An editorial by Rebecca B. Murphy, Associate Director of Health Promotions and Wellness
I used to start my day with a cup coffee, an English muffin, a little viewing of the weather channel, and then I start my drive to work. But now there is no drive to work.
Something about that drive and going to a different place helped me prepare mentally for my workday, but like many other Lowndes, residence work is at home.
Because of this change in my life, I have had to change how I think. Instead of that drive, I take a walk. Instead of going to my office, I created a place for work in my home.
Things are changing in how we do them, but we don’t have to stop doing what we like. We simply have to change our approach and that includes how we care for ourselves.
We continually hear the importance of washing hands, social distancing, coughing and sneezing into a tissue or our elbow, wearing masks and checking your temperature, but our mental health is not to be forgotten.
Dr. Tricia Hale, Director of the Counseling Center at Valdosta State University, said “This is not a time to be lacking with your mental health. This is a serious time of change, life and death circumstances, loss of many things, jobs, opportunities, and experiences.”
One way to keep up our mental and physical health is with self-care. Self-care means activities that increase positive aspects of our mind, body, and spirit from a holistic health perspective. It can increase our immune systems, reduce stress and improve our mental well-being.
“During this time take advantage of resources, support, routines, physical, spiritual and mental well-being opportunities,” Hale said.
Exercise can be one aspect of self-care.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, physicians have been encouraging exercise because it aids in our ability to fight diseases. It is helpful in reducing stress and other brain functions, they said.
“Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function,” said the ADAA.
There are many ways to stay active even when gyms are closed such as walking, live streaming classes hosted by local facilities, free apps or YouTube channels.
The most important thing is to find something that you enjoy and schedule it into your routine.
Another way we can practice self-care is to manage our sleep. Sleep is a restorative function for the body and mind. When we are stressed, or our schedule is interrupted it can be hard to sleep well.
It is important to keep a consistent sleep schedule, keep away from caffeine and alcohol for several hours prior to bed.
We can unwind before bed by staying away from the blue screen on phones, computers, and tablets. These activities stimulate our minds and make it harder to fall asleep.
Reading a book, meditation, or deep breathing prior to bed can help with falling asleep.
Eating and drinking well is also a way to increase self-care. Too often when we are stressed, it triggers food cravings for sugar, high-fat meals and overindulgence in alcoholic beverages which undermine our ability to stay well.
To combat this, keeping a schedule and not skipping meals is helpful. If you find yourself in the kitchen, before grabbing an unhealthy snack, ask yourself if you are really hungry.
Sometimes we mistake dehydration for hunger. So, try drinking water and see if that impacted the hunger feeling.
With considering healthy foods, look for foods with antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, and natural fiber. There are creditable internet sources for plan meals such as MyFitness Pal and Zipongo.
When routines are disrupted and work and home life are blurred, it is more important than ever to find structure and factor in mental breaks during the day.
We can mimic our day like we would if we were going to work with a morning, lunch and afternoon break. It also helps to create a task list and continue to have meaningful communication with colleagues, but still, unplug at the end of the workday.
As the pandemic continues, it’s difficult to steer away from news reports and the devastation this pandemic is causing.
“Do not underestimate how these losses and traumas can impact the psyche,” Hale said.
While it is important to stay informed, experts say not to watch too much. Overconsumption of the news can escalate anxiety.
As an alternative we can keep busy with checking on loved ones, getting into a hobby, starting a gratitude journal and reflecting on the positive aspects of the shelter-in-place order.
For me, it has been meals with my family, talking on the porch and reconnecting with loved ones over the phone. I am also enjoying the challenge of learning new technology and thinking of creative ways to do things.
“Be kind to yourself and make you and your family’s wellness a priority,” Hale said.
Remember you are not alone, reach out, connect with your resources and through it all we can strengthen ourselves and our community.
Campus Wellness has created webpages of resources for the VSU
community. You can find additional resources and information at www.valdosta.edu/wellness.
The original quote and link from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:
“The physical benefits of exercise improving physical condition and fighting disease have long been established, and physicians always encourage staying physically active. Exercise is also considered vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function.” https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety.