A few months ago, we all made big plans. Resolutions for the New Year. We bought planners and booked vacations. We made vision boards. This was finally going to be the year that we saved money, lost weight, got a promotion and finished reading that book. 

And then, March happened.

Overnight, the entire world stopped. Everything about our daily lives suddenly and dramatically changed. How and where we work, grocery shop, and even how we dress, all became different instantly. All of the tasks that once seemed mundane are now longed for the way my dog longs for that sandwich I’m eating.

So, how do we keep going when leaving the house is off-limits and even potentially dangerous? Is it possible to not only stay the course but to thrive in place? 

Simply put, yes.

Here are five simple tips to help you decrease anxiety, improve overall wellness, and keep your sanity until the world reopens sometime in May or June or 2022.

ROUTINE

One of the biggest pitfalls of this new life is that our daily routine is gone. The morning commute and getting the kids to school has been replaced with sleeping late, not showering until noon (if at all) and having cookies for breakfast. Did you wear your  “fancy” yoga pants for Easter?

Returning to a morning routine will help to start the day off right. Even if you change/return to one simple task in the morning, it will make a world of difference. Get up at your normal time instead of sleeping in, make the bed or take a shower right away. 

coffee writing

One thing that has helped me is returning to my regular morning meditation practice and gratitude journaling. When we take five minutes at the top of the day to write down five things for which we are grateful, our perspective shifts. We can begin our day on a positive note. Keep it simple by writing down: Today I am grateful for coffee, sunshine, birds, my dog and toilet paper. Even if the rest of the day you have cupcakes and wine, at least you’ve done something healthy for your mind. 

DIET AND EXERCISE

You knew this one was coming. It has been scientifically proven that what we eat and how much we move our bodies directly affects our mental health. It is now known that the gut is the “second brain,” and it contains as many neurons as the actual brain. Have you ever gotten butterflies when something emotional happens? Or when you feel anxiety in your stomach? What we feed ourselves matters.

walk in the woods

This is not the time to throw your inhibitions out the window. This is not the time to dive head first into a bag of cookies or a case of wine. Now, more than ever, what we eat and how much we move are vital to our mental state. That being said, it’s important to not go overboard in the other direction either. It’s not necessary to use this time to get into the best shape of your life. But, it is important to get up and move. Go outside (safely away from people) to breathe fresh air, go for a hike, walk down by the river — anything. Just get moving.

Our parasympathetic nervous system requires us to rest-and-digest every single day. Start the day off with a simple meditation or prayer or just simply quiet time over a cup of tea; have a small healthy breakfast; go for a hike around noon; continue your workday if you’re working from home; end your workday at the normal time; healthy dinner; and then relax in the backyard for the evening. Our bodies require this ebb and flow, and when we don’t do it, anxiety and depression can creep in. Keep it simple. Do it daily.

HYDRATION

How much wine did you drink last night? No judgments here, but make sure you replenish the next morning. As soon as you wake up, grab a glass of water. How much? Every expert has their opinion on how much. Don’t over think it. Drink water throughout the day, but especially first thing in the morning. You know that OglebayFest mug that once held 32 ounces of beer? Go grab that and fill it with water. Your dance moves might not be as awesome as they were last October when you drank from that same cup, but your body will thank you. And don’t worry about how much toilet paper you’ll go through after all this water. Just do it.

EMBRACE THE PAUSE

I know, I know. This is the hardest one of all. I get it. How can you enjoy the break when you’re not on break, and, in fact, you’re working harder than ever? Working from home has proven to many of us that the workday is longer and more grueling than when we are actually at work. Add in homeschooling and being around your spouse 24/7, and this feels like the opposite of a break. Stay with me here and take a deep breath.

While work and the kids’ school have intensified, everything else has paused. We’re no longer running between all the after-school activities, trying to find a summer camp and figuring who will have time to run to Target for dog food. No longer are we sitting at a track meet stressing about what/when dinner will be.

It was only four short months ago that we were “too busy” to meet our friends for coffee. We said things like, “… after we ‘get through’ the holidays, then …” —  if we’re being honest with ourselves, we were stressed beyond belief and rushing around every single day. This current situation isn’t ideal, but our old way of life was literally killing us. Stress is the No. 1 cause of so many physical diseases as well as depression and anxiety.

Have you ever wished the world would stop — just for one day? Have you ever secretly wished for a broken leg so you could stay home for a few weeks?

The world has stopped. But we’re still feeling that pull to “what’s next’” and let’s just “get through this.”

Yes, we still have to make a living. Unless you’re a health care professional or first responder, no one’s job is truly secure. It’s terrifying. So we work harder and more and more to prove our worth or to try to save our business or to keep some sort of income coming in. Breathe. 

woman in nature

Some things to consider here. You’re a human being not a human doing. What are you in such a rush to get back to? What about this time “off” are you enjoying and what can you be enjoying more? What about this time would you like to continue or take with you when the world reopens? What have you learned that you truly can live without? How can we #EmbraceThePause and lean into a life of less

CONNECTION AND COMMUNITY

Human beings thrive on connection with other humans. Lots of people are staying in touch with friends and family and reconnecting with college friends with the use of technology. Virtual happy hours, drive-by birthday parties and coffee in the parking lot seem to be the new norm. Take a minute to write down three people with whom you can connect this week in some sort of meaningful way. Get creative with it. Trivia night with friends online, take an online yoga or fitness class, coffee date on Zoom or any other things you can think of. 

Or build community by reaching out to a non-profit to ask what they need. Do you know an out-of-work person? Send them a DoorDash meal or buy some groceries for them. Or better yet, pay a bill for them for one month. It could just be the help they need to get over the hump until they return to work. Know a nurse? Send them some wine. They need it.

This unprecedented time can feel heavy and overwhelming. But, we can do hard things. This country was built on everyone working together. When times get tough, and you don’t want to do the things — do them anyway. Don’t feel like going for walk? Do it anyway. Too stressed about your job to take a break? Do it anyway. Too depressed to eat right? Do it anyway.

This is a time to find a healthy rhythm, to take care of ourselves physically and mentally, to take care of each other and to slow down for a minute. Find some ways to laugh and to make others laugh. Walk away from your home office throughout the day. Have fun. Drink wine. But not too much and not too often. After all, Patsy’s Pizza is closed for a while and they cannot help your late-night cravings. For now.

Joelle Moray is an experienced professional with a proven track record in forging partnerships with public and private sectors. Moray has coached dozens of individuals on breaking barriers and living up to their fullest potential both professionally and personally. A West Liberty University graduate, she also holding a master’s degree from West Virginia University. Moray is also a graduate of Leadership Wheeling and Leadership West Virginia. She has been named a Young Gun, A Generation Next 40 Under 40, an Outstanding Young West Virginian and a West Virginia Wonder Woman. Moray is the AEP external affairs manager in the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

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