Life as we knew it has changed. Life as we know it is fleeting. Life in the future is unknown.
Social distancing, including no school, no church, no movies, no NBA basketball, no March Madness, is changing our lives. March Madness has taken on a new meaning. How do we preserve our mental health during this time of uncertainty?
While there are many things we can’t do during this time of the coronavirus pandemic, there are many things we should do to maintain our physical and emotional health. And, they are things we can continue to do, no matter the circumstances, which will stabilize our mind and give us the resilience we need to succeed.
Exercise is the great medicine of all ages and for all ages. You don’t need a gym to exercise. You don’t need a Technogym, a Diskus Dumbbell set, a Lova Kettlebell Rack or any other expensive piece of equipment to get the benefit of exercise. You just need to move. Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t walk on the sidewalk. It doesn’t mean you can’t run at the park. It doesn’t mean you can’t ride a bike. You can and should do this. Not only will the exercise strengthen your physical self, but it will also release chemicals in the brain that will calm your emotional self. Don’t let a day go by without exercising. A rule of thumb for adults: Get your heart rate up to 180, minus your age. You will feel better.
Sunshine, particularly the spring and summer sunshine, will also allow your brain to produce chemicals that will give you a positive outlook on life. Take the time to go outside. If you are laid off; if you are home from school; if you are working from home and need a break, or if you are still on the job, go outside for ten to fifteen-minute breaks. Soak in the sunshine.
(Mindfulness—not ruminate) Taking time to refocus and slow down the bodily processes will allow the stress hormones to dissipate at that moment and the effects will last over the next several hours. Most of these involve breathing techniques that are used to accomplish this. There are multiple apps that will guide you through this process. Calm, StressFree by the Cleveland Clinic, Aura, Stop, Breathe & Think, and Insight Timer are examples of these types of mindfulness apps. Yoga, religious worship, and reading are other such examples.
Regular Schedule –
Keeping a routine or regular schedule allows our bodies to find a rhythm that can coincide with our diurnal cycles. Sleep schedule and its resultant adequate sleep are very important. Establish a regular bedtime and a regular get-out-of-bed time. Make sure you are getting at least seven hours of sleep. You will feel better. Not only do adults benefit from a regular schedule, but also children find normalcy through a regular schedule, particularly now that they are home, trying to navigate how to accomplish online school. Try to schedule breaks to get up and move around at least every 50 minutes. This is important for the whole family.
Healthy Eating –
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. Get plenty of these foods. They also help regulate your bodily functions. Forget the soda. It may satisfy for the moment, but it will not give stamina like good foods.
Life as we knew it has changed. But life has always been changing. And, it will continue to change. We can find stability during change with good physical and mental habits. We can build resilience. In addition, we remain available to assist our patients with questions about their health and their current medical situations. While we may keep our distance, we will not be distant. Together we can find sanity during this March madness.
Tracy Frandsen, MD
Canyon View Family Medicine