Support in Staying Mentally and Physically Well at Home
Photographed by Bettina Bogar
Staying at home is an opportunity to look at the essentials of what we truly need in order to feel healthy and happy...shelter, family, friends, and community. I turned to Naturopathic Doctors Sue Love and Sapna Patel Flower of Restore Integrative Health in a Q&A to find out how we can take care of our physical and mental health so that we can feel our best. Some of these recommendations are simple practices that most of us already know; however, they are a refreshing reminder that taking care of oneself doesn't need to be complicated, expensive or elaborate - the little lifestyle choices we make can go a long way. What better time than now to strengthen the healthy habits and tools that support us in feeling good inside and out?
Before we get started with the Q&A, I thought I would share some ideas & resources I have found to be helpful during this time...
Be Gentle with Yourself & Others
During this global crisis everyone is effected differently and reacts differently. In these times it's important to remember that you never know what someone else's story or struggle might be (no matter how they may be projecting themselves on the outside). People's behavior can often be a reflection of how they feel about themselves. Because this is an extremely sensitive time it is an excellent opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation and refrain from passing judgment on others. After all, when we form a judgment on another person it usually stems from a deeper judgment or insecurity we have about ourselves. We can practice this by first having an awareness of when we are judging or feeling emotionally triggered by something, and then take a step back to observe, set a healthy boundary if need be and, eventually, look at the situation through the lens of empathy.
Be gentle with yourself. Try to allow yourself to feel any emotions that arise without judgment and listen to your body, mind, and spirit to give yourself the care you need and deserve. Remember that in staying home, you are already doing the most important thing to make a difference right now.
Set Boundaries with Social Media
Tuning into Instagram to connect with friends and family and feel less lonely is not always realistic. With all of the IG-photo challenges, live streaming, healthcare updates, updates from those who have COVID-19, and the sharing of how people are spending their time in quarantine, it can feel like an emotionally overwhelming space to be. It can also take away from quality time. I have found it helpful to set up boundaries with social media so I can use it in a way that feels more positive and less exhausting. Here are a few things I try to adhere to...
-Avoid turning to social media in times of emotional distress. In those times I find its best to instead turn inward and sit with how Im feeling, or do something healing like have a cup of tea, talk with a loved one, take a bath, or get outside.
-Don't compare yourself to others. Remember that most photos you look at are carefully curated highlights of that person's day or business, not their real life.
-Be mindful with your words and what you share. Ask yourself, what is my reason for sharing this? Is it because I want to share beauty, inspiration, or insight, or is it because I am trying to elevate my image or ego? Could what I'm sharing be hurtful to someone who might be in a less fortunate situation right now?
-Be conscious of time spent online. You can set your phone to monitor your use, or choose days of the week to be phone free.
Socialization & Communication
Socializing is integral for our emotional well-being, and on a physical level, its good for brain health and causes us to release endorphins (oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin) that make us feel happy. A daily check in with your partner, friend, or family member (in person or from afar) is a great way to keep feeling connected while in isolation. Here are some ideas of how to socialize from a safe distance...
-Find an online community. Now is the time to put our heads and hearts together and unite. I love WMN Space - a conscious space for women to gather in service to their own healing. Right now they are offering virtual WMN circles I find these circles deeply cathartic. Paula Mallis, the founder and facilitator, creates a safe and private space to communicate within the circle. I learn so much from listening and relating to other perspectives and life experiences. ($45)
-FaceTime dates and Zoom are obviously great ways to video chat with your social circle. I've found it helpful to loosely schedule calls in, whether it's a happy hour date, or mid-day chat while I walk around the block. (Free)
-Sign up for a virtual cooking class with friends and family. My friend and favorite chef, Marika Richoz is offering classes on Zoom. ($10)
Find New Ways to Cope with Anxiety & Stress. It’s important to check in with yourself and take inventory of how you are doing. If you feel you might need more support than you are getting there are lots of virtual resources available...
-The Shine app created a free toolkit to manage stress.
-Therapy is also available on the app Talkspace or over telephone or video chat with a licensed therapist.
Practice Gratitude. This can be very helpful in keeping a positive perspective and taking stock of all that you are blessed with. I like to practice this habit first thing in the morning. Before I check my phone or do anything, I lay in bed and think of at least 3 things I am grateful for. I do this before I fall asleep as well.
Physical Movement is key for your physical health, and the mental benefits are equally rewarding. I share some of my favorite virtual workouts here.
Take Time for Deep Relaxation
It can feel surprisingly difficult to carve out time for deep relaxation, especially if you are caring for your kids at home and/or working from home; however, the metaphor of the parent putting on their oxygen mask first on the plane comes to mind - not because they are selfish, but because they can then do more for others and themselves. Prioritizing time for deep relaxation benefits you and everyone around you - this can look like time in nature, meditation, a hot bath, listening to an audio book, cooking, journaling, watching a movie, taking a nap or going to bed early to clock in more rest.
And now for the Q&A with Dr. Sue and Dr. Sapna…
Photographed by Bettina Bogar
T: Are there any lifestyle choices that could provide us with support in feeling healthy while staying at home?
Dr. Sue: Try to maintain a regular routine around timing of getting up/going to sleep, eating, when to start/stop work (when working from home), etc. The routine will bring a sense of normalcy during a time when needing to be at home.
T: Do you have any recommendations for lowering stress levels and improving sleep quality during this climate of heightened anxiety?
Dr. Sue: Limit screen time, and especially time looking at the news. Decide how many times you’d like to do so in a day and don’t go beyond that. Set the stage for sleep by practicing good sleep hygiene. Avoid all blue light sources for at least 45 minutes before bed, and keep all electronics out of the bedroom. If you use your phone as an alarm, get in the habit of turning it on airplane mode as you come into your bedroom.
Also, limit alcohol intake. Although it might make you feel relaxed and able to fall asleep more easily, it does impair sleep quality, and can heighten anxiety the following day.
T: Are there any healthy habits or rituals you have incorporated into your household with your family right now?
Dr. Sue: We’ve been making a point to do something active together twice daily, and we’re finding that it’s keeping all of us feeling happy and healthy. Sometimes this is an outdoor adventure and usually looks like my 3 year old on her scooter, and my walking/jogging with my 3 month old in the stroller. Other days we have a dance party inside, play tag, or put on an online movement/dance class that we can follow along to.
Dr. Sapna: As I have 2 school aged kids at home, sticking to some sort of routine is key to my productivity with work and home. We have a “Mummy-School” schedule where we have academics and outdoor play time where we mix it up with running relays on the sidewalk, scootering and backyard play. This helps us all from the mental health perspective to be able to maintain a sort of structure as we’re all social-distancing and managing our stressors. It’s also fun to play “teacher” with their father as the “principal” working in his office downstairs, it always gets the girls giggling.
T: Do you have a favorite self care ritual that you are practicing right now?
Dr. Sue: My favorite indulgence is taking Epsom salts baths. It helps relax my muscles after long days of carrying a baby and running after a 3 year old. It calms my mind. I find that each night I manage to do it, I have a renewed sense of positivity, have a great sleep, and that translates into feeling energized the next day.
Dr. Sapna: It took a while to sort out in the first week of strict social distancing in the city, but my ability to take care of my kids all day long is tied strongly to my ability to exercise by myself. I’ve started taking 40-min before our home-schooling schedule begins to go for a morning jog. I also do a floor exercise routine with the girls during the breaks between our academics. We do some fun body-weight exercises to get the circulation going, and each of us takes a turn with the next move - anything goes! This helps us all maintain positive habits and a sense of calm as we have fun together.
Dr. Sue & Dr. Sapna are the Founders of Restore Integrative Health clinic in Toronto, Canada. Their physical office is currently closed in order to keep the community safe, however they are continuing to offer telephone/video appointments for naturopathic medicine as well as psychotherapy and psychology.
You can book an appointment here.