It seems that 2020 will be a year to remember for many dynamic reasons. My concern is that general public wellness could break down in the face of an unprecedented combination of crises in public health, economic shocks and civil unrest. It is very common in health and wellness columns to make recommendations for expensive equipment, gear, trips, memberships, supplements or other merchandise. But what to recommend when so many people have to scrimp, or when protests seem so much more important than dieting or working out?
I want to offer you some advice for what you can do to take care of yourself during these days when time, money and patience are in short supply. Everything I suggest can be done as part of your normal life without costing any extra money.
First, be sure to shower. That may sound silly; however, during isolation it becomes easy to neglect your self-care. Something as simple as bathing can wash all sorts of literal and figurative dirt out of your hair. Whether you are still in your own home or staying with friends or family, if there is access to a shower, be sure to use it. Failing something like this can be a trigger for depression.
If you have medication, take it. With around 40 million Americans unemployed, there is a high possibility that many of those people have lost their employer-provided health insurance. To whatever degree you can, take your medicine. And take it as directed. I know first hand what it means to face running out, so I don’t say this lackadaisically. To whatever degree you can, take your meds on time and on dose.
You have got to drink plenty of water. This is not just a general reminder. Very specifically, adequate hydration helps to alleviate stress. Obviously, water alone is not going to reverse depression, but dehydration can exacerbate it. This becomes especially important if you participate in protests during increasingly hot weather.
Each day you should clean or organize something. Whether it be making your bed, wiping out the kitchen sink, vacuuming the entire house, picking up some litter on the sidewalk or putting your laundry away, the simple gesture of taking care of your environment has a calming effect on the mind. You can create even a little bit of order during disordered days.
Give yourself daily to something alive. That might be taking time to water plants or walk your dog. You have love inside you that needs expression. Find something alive to put some of your love into. Sing to your goldfish. Prune dead leaves off a tree in your yard. Volunteer at the CSPCA. Do something nurturing to something living.
Your mind needs pleasurable stimulation from your senses. Listen to music. Make your own. Gaze at something beautiful. Savor a flavor that makes you happy. Dance. Doodle. Give your brain something delightful to process as a bolster against everything you have to process that is upsetting.
Even if you are not at any rallies, maintain connections with people. Each day you should send a message to another human being. Text, call or email them if you are self-isolating. Let someone know that they are on your mind.
Another great way to burn off stress, anxiety, or fear is exercise. I do not mean a full workout per se. I am not saying go lift weights when the gyms are still closed. That is futility. I am not even suggesting pushups, though those would be awesome. I mean more generally that getting your heart rate up for a few minutes releases endorphins that make you literally feel better. Be careful not to become sedentary.
Here is a suggestion that becomes an investment for the future. Each day you should do something you will be glad later that you took care of. Whatever minuscule task it might be, go ahead and do it, knowing it is one less potential stressor for tomorrow. It is also a source of gratification, and that is particularly important if you are feeling disempowered by circumstances.
Each day I want you to do something just because you want to. Something simple, maybe. Rearrange your room. Make pancakes. Write some bad poetry. Call your friend from school. Spontaneity is essential for interrupting monotony, but it is also a source of pleasure. That reprieve is especially uplifting if you are upset, whether it be over boredom, job insecurity, politics, or other stressors.
And finally: Laugh. Even if nothing is funny per se. There’s all sorts of absurdity. But make sure to get in at least one belly-shaking guffaw each day. And what if you do not want to smile? Do it anyway. Hold your face in the shape of a smile until it actually becomes one. Smiling triggers dopamine in your brain. Even if you have to sit there faking it for a while, eventually it will become full of itself, and you will feel some levity.
Jack Kirven completed the MFA in Dance at UCLA, and earned certification as a personal trainer through NASM. His wellness philosophy is founded upon integrated lifestyles as opposed to isolated workouts. Visit him at jackkirven.com and INTEGRE8Twellness.com.