As a health and wellbeing coach I help people build their physical, mental and emotional resources to meet life challenges. Over the last month I have been deploying all that I have learnt in the last 30 years of working in health and fitness. This has been identifying what is within my circle of control, taking action and calling on those resources that have me be as resilient as I can, in the face of uncertainty.
Some of you may already know that I have been amidst a family health crisis, with both parents currently in hospital, a wife that has a chronic health condition (reliant on immune suppressing medication) and the emerging uncertainty of COVID 19. I have had a few sleepless nights to say the least! I have also made it a non negotiable, to maintain and indeed increase my self- care behaviour, that has me be the most effective and resilient in these eventful times. Here I would like to share my top 6 strategies.
Keeping up my exercise has been essential. I know that activity is my best prescription for managing stress. When in “fight and flight” having an outlet for my adrenalin and cortisol is essential from turning and acute event into a chronic health issue. We know keeping up exercise and a healthy lifestyle is key for managing chronic stress and it’s negative effect on our immune system. It also help me mange my mood, and allows me to think more clearly and stay solution focused.
Maintaining “healthful” eating. Choosing foods that both nourish me and maintain health- whole foods, especially fruit and vegetables. When extremely stressed my tendency is to miss meals. Fortunately for me, my wife has been supporting me in maintaining energy and sustenance.
Mindfullness practice has something that I have previously struggled with. Over the last 5 months I have made a conscious effort to develop a routine around mediation. What has worked for me is starting small and attaching the habit to an already existing routine. First thing in the morning when preparing my percolating coffee, I sit on my meditation stool and listen to a 10 minute guided meditation. My other strategy is to punctuate my day with a few deep belly breaths. I have also tried to link this to daily rituals, like brushing my teeth, washing my hands, or waiting for a traffic light. The benefit is that I can create some space between racing thoughts or tumultuous emotional states. This space helps me chose actions that are more in alignment with my values and gives me a sense of calm when sailing in a metaphorical stormy sea.
Maintain good sleep and restorative processes. During uncertain times keeping a routine is critical. Having good sleep hygiene and maintaining a constant bedtime and awake time is one thing we can control. Having some soothing activities that help calm a stressed and aroused state, has been important for me when trying to fall asleep. This could be a hot shower, essential oils, white noise or an audio book or podcast that takes me to a happier place.
Do something that gives you joy. I am lucky to have an energetic and creative 4 ½ year old. There is nothing more delightful that seeing the world through his eyes. Lately building a rocket ship out of boxes and completing a jigsaw puzzle has helped me focus on other aspects of my life that are not filled with angst. If you don’t have a young child, try an activity or hobby that helps you reach a state of flow. I love to be in nature, however getting away is challenging at present. I am currently getting my nature fix by walking in the park, gardening and lying under my gum tree.
Connecting with loved ones and community. Even if you are unable to do this in person, getting on the phone or using technology like facetime or skype to share, all that is important and going on in your life. This is critical for all of us physically, mentally and emotionally. It also helps us remember that we are all in this “life experience” together and are part of a greater community.
Finally I always come back to this….
"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
One thing that is within my circle of control is choosing actions that are in alignment with my values. At this time I stand for being: compassionate, caring, accepting, calm and healthy J