by Jill Sylvester, LMHC
While most of us are under quarantine, it is more important than ever to continue routine, or create one, starting today. Here’s how:
Get up with a mission. Meaning, know your why. Maybe it’s a project you’ve been working on that you feel compelled to see through to completion after all the hours you’ve put in. Maybe it’s an idea that needs tending to, during those rich morning hours where there aren’t any interruptions. Maybe it’s an early morning run that offers the opportunity to clear your mind so that you can steer your thoughts in the positive, healthy, no-holds-barred direction you want it to go.
Robin Sharma, in “The 5 AM Club: Own Your Morning, Elevate Your Life,” writes: “My daily morning push-ups not only keep me in a continual state of optimization…but also are a tremendous way to keep myself feeling young, happy and alive.”
You don’t have to set your alarm. Sleep in a little later if you like-those are some of the perks for many of us at the moment- but when you get up, get up with a plan, get up with purpose, get up with gusto, 5–4–3–2–1 Mel Robbins’ style, so that YOU create your mood, which is one thing you do have control over right now.
Get fresh air daily. Whether it’s for a walk, a run, or to let your dog out, be mindful of where you are and the benefits of nature. Being outside in fresh air is healing, it decreases stress, it helps the immune system, it lowers blood pressure, it decreases anxiety and helps to lift our mood. Being out in nature is also humbling. Nature does everything right on time, in an easy and effortless manner. Take note. Trust that the Universe knows exactly what it is doing. Stand in that power, absorb it, know that everything,eventually, is going to be okay.
Exercise. Make your family, your roommates, your friends via Facetime to do it, too. Use body weight for strength training, run the stairs for cardio, do online classes for yoga and stretching or take your dog for a nightly walk together so that everyone is moving, releasing stress from the day, and taking action of some kind, which is empowering.
According to Daniel Amen, MD, “If you’re prone to anxiety and depression, exercise is one of the best natural treatments that exists — and it’s free! Exercise activates the same pathways in the brain as morphine and increases the release of endorphins, your natural feel-good neurotransmitters.”
You can’t say you don’t have time.
Learn. Study something you’ve wanted to better understand. Listen to a podcast on a topic you’ve been interested in, study a new language for twenty minutes a day, research ideas and theories and perspectives to better shape and mold your own.
These are some of the jewels in the wreckage.
Personally, I think some kids are in a better position to learn right now, learn what they want to, without the pressure of having to study subjects they have zero connection to. If you are a parent, encourage your scientific elementary schooler or your artsy, right-brain teenager, to take advantage of this time, and to create a routine that involves studying topics of their choice. Discuss nightly as a family, what they learned, what makes them excited, what makes them feel like they are getting a green light from the Universe to continue moving forward in that direction.
If you are an adult, commit to learning something you’ve always said you wanted to learn for a specific amount of time each day. You too can share with your family, your friends, via phone or text, what knowledge you gained. Maybe that will spark something in them, too. Share the knowledge. Knowledge is power.
Connect. Daily. Everyone needs to feel as if they are loved and belong. Reach out to people every day. Call extended family members on the phone, check in with neighbors, start a funny group chat with your college roommates. Sometimes we live in the same house and don’t connect with our people. Be mindful of this. Take the pulse in your home. How is your spouse feeling? How are your kids interpreting the events of the day? Talk about what is going on, yes, but then make sure you are balancing with a good movie to get lost in together, a book to read aloud for comfort, supper to make with everyone sitting around the island making conversation. Connect. This is what people need from you. This is what you need, too.
Start, and end, your day with gratitude. The moment you open your eyes, state 3–5 things you are thankful for. If you can’t think of any at the moment, here’s some: To be alive. To be with your family. To be safe at home. To have the incredibly brave doctors and nurses and emergency personnel who are on the front lines right now, using their gifts and talents to serve humanity.
Eckhart Tolle, in his best-selling book, “A New Earth,” writes, “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it. Be aware of your thoughts you are thinking.”
When you wake up each morning, there are always reasons to be grateful. List them, out loud, in your journal, or in your mind, and then get up and go. At the end of the day, do the same thing. List 3–5 reasons you feel grateful.
These are your bookends.
A study by Greater Good at UC Berkeley, found that participants who practiced gratitude were happier and less depressed. Going to bed in a state of gratitude helps decrease anxiety and also helps your mind the following day, in its waking state, to notice more of what’s going right.
I love this advice from Masuru Emoto’s book, “The Hidden Messages in Water,” which I feel is particularly pertinent in where we find ourselves standing today: “Based on the principles of vibration, the answer is very clear. All we need to do is emit the emotion that is opposite to the negative emotion. By combining two opposite waves, the negative emotion disappears.”
Jill Sylvester is a licensed mental health counselor and author of the self-help book, “Trust Your Intuition: 100 Ways to Transform Anxiety and Depression for Stronger Mental Health.” Her work has been featured in Well+Good, Bustle, SheKnows, WorkingMother, Parenthood, TeenMentor, and OprahMag.com. To receive her free weekly blog containing tips to better your life, subscribe at www.jillsylvester.com.