How to Boost Your Physical and Mental Immunity During Stressful Times
As the world faces the growing coronavirus pandemic, many of us are experiencing anxiety and fear about uncertain futures, financial hardships, and protecting ourselves and our loved ones.
To help stressed-out event professionals cope with this challenging situation, Global DMC Partners conducted a free webinar on March 24 titled, “5 Ways to Increase Your Physical and Mental Immunity During a Crisis.” This incredibly valuable presentation was led by Ela Dugan, a Boston-based personal trainer, nutritionist and life coach, who shared her insights about how to take care of yourself during this crisis.
Here are Dugan’s five practical tips that you can put into action right away.
1. Wash your hands and don’t touch your face.
Yes, we’ve all heard this a million times, but the CDC and other medical experts are giving us many recommendations to keep ourselves and others safe, so listen to them! Wash your hands for 20 seconds, thoroughly washing in between your fingers, the back of your hands and your wrists. To help you remember to do this, find a song to sing or see how many deep breaths you can take in 20 seconds to turn your hand-washing into a mini-meditation.
Remember to not touch your face when in public spaces. When walking into a grocery store offering wet wipes at the door, hold one in each hand to stop yourself from touching your face while you’re shopping.
“If you regularly wear a watch or a ring, transfer them to the other hand when you’re out in public spaces – they’re going to feel clunky and that can remind you to not touch your face,” Dugan suggests.
2. Address your stress.
Our stress response is there for a reason. In ancient times when humans were hunters and gatherers being chased by predators, adrenaline would kick in to help us get out of the situation as quickly as possible. Although we don’t have lions or tigers chasing us anymore, our stress can take on a lot of different forms and become chronic when left unaddressed.
“Survival mode kicks in; you’re depleted and you can’t fall asleep, which isn’t very helpful,” Dugan says. “Pause and address your stress. It may sound bizarre, but by having a conversation with it, you’re taking it from [consuming] you to de-personalizing it so it’s just a part of you.”
Ask yourself what it is that you need right now. Needs can come in both external and internal forms; however, our external can often inform us about what we truly need within. Becoming conscious of what you need internally can help address the root of your stress.
“Let’s say you’re quarantined, you’re alone and you want a hug but there’s no one who can give that to you,” Dugan says. “Knowing what you’re truly after can open doors in your mind to find other ways to get that comfort and love. Becoming more aware of what you truly need is the best support you can offer as a partner, parent, sibling, son or daughter, and connecting with others is vitally important right now.”
Once you’re aware of what you truly need, shift your actions. Allow this new insight to help open your mind to other possibilities, such as calling a loved one, taking a bath or meditating. Dugan suggests trying out free meditation apps such as Insight Timer, Calm or Headspace to center yourself. If you prefer more tangible things to focus on, check out the Wim Hof Method breathing technique.
3. Give yourself permission to rest and recharge.
Stress can have a major impact on our bodies, and deplete our physical and mental resources at a much faster rate than usual, so the best thing you can give yourself right now is rest. Dugan suggests trying the apps mentioned above to help you turn off your brain, recognize your thoughts and let them go.
“When we sleep, we give our body time to recharge and repair most efficiently and effectively,” she says. “Allow yourself to rest to make sure your body is at its best defense if the coronavirus does show up, and so you feel charged up and ready for when your industry comes back in full force.”
Also give yourself permission to feel your emotions as they are. Emotions are just like any other bodily need that we have, and if you try to push a feeling away and avoid dealing with it, it will continue to distract you in one way or another. Find a safe space to allow yourself to feel your emotions, whether anger, grief, sadness or panic.
“Your safe place could be in the shower, in your room playing really loud music so you can scream, or in the arms of a partner. Carve out time to fully experience your emotions so you can let them move through you, then let them go,” Dugan suggests. “That way, you can start focusing on what you want to put your mind and efforts toward.”
4. Move your body daily.
The more frequently you can move your body, the better. Walking is a great choice, but even stretching for 10 minutes a day or every couple of hours; or finding a new place to sit, stand or lie down when you want all count. Think of ways to hold yourself accountable to make sure you move as frequently as you did before you were quarantined at home.
Check in with yourself and ask what kind of movement you enjoy doing. Is it working on a solo skill, such as handstand or headstand? Or is it something you like to do with your family?
“If you’re motivated by other people, reach out to them and see if they want to keep exercising together,” Dugan suggests. “Connect with others virtually, or if you like exercising alone, [do that]. The fitness industry is quickly adapting to this situation, [so you] have countless [virtual] fitness options to choose from.”
If you’re overwhelmed, don’t know where to start or how to hold yourself accountable, consider seeking out a personal trainer. Many fitness professionals are now offering personal training via Skype or Zoom.
5. Nourish yourself.
Nutrition can be tricky in the best of times and even trickier in the worst of times, so plan ahead by thinking of foods or meals that make you feel good or that you crave. What are some meals that you’ve always wanted to make but couldn’t find the time? Look at those recipes again. However, grocery stores are limited in many areas right now, so be open to making adaptations and trying something new, Dugan suggests.
“If you only have frozen vegetables available but the recipe calls for fresh vegetables, don’t be afraid to use canned or frozen instead – you can substitute one for the other very easily,” she says. “Be aware of what’s available at your grocery store ahead of time and plan from there.”
Take advantage of all the free resources that are available to help you on your nutrition journey, but also listen to your body and give yourself permission to give into your cravings, Dugan says.
“The body wasn’t made to be rigidly controlled – it is incredible at knowing what it wants and needs, and the best thing you can do for it right now is to listen to it,” she says. “This may be a time when body image issues are rising to the surface, especially when surrounded by a horde of food. It’s understandable to feel guilty or bad to want to eat cookies, cake, pie or ice cream, but if you enjoy it and it makes you feel good, give yourself permission to eat it.”
Make sure to check in with yourself periodically to make sure you’re still enjoying those foods, noticing when they don’t taste as good and listening to your body. Ask yourself what you hope to feel by continuing to eat – is it peace, happiness or comfort?
Here are some other options to help you better support those needs:
- Make tea and read
- Dance, draw, paint
- Phone a friend, write a card
- Take an Epsom salt bath, paint your nails, apply a face mask
- Go on a walk, garden, read or sleep
Dugan suggests thinking of this challenging time as an opportunity. What are some things you always wished you could do if you only had more time? Sit down for 10 minutes and create a list of things or skills that you’d like to accomplish, whether by yourself, with a partner or your family. Having things to look forward to or master can reignite your passion and serve you in the long-term, Dugan says.
“It’s understandable to feel like it’s the outside world that shapes our experiences and life,” Dugan says. “Think of this virus as you would anything in your life that you don’t have complete control over, like the weather, the seasons or gravity. This virus feels and is a source of nature, and that can be totally terrifying, but [it’s important to] see what’s in your control and what’s not.”
She continues, “You are 100 percent in control of your thoughts, and you’re only one thought away from a good mood or a bad one – you have the choice. Use your ability as a free thinker to help you consciously navigate through the turbulent waters ahead – you can do it!”