Over the past two weeks, as we’ve been focusing on keeping our communities, families, and ourselves healthy by following guidelines and staying at home, it’s becoming increasingly clear to us how important it is to develop routines and tactics that will help us stay mentally and emotionally strong. During this time of isolation and uncertainty, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and anxiety-ridden, so we recently turned to Little Rock, Arkansas-based certified health coach Elizabeth Finch for some advice for how we can maintain a positive outlook and equilibrium while practicing social distancing. Here, Finch—who is also a yoga teacher, wife, and mother of two—shares the practices and rituals that she uses to help her through challenging experiences.
Move your body. According to Finch, movement can have a positive impact on every aspect of your health—mind, mood, immune function, digestion, and more. “Movement truly is medicine,” she says. “It helps you to work any nervous energy, stress, or anxiety through and out of your body, it helps to settle your emotions, and it helps you feel more grounded.” Finch advises doing whatever feels good to you, whether that’s stretching, yoga, body weight exercises, or going outside for a walk, jog, or bike ride. If you’re in need of inspiration, you can find some of her favorite home workouts on her fitness story highlights on Instagram.
Spend time outdoors. If you live in or have access to an outdoor area where you can maintain a safe distance from others, Finch recommends getting some fresh air every day. “Being outside in nature has been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Another benefit of being outside, especially as the days get longer and warmer, is that we’re exposed to vitamin D from sunlight, which can help to boost the immune system,” she says. While you’re outdoors, Finch suggests that you try to be fully present; pay attention to the sound of the birds, the movement of the wind, the feeling of sunlight on your skin, and the beauty of all the flowers and trees that are thriving and blooming.
Nourish your body with healing foods. “We’re all feeling the urge to stress eat (or drink) right now,” Finch acknowledges, adding that while the occasional indulgence is fine in moderation, our bodies very much need nourishment and nurturing during this time of stress. “We need to feel grounded right now, and foods from the earth (read: unprocessed foods) can help with that. Think veggies, whole grains, organic poultry and fish if you choose to eat it, organic dairy if you can tolerate it, fruits, nuts and seeds, and natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and stevia.” She also advocates for conscious or mindful eating, a concept she learned from Dr. Deepak Chopra’s book What Are You Hungry For that involves keeping our mind-body connection intact while eating, instead of unconsciously snacking straight out of the bag while distracted or upset. “Stay in tune to when you’re beginning to feel full, and stop eating before you overdo it,” she advises. “It’s not healthy for us to ‘numb out’ while eating or to overeat regularly.”
Take some time every day to be quiet and still. “I believe that the message we’re all being sent right now is to rest and go inward a bit more than many of us are comfortable with,” Finch says, noting that while staying busy can be a good distraction, it can also prevent us from recognizing and exploring our feelings, emotions, and important signs from our body. Instead, “Take some time every day to just be still and quiet,” she advises. She recommends reading a book, sitting outside and listening to the birds, journaling, praying, sitting or laying down with your eyes closed while breathing deeply and tuning in to any areas of tension in your body, or taking a hot bath in total silence. “Now is a great time to pay attention to what you’ve maybe been missing, and to go deeper into your own heart and soul and learn more about who you are.”
Finally tackle something you’ve been putting off. For some people, social distancing has created more free time in their day-to-day schedules. If that’s the case for you, Finch suggests using the downtime to engage in an activity that you’ve been meaning to do but haven’t found time for, such as starting a meditation practice, learning to cook a few new dishes, painting, writing, journaling, learning to sew, or doing yoga. Plus, Finch points, out, “Many experts are currently being generous with their talents and expertise and sharing them freely on social media. Find someone who teaches what you want to learn and follow their lead. You just might come out of this ordeal with a positive new habit or an interesting new skill.”
Prioritize sleep. Honoring your circadian rhythm is essential right now, Finch stresses. “I know how easy it is to say, ‘To heck with my normal routine,’ and stay up late every night. But let me remind you that getting a good night’s sleep is an important way to help keep your immune system strong and robust,” she says. Finch is quick to point out that sleep is not a way to prevent or cure illness from the coronavirus, or any other sickness or disease—rather, it is necessary to keeping your immune system running properly. Therefore, it’s important to get at least 7.5 if not 8 hours of sleep each night to help keep your energy high, your mood more positive, and yourself feeling better overall.
Focus on people and connections. Human beings need each other, and connection is a huge part of who we are, Finch notes. While we can’t be together physically during this time, the good news is, we can still connect with each other in other ways. “Make it a point to call one person you love but whom you can’t see, every single day. Don’t text. Call them, so you can hear the sound of your loved one’s voice,” she recommends, citing research that has shown that hearing someone’s voice over the phone has the ability to lower our stress levels and boost oxytocin (a hormone that plays a role in social bonding, sexual reproduction, childbirth, and the period after childbirth). She advises that when you’re feeling stressed, you should sit down for a chat with your partner or your kids, or pick up the phone and call a friend or family member.
Image courtesy of Jan Roden of Jan Roden Design and And George in Charlottesville, Virginia. TSG Tip 357 from Elizabeth Finch of Elizabeth Finch Wellness in Little Rock, Arkansas. Elizabeth Finch Wellness is featured in The Scout Guide Little Rock.