This is Part One of a Two-Part Series (although either can be read first)
In these crazy, uncertain times of social isolation, we are often unsure of what to do during a pandemic or other crisis. What we need to realize is: HOW WE REACT TO IT WILL DETERMINE HOW WE COME THROUGH IT.
So many details and situations are completely out of our control so it’s important to handle the things we can control well.
We all know that washing our hands properly, using hand sanitizer, and limiting potential exposure (maintaining social distancing) is key. But I don’t need to discuss those issues as our President and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been blowing those horns loud and clear. However, if you’ve been hiding under a rock, you can find their suggestions here. Maintaining and boosting our immune systems is also important but less discussed so that is what this post is about.
Specifically, the majority of this post is about how we manage the stress and anxiety of the situation. Fair warning… it’s LONG but I have a synopsis at the end. 😉
Being stressed is one of theworst things you can do for your immune system. And it doesn’t really matter what type of stress: emotional, mental, or physical. They all cause a drop in our immune system.
So minimizing stress is a critical aspect of what to do during a pandemic. Here are some ways to do that:
Both literally and figuratively. Staying grounded helps to avoid the cortisol-releasing, stress from our innate flight or fight response. And although I’m NOT talking about avoiding the real-life, Petri-dish-type, cootie breeding grounds that our airports and planes are; that is another consideration!
This grounding is what I call Earth Grounding. To Earth Ground stand outside in bare feet on the dirt or grass with your arms in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and look up to the sky (hopefully toward the radiant sun – if it’s not overcast.)
Next, breathe in slowly and deliberately and visualize roots growing down from your feet into the ground. Imagine the roots reaching the center of the earth. This promotes a feeling of belonging and well-being, of centering and grounding. THIS is the literal grounding I was talking about.
Earth grounding works best on any dirt, grass, sand, or even rocks. It will work, although not as well on concrete or other surfaces. Just don’t stay out too long if it’s a cold Michigan day in March!
Meditation will help you stay grounded figuratively. Don’t worry if you “don’t know how to meditate.” There are plenty of guided meditations available on YouTube like this one.
The main focus of meditation for beginners is on your breathing. But focused breathing can be utilized ANY time or place.
Focused Diaphragmatic Breathing
Focused breathing is not necessarily diaphragmatic breathing and vice versa. But thebest breathing isBOTH! And breathing is high on the list of what to do during a pandemic. Or any time. Or actually ALL the time. LOL!
Diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, is the most efficient way to breathe. If you ever played a wind instrument in band class, you learned how to breathe from your abdomen.
The easiest way to practice or learn how to breathe from the diaphragm is to lie down with your hand on your belly.Take in deep breaths so you feel your abdomen rising up with each breath. Obviously you should feel it go down as you exhale.
Then practice sitting up. Your belly should still move as you breathe. If your shoulders rise when breathing, you are NOT breathing from the diaphragm.Focused breathing occurs when you concentrate on your breathing, feeling each breath go in and out, and control the length of each inhale and exhale.
You can vary the length of each inhale and exhale but for immediate results, I do the following. Inhale deeply through the nose for a count of four. Pausefor a count of three without really holding your breath. This takes some practice! Then breathe out slowly through your mouth, with your lips pursed like you are drinking through a straw, for a count of seven. Pause for another count of three. Do this for 5 minutes.Diaphragmatic and focused breathing will each cause a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol when done independently. They lower stress and increase focus, and feeling grounded. So it only stands to reason that doing both together will give double the benefits.
Start writing in a journal toget ALL. THE. THOUGHTS. OUT.Keepingeverything bottled up inside definitely increases our stress and anxiety. So if you don’t have a confidant to talk to, journaling is an excellent suggestion on the “what to do during a pandemic” list.
The easiest way to use journaling to help with stress is to just writewhatever pops into your head. Set a timer for 30 minutes and just write away. If you can’t think of anything else, write, “I can’t think of anything else.” over and over until something comes up. And if the thoughts are still flowing after 30 minutes, keep going. If you have a hard time getting started, don’t worry. That’s common for beginners. Just ask yourself some questions like What is bothering me? Why am I worried? What do I think will happen? Any open-ended question(s) will do. And they will pave the way for your free-flowing thoughts to emerge.
And don’t think it has to be a real paper journal. ANY kind of journaling works whether it’s on scraps of paper, on your computer, a video or verbal recording on your phone, or whatever you have on hand. Although my favorite is a pretty lined journal like this one! The inspirational quotes on the pages help with this process.
But DO NOT go back and re-read what you wrote! It only dredges up those feelings and emotions. Often it’s helpful to tear up the paper and throw it away or burn it ordeleterecordings. Burning is my favorite as you can watch the stress and negative emotions go up in smoke – literally.
Above are just a few suggestions for what to do during a pandemic to minimize stress which will help to maintain our immune systems. Others include practicing the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT,) yoga, or pilates and exercising. Because during any pandemic or crisis HOW WE REACT TO IT WILL DETERMINE HOW WE COME THROUGH IT.
And you can read more suggestions on the second post in this two-part series here.
Stress is horrible for our immune systems so minimizing stress should be a priority of what to do during a pandemic. Some ways to minimize stress include staying grounded by practicing Earth Grounding, meditation, and focused diaphragmatic breathing and journaling. The how-to’s of each are explained above.