Stay Calm! As a physical therapist and parent, I am being inundated with stressful news regarding COVID-19 and I find myself uncharacteristically anxious. Instead of exploring the negative, I am choosing to focus on the things I can control. What can I control? Well, I can control how I choose to respond to the current events. I try to remember to take care of myself which includes moving, eating, sleeping, and breathing!
During times of stress, people gravitate toward comfort goods. Remember that sugar is inflammatory. Instead, try to fuel with fruits and vegetables. Research indicates that the following foods are anti-inflammatory: papaya, blueberries, broccoli, ginger, cranberries, avocados, turmeric, chia seeds, hemp seeds, red cabbage, celery, and walnuts. If you are hankering for something sweet, consider healthy alternatives such as raw honey for tea, smoothies, raw desserts, and baked goods. You can drizzle honey on berries, fruit, roasted squash and sweet potatoes. Maple syrup can be added to salad dressings, sauces, on roasted meats and of course, pancakes and waffles. Maple syrup is a good substitute for sugar in baking for those of us who like “bake therapy.”
Practice good sleep habits: Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Researchers state that sleeping between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. are especially important, because this is when the body repairs itself and detoxifies. Avoid drinking high amounts of caffeine and or drinking later in the day. Finally, eliminate the use of work-related devices, computers, emails, TV, news, or other stressful things three hours before you plan to go to sleep to improve your quality of sleep.
Breathing for just five minutes per day has been shown to lower blood pressure, relax the mind and body, as well as help with pain management and reduction of anxiety, stress, and chronic fatigue. To help my patients with stress relief and difficulty sleeping, I recommend they practice breathing regularly, so when they need to relax they are an efficient breather.
1. Sit or lay down and take a moment to get comfortable.
2. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth for a couple of minutes.
3. Place your left hand on your belly and your right on your chest.
4. Inhale deeply and gently into your lower lungs, expanding your belly (your left hand should rise). Exhale completely through your mouth. Watch your left hand rise and fall as you continue this cycle for a few minutes. This is diaphragmatic breathing.
5. Notice how you feel immediately afterwards.
If you find yourself home with the family, focus on the things that you enjoy. Turn off the TV and electronics and play some good old fashioned board games. Take a family walk. Find some time to read a book or catch up on some journal articles on topics of interest that you have not had time for.
If you are still working, encourage your patients to follow these habits:
- Assess your risks
- Avoid those who are at high risk
- Wash your hands!
Do something nice, give someone a compliment or write a google review for a business you love that is being impacted by recent events. Finally, I challenge you to do something simple and silly: stand in front of a mirror and smile at yourself. I guarantee you will laugh and smile back.