Are you looking for some tips to maintain a little sanity during the pandemic? Although there are no easy answers, try thinking about the B.E.S.T. ways to take care of your mental health.
BEST stands for Breathe; Exercise and Eat well; Sleep; Think positive
Sounds easy, right? How can something that seems so easy also be so helpful?
It is no surprise that anxiety is high during times of crisis. Luckily, there are specific breathing techniques that are natural anti-anxiety agents. With practice, these techniques can become second nature. These work best when practiced regularly at times of lower anxiety, and then implemented at times of high stress.
- 4-7-8 Breathing: Always practice this in a place where you can relax
- Start by exhaling completely
- Next touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth (try to maintain this position during the breathing cycle)
- Inhale through your nose to the count of 4
- Hold your breath to the count of 7
- Exhale completely through your mouth to the count of 8
- Even Breathing: Practice in a comfortable position preferably with eyes closed
- Focus on the timing of your breathing
- Close your mouth
- Inhale deeply via nose counting slowly to 4
- Exhale via nose trying to match the timing of inhale (count slowly to 4)
E: Exercise and Eat well
Adding exercise and maintaining a diet high in whole grains, protein, vitamins and low in added sugar helps relieve symptoms related to depression or anxiety. Most of us can get the nutrients we need from healthy whole foods rather than other supplements.
Added sugars can spark inflammation in parts of the brain and this inflammation may cause symptoms of depression and anxiety. On the other hand, exercise and healthy eating send a signal to the brain that can relieve some of these same symptoms.
Sleep is important for our health. Try to maintain consistent times to go to bed and waking up to help restore sleep patterns. Cut back on caffeine and alcohol and remember that daytime exercise can help sleep. Most importantly, turn off screens and initiate a non-electronic relaxing evening routine.
Some people choose to try low dose melatonin when sleep is difficult. If you so choose, look for a reliable brand and start with 1- 3 mg quick release or spray about an hour before bed. Always check with your health provider before starting even a natural supplement.
T: Think Positive
This may be the most challenging practice of the four. Thinking positively does not mean ignoring the obvious – we are going through an unprecedented time, filled with anxiety and uncertainty. Hopelessness and despair may creep in with the perception that control is lost. However, reminding oneself that there is hope, that our current situation will resolve and taking time to reflect on any sliver of brightness or good news helps restore internal emotional balance. While we cannot control external factors, each of us can control our own thoughts. This means everyone can decide when to shift attention and focus. The pandemic will come to an end and the habit of finding the positive will surely be helpful long after COVID-19 is a footnote in history.