It’s a time to reflect on lessons learnt through navigating the global pandemic with its social distancing, self-isolation, home workouts (and schooling) and general uncertainty. The year emphasised the importance of mental health alongside physical well-being. Here are a few techniques to help ease your mind and meet challenges with balance and composure.
1. Breathe Easy
“Take a deep breath…” You’ve heard it a million times before, and for good reason. Deep, belly breaths, as opposed to shallow, chesty breaths, are effective ways to manage stress, as it has an instant calming effect. There are countless breathing techniques, but box breathing is a particularly effective stress alleviator. Practice inhaling for a count of four, holding the breath for four, exhaling for a count of four and waiting at the end for another four to regulate the nervous system and instil calmness.
2. Write it Down
Putting a pen to paper has been proven to reduce worry. Journaling allows you to organise thoughts and emotions, providing an opportunity to better understand them. It’s also a way to work through more challenging feelings such as anger or frustration without potential conflict. Releasing negativity on the page, rather than saying something hurtful to another, can be a cathartic way to let go of anything that no longer serves you.
Turning the gaze inwards can help to quiet external noise and internal chatter. When we sit still, focus on the present and observe sounds and sensations, the body’s relaxation response is triggered. For beginners, consistency is key, even if it means just a few minutes a day. Don’t be hard on yourself if your mind wanders, simply bring your attention back to the breath. Experiment with the plethora of meditation techniques and find those that resonate best.
4. Mindful Movement
Whether you crave working up a sweat or prefer slow, mindful movements, all exercise encourages the body to release feel-good endorphins, our natural stress-buster. Repetitive motions such as running or swimming can serve as a moving mediation. As we focus on the action, it temporarily takes our mind off anything else that may be going on in our lives, helping us to stay in the moment. Exercise also helps to regulate mood and improve sleep, which does wonders for our sense of empowerment.
5. Connect with Others
While this one can be tricky given social distancing and imposed isolation, interacting with friends and family — albeit virtually — strengthens our support system, which is essential during difficult times. Interaction and connection boosts oxytocin which lowers blood pressure and cortisol, the stress hormone. Whether a phone call, video chat or text, a bit of banter with loved ones provides an emotional boost to remind us that we’re in it together.
Written exclusively for THIA Wellness by Stephanie Shiu.