As I wrote in the first part of this blog post "Overcoming Fear", there are many aspects of taking care of ourselves during a Pandemic but governments and media mainly focus on the physical part of it. Because of this we tend to forget about the most important part: How this makes us feel and what effect it has on our mental health.
I mentioned that whether we're aware of it or not, it generates fear in us that will find outlets through anger, depression, anxiety or not being able to focus and trying to distract ourselves with anything other than what actually matters in our lives.
In this article I'd like to provide some important tools you can use to maintain a balanced and positive mental state during the hardest of times. If you build these 5 simple steps into your day, you'll be a happy camper, even during 2020.
Yes, I know...It seems very basic and you probably heard it many times, but believe me; if you build it into your routine it's a game changer. Actually, life-changer would be a better description, because it will give you the ability to focus on a superhuman level once you get the hang of it.
I had about a year when I meditated for around 3 hours every single day and I was amused how much benefits it had (of course I'm not saying you need to meditate for 3 hours every day, I'm just using it as a strong example).
The beneficial effects from practicing were very obvious; my mind was extremely sharp, I was focused and my intuition was very strong. I actually new or felt things that will happen very accurately and was able to prepare for it, therefore my reflexes and reaction time was super fast as well. I became more aware of certain triggers, habits and actions and how it effected the way I related to others on a completely new level. I started shaping my life mindfully and things started coming to me without having to force them.
Meditation without a doubt has a very strong beneficial effect on life and health.
To be effective you don't need to meditate for 3 hours a day, just do as much as you can and keep extending your time minute by minute. about 30 minutes in the morning and at night is usually ideal, but it's not a race! Do it at your own pace and put your expectations aside.
Remember; this is for YOU, not anyone else!
Step 1: Sit down and relax!
Make sure you have a quiet place where you can allow yourself to relax.
Sitting on the floor is most ideal and you can use a pillow to sit on, but if it's more comfortable you can sit on a chair as well with both feet straight on the ground. Either way, your back should be straight and your shoulders back and down in a relaxed position (you can put it against a the wall if you'd, but make sure you're not leaning against an energy outlet).
It's better not to be laying down, because you'll easily slip into the Delta brain wave level and fall asleep.
Step 2: Breathe!
Take deep breaths in a comfortable pace. When I say take DEEP breaths, I mean sigh and inhale to completely fill your lungs! Baby breaths and normal breaths are good to keep our blood flowing...we got to get the energy flowing as well and actually take at least three deep breaths. - You'll feel more relaxed immediately.
Whenever I ask my clients to take deep breaths they just inhale normally while thinking it was a deep breath. It's because our usual "normal state" is actually tense and subconsciously we're in an alert position ready to face any problem or danger that may appear around the corner. We forget to relax and breathe. This is why it's so important to remind ourselves through the day as well to take a minute and breathe!
After a few deep breaths you can focus on breathing normally and comfortably.
Step 3: Focus!
Meditation is nothing more than practicing how to focus. We need to focus on our breathing and nothing else. Sounds easy, right?
Unfortunately it usually takes practice and that's fine! Be patient with yourself.
Our minds are trained to think actively, always spinning thoughts and reacting to impulses. With everything going on in our lives, regular scrolling through the internet, tv shows, media, tasks we're working on and so on...our mind is just packed and trying to focus on everything at once even if we're not aware of it. This is how a lot of mental conditions like anxiety and depression can be triggered and we start to feel overwhelmed.
Eckhart Tolle compares our minds to a functioning air-conditioner in his book "The Power of Now" (I highly recommend to own the book and read it).
So when we finally turn the AC off after having it on for a while we experience PEACE and QUIET. We only notice after turning it off how much noise it was making and how peaceful it is without it. Our minds are the same way. Our thoughts are constantly spinning in our busy minds non-stop, and once we give it a break, we realize what we've been missing.
So just focus on your breathing, nothing else. As soon as your focus gets distracted or you start thinking of something, take a deep breath and focus back to your breathing. This is the main task throughout meditation, so be patient with yourself! No expectations, just relax and focus on your breathing! Remember; your focus can only be in one place, so if you have thoughts, it means your focus is on thinking. You can't completely focus on breathing and thinking at the same time. If you have your attention on both things, you're not fully focusing on either one.
It'll get easier with time and soon you'll be able to experience the blissful state of self-centeredness.
2. Eat Healthy
A healthy diet is also extremely important. As the popular saying goes; we are what we eat.
This means once we start paying more attention to eating healthier that's how we will feel.
I recommend juicing every morning if you can. Turmeric (with black pepper that activates it), ginger, lemon and you can put anything else in it too; celery, beets, carrots...start your day off with the antioxidant bomb and make sure that you eat a well balanced diet that contains healthy foods.
Avoid junk food, sugar and pop drinks! Once in a while they're ok, but otherwise they won't do you any good. Try to cut them out completely! You'll feel the difference!
You can even do a detox, as those are also very beneficial for your mental state as well (make sure to do proper research before starting off with any detox, or ask a professional for advice).
3. Have a Daily Routine
Having a daily routine to build around especially during a a pandemic is very important. Many people had to adjust to certain changes in their lives and most of us may be working from home and staying home more in general. This can interrupt our daily balance and sense of stability.
It's important to treat yourself with a schedule that works for you and includes activities that will help keep you balanced and in a positive attitude throughout the day and in the long run.
This can be; wake up at a specific time of the day, meditate for 20-30 minutes, make a juice or eat a healthy breakfast, do some yoga or exercise and after work or taking care of tasks try to do something productive for yourself. It's also great to learn or challenge yourself a bit every day.
Build your day around yourself and not your work, your friends or others! Make sure you take some time to treat yourself and allow yourself some time to do YOU!
As I hinted above, building exercise into your routine is very important as well.
You'll feel so much better after moving your body and working out a bit. This can be yoga, Pilates, going to the gym or any kind of sport activity you enjoy, just get yourself moving!
As much as we'd like to focus on our mental health (or physical health), one can't be done without the other! The body and mind are connected and they both impact our mental wellbeing!
Make sure to enjoy what you do! I know, starts are usually tough. Sometimes we have to go to the gym to actually start enjoying it. But push yourself in a healthy way! Don't be afraid to try sports that you haven't tried before! I started mountain biking a while ago and I never thought I'd love it so much! Having fun while exercising is the best way to get a good workout for body and mind. But then again...there is no such thing as a bad exercise, is there?!
5. Treat Yourself!
In a time where social distancing is the most used term in the world we may feel that we're lonely or that our fun is limited, but it's not! Again, we need to adjust to the situation and make sure we keep our well-being in perspective.
If you can't socialize in person, call your friends or family, chat with them through video call, organize board game nights online with each other, get creative. The internet makes our situation so much easier these days compared to the times of the Spanish Flu.
Make sure you HAVE FUN! Allow yourself to have a good time even in the hardest of times and find a way that works for you to stay in touch with others. Human interactions are one of the most important gifts of life, we share experiences, stories, share laughter and companionship.
Of course, we also need alone time. When we're alone, make sure to treat yourself and do something that makes you smile, laugh or feel good. Take a nice relaxing bubble bath, read, do something that makes your soul smile!
And above all...don't forget to be kind to yourself and others!
We're all in this together!