Health 06 April 2020
Resilience, it's a word we are hearing a lot right now.
In light of COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus), the uncertainty we are facing, and the global impact of this pandemic, it is more important than ever to take time to proactively build our resilience muscles.
Resilience is not a fixed trait but rather a set of habits, skills, and behaviors that can be cultivated and practiced proactively. When faced with challenges, big or small, those who practice resilience refuse to let fear hold them back, and they break through the barriers keeping them stuck to not only survive difficult times but to get stronger.
While things may be uncertain, practicing resilience provides quietness in the storm, allowing you to think more clearly, make better decisions, and proactively navigate the stressors ahead.
Here are a few ways to grow resilience in turbulent times.
Step 1: Practice Mind Over Moment
Mind Over Moment is a science-based strategy I developed that allows you to step out of reactivity to live intentionally. We spend an inordinate amount of timing worrying about the past or making assumptions about the future. Mind Over Moment utilizes the idea of mindfulness to help you become aware of your thoughts, feelings, habits, and behaviors in the moment, in order to steer yourself toward better responses and outcomes.
Mind Over Moment means making deliberate choices about your mindset and belief system because your beliefs drive your behavior. It means being intentional about building skills and developing habits that support resilience and emotional wellbeing.
Practice Mind Over Moment by sitting with difficult emotions rather than judging them, taking time to be still, and finding the beauty in ordinary moments. Gratitude, self-care, and acts of kindness are also ways to practice, each building resilience and cultivating positive emotions that can buffer stress.
Step 2: Don't Mind Your Brain
Your brain is an amazing organ. It can also be your worst enemy. As a protection mechanism, your brain has adopted a negativity bias that causes you to overestimate the negative (threats) and underestimate the positive (opportunities). In times of stress and uncertainty, your brain magnifies negative news, information, and perceptions to protect you.
We can offset the negativity bias by proactively seeking the positive. Be intentional about finding the good in people and situations. Take notice of little moments, appreciate small gestures, and communicate your gratitude to others. The more specific, the better. Your brain becomes primed to start finding the good stuff out there, and there is plenty of it — even in difficult times
One method I have for cultivating positive emotions is something I call "delicious moments." You can increase the likelihood of positive emotions by taking time to savor them. Every time you sit in a positive moment, you embed it more deeply into the neural structure of your brain.
Whether it is savoring the first sip of coffee, snuggling with your pups, sending a text of gratitude to a friend, or binging a new Netflix series, delicious moments are all around us if we just take time to experience them.
Step 3: Transform The Way You Think About Stress
Stress can feel like an unseen force, always in the background, keeping you on edge and unable to fully relax. When stress is acute, as it is right now, your body responds by preparing you to run out and buy toilet paper or head for the hills. This stress response increases inflammation, interrupts sleep, interferes with decision making, and impacts mood. Feeling out of control adds another layer of disempowerment and frustration.
You can shift your body's response by reframing the way you view stressful situations. In fact, a growing body of research has shown that our beliefs about stress and the way we cope are often more important than the stress itself.
Think about it this way. When you view stress as bad, you are more likely to cope in unhealthy ways, trying desperately to numb discomfort. This only serves to exacerbate problems. Conversely, if you view stress as your body preparing itself, putting on armor, getting ready for action, you are more likely to eat foods that give you fuel, exercise, and get plenty of rest. You can go into problem-solving mode, taking time to think clearly and strategically.
Pay attention to physiological and psychological responses like increased heart rate, tightening shoulders, and feelings of anxiety. This is simply your body giving you information, helping to prepare you to take action.
Step 4: Turn Fear Into Fuel
We spend an inordinate amount of energy focusing on the "what ifs" and worst-case scenarios. What is the best-case scenario? What will it look like when things go right?
By rethinking stress, you can harness that fear and anxiety and turn it into the fuel. Use this time to invest in projects you haven't had time to complete, try a new hobby, or take an online class. Take time to help others and serve as a resource to those who need it most.
Rather than become paralyzed by fear and anxiety, use that energy to propel yourself forward.
There is no better time to build your resilience muscle than when you are in the midst of uncertainty. Be deliberate about the messages you send yourself, the habits that you cultivate, and the actions that you take during these challenging times. Practicing resilience helps you do more than survive; it allows you to thrive.
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With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.