Two weeks ago, I went from being a sound sleeper to one of those people who wakes frequently throughout the night with worries.
I was still doing yoga most days and meditating, and yet I believe the information and emotion overload related to COVID-19 was just too much for my daytime brain to process.
Recognizing something must be done, I have returned to what I already knew was necessary to deal with challenging new situations: I must LEAN IN specifically in ways that support my mental and physical health.
I have now instituted a self-care 2.0 approach and seem to have adjusted to the new normal.
If you also want to improve your mental and physical well-being during these uncertain times, the following changes have been helpful for me:
Begin each day with daily meditations and a clear concise mantra/intention.
If you need help, several meditation apps and websites I love are InsightTimer, Headspace, and the Chopra Center. In fact, Headspace is currently free to health care professionals with a valid National Provider Identifier (NPI) number, and the Chopra 21-day meditation journey also is free right now.
Repeating my mantra/intention throughout the day also has helped. Some of my favorites include:
Show up and contribute (ask yourself how you are contributing);*
Let go (of resistance) or be dragged;*
I am brave;
Panic helps no one;
I am not alone;
We will prevail.
*These are borrowed from one of my favorite yoga teachers.
Care of my physical body.
Sleep hygiene rules are even more important now: I made a conscious decision to reduce or eliminate screen time/social media for at least an hour or more before bed, and to keep my bedroom ideal for sleeping (temperature, noise, distractions).
Recognize the opportunity for self-care with the change in schedules.
I think of this crisis like a marathon (requiring daily training) by feeding my body a variety of unprocessed foods, and fruits and vegetables. I try to get outside once a day and really feel the wind and sun on my face; in other words, being present in the moment.
If I can’t do these things (and even if I can), I’m taking advantage of the multiple online and livestream exercise videos offered since the physical studios have closed.
I personally am so thankful that my beloved yoga studio offers livestream classes that make me feel connected with the community, and also gives me a terrific grounding powerful yoga-flow class at a time that is convenient for me.
I also have tried to be more attentive to others by calling or sending a note to people who may be feeling alone. This could include patients, family, friends, nurses, or COVID team at the hospital.
I highly recommend setting up regular Zoom calls, just as you would make a dinner date, with family and or friends, especially if you use a fun virtual background. Cocktail-hour Zoom-calls, dinner “out” with friends and family are so much fun.
Do breath work.
Where the breath goes, so the mind goes and vica-versa. We must lasso our breath and rein it in in order to keep our mind still.
Most everyone knows the concept of stopping and counting to 10 before speaking when stressed. What is equally important is what you do during that “time out.”
I recommend finding a place in your office or home that can be your sanctuary during these hard times. In this sacred space, you can meditate and take time out from video calls, your family, your thoughts.
You can meditate here, sitting quietly, focusing on your breath as you inhale. Let the feeling nourish you and pass through your nostrils, nose hairs, gently contact the back of your throat and fill your lungs. Try to breathe fully as you expand your ribs outward in every direction. Then exhale slowly for at least four slow counts and pause while empty.
Repeat this as often as needed until your thoughts pass – after all, they are only thoughts – and then, when you are ready, you will be refreshed and ready to show up and contribute with your full, grounded self.
Best wishes for physical health and peace of mind.
Lois Ramondetta, MD, is a professor at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine and a 500-hour Registered Yoga School-certified teacher.