As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt and change life as we know it, our workplaces have ceased to be where we spend most of our waking hours. Our homes have now become the centre of our universes. We sleep, eat, work, and entertain ourselves at home. While on the one hand, this sudden change in our routine has provided some welcomed perks and benefits, on the other hand, this abrupt disruption has also presented new challenges for us. One of them being the challenge of staying healthy and productive when the things that used to help us cope and keep us well are no longer available to us.
Given the current state of the world, it is no surprise that a lot of people are experiencing mental health issues. With each lockdown, it becomes more and more difficult to stay optimistic and keep moving forward. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or wand that can restore our sense of well-being. The good news though is that our minds and bodies are very resilient. With the right set of tools and strategies, we can overcome any obstacles and accomplish great things.
According to research on neurobiology, exercise is a powerful strategy that can help us better deal with stressors and improve our mood. From a physiological perspective, too much stress, whether physical or psychological, can worsen our health. By engaging in exercise, we can reduce the risk of certain diseases worsening. In addition to this, our bodies secrete beta-endorphins when we exercise, which are the body's very own natural antidepressant. In other words, when we exercise, we can feel less pain and more pleasure.
When a person is struggling with depression and is feeling drained of energy, it may seem counterproductive to engage in exercise as this would require more energy exertion. However, this line of thinking is problematic because it only keeps the person stuck in the vicious cycle of depression, lack of energy and low motivation. Although it is true that energy is required to engage in exercise, it is also true that in order to generate more energy we have to invest some energy to begin with.
If a person is feeling very low, the advice would be to start small and gradually increase their activity level. For example, if a person does not currently engage in exercise and struggles with low energy and mental health issues, the recommendation would be to start by going on short walks every day. As this new routine becomes integrated and the body starts to feel better, it will be easier to add another activity or engage in a different type of exercise. The key here is to take small and incremental steps.
It can also be difficult to exercise when we can’t afford a gym membership, or we don’t have access to a gym because of lockdowns in our cities. Fortunately for some of us, it may not be too difficult to get the body moving without entering a gym. If you are one of those people who does not have access to a gym right now, you can try the following exercises at home:
• Jumping jacks for 4-5 minutes – play your favourite music and jump around!
• Planks – hold it for as long as you can and remember to breathe. Aim for a 30 second hold.
• Push-ups – you can do them on your knees or toes. Try to do ten in a row while maintaining the correct form.
• Bicycle crunches – do as many as you can and remember to pull your abdominal muscles inward.
• Squats - add a dumbbell or barbell if you have any and do as many reps as your legs can handle.
• Fast paced walks – get outside and walk at a fast pace to raise your heart rate.
• Go for a short run around your neighbourhood when the weather permits.
Other important facts to keep in mind are that for exercise to yield positive results, it needs to occur on a regular basis. Consistency is more effective than intensity. Also, the type of exercise has to be something that the person desires to do and is not forced to do.
Lastly, don’t overdo it. Too much of a good thing can hurt the body. You only need to exercise for 20-30 minutes at a time, a few times a week, to get the health benefits. If physical exercise is not an option for you at this time, there are other strategies you can use to improve how you feel.
Below are some of them:
• Socialize from a distance
• Practice mindfulness
• Take time to relax and unwind
• Cook healthy meals and drink water
• Spend time in nature
• Manage your screen time
• Develop new hobbies or continue to cultivate your current ones
• Listen to music
• Get a massage
• Play games
• Seek professional care and emotional support when you need it
A healthy life consists of a healthy body and a healthy mind. The way that we treat and relate to our bodies has a huge impact on how we think and feel. I invite you to approach these challenging times as an opportunity to discover new ways of cultivating a healthy life in the face of adversity.
When you're ready to start therapy as we help you build a resilient mind, visit us here to complete your assessment.
Note: This blog post originally appeared on the Local Authority Services (LAS) blog site.