Sending you positive vibes
By our trainer Sanne
Already several weeks have gone by that the whole world is under the spell of Covid 19, and it seems to last for an eternity. These past weeks have been represented by social (or I would rather like to speak of physical) distancing, where we try to stay at a distance of 1.5m from each other. The news has literally been overloaded by updates, what is going on at the front line (the hospitals) and what is going on abroad. Especially now, with the stress that is accompanied with all the regulations, maybe also people you know that have been a ‘victim’ of Covid 19 and ofcourse a highly changed daily routine, your mental health can be largely impacted for the worse.
Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to maybe give you some tips or tricks to get through the day without feeling too stressed out. Hopefully you will feel better when the last dot hits the paper (because you gained some positive vibes, or you are happy that this article finally came to its end).
First of all, it is understandable that getting out of bed is harder than in the weekend if you don’t have a job to go to, or friends to hang out with. Finding a new routine may therefore be an easy solution, though it is easier said than done. Your old routine consists of many many small and big habits. These habits consist of a cue (for example, you hear your alarm clock in the morning), a routine (getting out of bed) and a reward (being up to get some breakfast). After this first habit, the second habit already commences without you even noticing it as more cues and more rewards present themselves. But now that your old routine seems to be flushed down the drain, you might not feel like a new routine is what you need or something you feel like setting up. Nevertheless, most of the work has already been done for you! The cues are already present, the rewards as well, you ‘just’need to update those routines and you’re set! For example, normally when the time would be 8.45 on a Monday, you would get out the door and go to work or college. The time is your cue. Now, instead of going to work (the routine), make a little walk, to wake yourself up and get your body moving. Your reward could for instance be that you have a cup of coffee when you get home again, or you make a video call to a friend. Throughout the day, you can establish new routines with cues that you recognise, and work for the rewards that you are aiming for. Nevertheless, as I already mentioned, this is way easier said than done. Re-establishing routines and habits is not a one day process, but can take up much longer. And most importantly, do not beat yourself up if redefining your habit is a bigger challenge than you want to admit. This reformation is a mental process, something that you might not want to get into at them moment. But if you are up for a challenge, this can be a highly rewarding one if you succeed (even it is only a small habit).
Second of all, and maybe also in line with creating a new routine along the way, one of the things that can impact your mental health is all the information chasing you wherever you go. Now more than ever, with all the social media platforms and 24/7 availability of news. Turn on the tv and you will see #Stayhome in the corner of the screen or even the news flashing the terms corona virus and pandemic to you. If you recognise that every time you are confronted with the negative items of the news, you start to feel more sad or less optimistic, try to limit the moments you check upon these items. You do not have to stay updated every minute of every day, but maybe pick one point of the day where you read the news (like before, when the paper was the only ‘device’that could supply you with news), while trying to avoid it for the rest of the day. Especially in the evening, the impact news can have on your mental state will also influence your sleep, starting a vicious cycle spiralling down (you do not have a good night sleep, the impact of the news will even get bigger as you are tired and more emotionally prone, influencing your sleep for the worse, and get you more and more in a negative mental state). Therefore, leaving the news for the next day can offer you a quick fix to a better night sleep. Needless to say, news will not vanish overnight and can still be accessed the next day, so there is no need to rush. Rather spend your mental energy on the good things in the world, like your favourite movie, or music while dancing in your living room.
Lastly, and this is by all means the most important one that I can give: be KIND to yourself and others. Do not beat yourself up because you have not done anything productive today, even though you told yourself you were going to. It is a very strange time, you are way out of your comfort-zone and so are the people around you. Also with regards to exercise, don’t be convinced that you have to follow all the live-classes that are out there (seriously, you won’t have time to breathe or eat). A day without exercising is just that, a day without exercise. Your gains will not be lost over the couple of months during which your workout routine has a lower intensity, as the muscle memory (so your actual muscle mass) will last for over 15 years (for the people that know the word: myonuclei!). Work out because you want to, not because you think that you have to. It should be fun, especially now, so instead of throwing weights around, go dancing, or walking for a bit (keeping the guidelines in mind of course). A lot of people on social media and youtube have exclaimed that this time should be a time that you could strive to become a better version, and that we should use this time to our benefit. However, you are in charge of your best version (and the ways you spend your quaran-time), a happy version beats any other version if you’d ask me! Being happy or at least in a positive mental state will help you fight all the current battles (the battle of loneliness and the battle against Covid). And if you live with other people in a house, being positive will help others out as well, as mood can be a very contagious thing.
Speaking of other people, this time can be especially challenging if you’re not used to spending every waking minute with your loved ones, 24/7. Therefore, be kind to others. Normally, our relationships are buzzing with expectations, the things that we like to see from one another, which can lead to disappointments (yes, this feeling is very familiar to all of us). But I’d like to ask you to slide the focus away from expectations, and towards the things that you have going for each other. Try to remember why you like the person, what great characteristics the person has and the strengths of you both together. And how you can combine your strengths to get creative and do things outside of the usual comfort-zone (maybe build a pillow- or a blanket-fort and try to battle for each other’s forts). At the end of the day, at the end of this crisis, you will both hopefully be happier and have rebuild the basis of your relationships with a big earth-quake-resisting foundation.
If you are limited in your creativity, here are some (hopefully fun) challenges!:
- 30-day workout challenges (an x number of repetitions of some exercise a day; this will help you to create a whole different habit!)
- Obstacle parkours in your neighbourhood (you know from the old days, where you and your buddies used chalk to make a whole parkour through the streets and made up different, stupid things that your buddy had to do before he could continue?)
- Pub-quizzes! With friends or family, each ‘household’designs one or two rounds, and together on skype or on a videocall service, you play together. The winner gets a to-be-defined-prize!
- Pillow fights (just watch out for all the stuff laying around)
- Escape room ft jigsaw-puzzles. With a small (or big) puzzle, each member of the team will hide pieces of the puzzle that require different challenges to be solved before the pieces get available.
- Journalling. Make a journal stating only the positive things that are happening right now, or the things that have brought you some kind of joy (like the duck that was following you on your walk). This will give you instant endorphin bursts that will get you through the day. And at the moments where you feel a bit down, you can re-experience those moments (yes, this actually works!).
- So long as you are out of your comfort zone, why not make this uncomfortable feeling a bit useful by doing a course on a topic that is outside of your skills but something you are curious about? There are multiple sites presenting opportunities to learn something new (for example, I am learning how to code and program, so in the end, I will be able to do bioinformatics. This is way outside of my capabilities!). Coursera.org for example, or Skillshare, both are amazing sites with a whole bunch of new things to learn.
- If you are looking for a way to play (board) games with friends or family: there are also a lot of sites for all kinds of board games. For example Cards against for humanity, Secret Hitler, Skribbl.io, as well as on Steam that offers i.e. Ticket to ride.
- Last but not least, there is nothing wrong with just laying in bed and watching Netflix all day. Do what works for you, and don’t be embarrassed about it!
Stay safe and hope to see you soon!