3 Tools to help cope with the pandemic (and beyond).
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
As the pandemic wears on, and we try to adjust to our “new normal”, many of us still find ourselves struggling with the weight of all that is happening around us.
There’s nothing “normal” about living this way, and over time, the stress of it can take its toll on our physical and mental health. It is critical in these times to continue caring for ourselves and incorporate daily rituals that can help ease the emotional burden of what we’re experiencing.
Here are 3 simple but effective tools you can use to help you prioritize your wellbeing in the current times, and beyond.
Journaling can help bring clarity and awareness to our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. It’s also a way of reducing the mental and emotional load that we’re carrying every day. In times of stress, our minds are often more burdened by worrisome thoughts and difficult emotions.
Instead of keeping them stored in our bodies and minds, journaling is an excellent way of moving the energy of those thoughts and emotions out of yourself. Holding thoughts inside your head can inhibit you from thinking clearly, and being mindful or productive.
Writing them down can help free up mental space for things that really matter, and bring a sense of balance back to your mind.
If you’ve never journaled before, it can seem like a daunting task – wondering what to write, or how much you “should” be writing. The good news is that there’s no wrong or right way to journal.
A great way to get started is by doing timed writing. For example, set a timer for 10 minutes and write until the time is up. This can help to build the habit, and get you into a writing groove.
Another technique is to start with sentence stems. This might look like:
Right now I feel______________
Today I learned______________
I wonder why_______________
This keeps the writing fairly structured and can help lessen the overwhelm around what to write.
Done frequently, journaling can help you see patterns in your thoughts, behaviours, and emotions over time. As a regular practice, it can help you maintain mental and emotional clarity.
In recent times, there has been a lot of research around meditation and how it can help you reduce stress and anxiety, while promoting feelings of calm and mental clarity. In its simplest definition, meditation is simply bringing an awareness to your breath, and observing your thoughts, rather than engaging with them.
For meditation to be effective, you don’t necessarily need to do it for an hour at a time. Instead, starting with even 5 minutes a day can be helpful if you remain consistent over time.
If the thought of sitting down and doing nothing for minutes at a time feels too difficult, consider mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation emphasizes bringing your awareness to the present moment, and paying attention to the sensations that your body is experiencing. For example, the feel of the water on your skin while taking a shower, or the flavors and textures of food while you’re eating.
Focusing your awareness on the present moment in whatever task you’re doing can be considered a form of meditation.
When stressed, our bodies’ nervous system goes into sympathetic (aka fight or flight) mode. Energy is diverted away from the digestive system, and hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol spike. Chronic stress keeps the body in this state, which can have long term negative effects on physical and mental health, including digestive issues, and anxiety.
In order to come down from this state, we need our body’s parasympathetic (rest and digest) mode to kick in.
One way of doing this is through Breathwork.
Breathwork is simply any breathing exercise or technique which is used to control the breath. Deep breaths from the diaphragm help activate the body’s “rest and digest” mode.
The body relaxes on the out breath, thus, breathing techniques involving long exhales can put the body into a relaxed state.
For beginners, try inhaling deeply from the diaphragm, hold for 2 counts, and then exhale slowly and fully through the mouth. As we are often used to shallow breathing from the chest, this can take some getting used to.
Regular practice can help, and in the long term, it’ll get easier for your body to get into a relaxed state.
While these may sound like very simple techniques on their own, when done regularly over the long term, there can be many benefits to be experienced, including a calmer state of mind, reduced anxiety and overall, a better quality of life.
To learn more about how breathwork, meditation and journaling helps, check out our episode with Spiritual Coach Tihana Deanovic
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Written by Alia Rajab