and being okay with it.
It takes energy and inner resources to engage in positive self-care like meditation, yoga, mindful walking, exercise, etc. Right now, you might feel like you don’t have much energy, and the less you do, the less energy you have.
Here’s what I recommend: keep up your positive self-care habits, just re-calibrate how much feels do-able for now. Slowly, your energy reserves will build back up.
- If you used to take a 90-minute yoga class, try a 10- or 15-minute recorded class on YouTube.
- If you used to meditate for 30-minutes, go for a five-minute mindful walk.
- If you used to have an hour each way of alone time on your commute to listen to a podcast or call a friend, negotiate with your partner to have 20-minutes to yourself in another room.
- Be intentional with your time. It is easy to get lost in time. I can’t imagine I am the only one who has gotten to the end the day since this pandemic has started and said, “What have I actually done with my time?” Why do you think we ask ourselves this question? One thought is that we have learned to measure the success of a day in the progress we make: delivering on a project, going to the gym, getting the kids to their activities, or booking out a summer vacation. Many of us have come to measure the progress of our day in how much we get done.
What if our day was measured not by what we are doing but by who we are being in the time we have?
- Do you want to be a creative chef learning how to make something new in the kitchen?
- Do you want to be a goofy/fun parent setting up science experiments with your kids?
- Do you want to be a thoughtful adult child who calls their parent with greater curiosity to learn about their experiences?
- Do you want to be a compassionate leader who reaches out to team members individually to check in on their personal well-being.
My invitation to you is, start each day asking yourself the question “How do I want to show up?”
- Look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I have a saying with my clients, “You want to see the extraordinary in the ordinary”. I say this because our lives become more and more familiar and we can easily lose sight of our wonderment, excitement and love for the beauty in the world we live in. My clients have started to describe their lives like the movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray wakes up and lives the exact same day, day after day. While in fact, there are many small things that are different about our days, it’s just that we are not used to looking for them.
I encourage you to train your mind to see the magic in small things and learn to intentionally look for it.
- Wake up each morning and tell yourself “today is going to be an extraordinary magical day” and then reflect at the end of each day if you had moments where that was true for you.
- When you have virtual social conversations, invite others to reflect on what they are most grateful and appreciative for (either that day or that week).
- Give yourself some reflection time and ask questions that will help you notice small but meaningful aspects of your life: What did you learn? What are you most proud of? How did you show up today?
What is coming in the next weeks and months will come. It will pass. We will survive and hopefully we will learn more about ourselves going through this challenging time.
If you are experiencing challenges with anxiety, depression or your relationships, our One Life team of registered psychologists and psychotherapists in Calgary is available and ready to support you through video counselling.
Together, we will get through these times.
Darrah Wolfe Certified Performance Coach
Ken Fierheller Registered Psychotherapist & Relationship Coach