Unprecedented, uncertain and unknown are just some of the words that we have been hearing this year. For some this year brought a much-needed rest, a slower pace and more time with family. Others may have experienced quite the opposite, a heavier workload, more stress and separation from loved ones. Many are struggling daily with various degrees of fear and anxiety.
Change in any capacity can be difficult. The changes that you may have endured over the last several months may have made a positive impact in your life or may have caused you great stress and anxiety. Sometimes we are so caught up in everything that is going on around us, we don’t take time to evaluate how we have been impacted.
As we slowly come out of this time of uncertainty, we must take inventory of our lives. This can be done alone but even more effective is having this conversation with someone who really knows you.
Discuss how has it changed you? How has it affected those closest to you (kids, parents, neighbours)? What can you learn from this? If you had to endure something like this again, would you do anything different?
Going through a pandemic is largely out of our control, but we can control our attitude what we are going through. We can control our perspectives and how we take care of ourselves.
We cannot prevent every single sickness that is bound to come our way, but we can learn to optimize our health in a way that will keep us feeling good day-to-day. This will allow our bodies to work hard on our behalf to protect us from foreign invaders and make recovery quicker.
Self-care is not selfish. Making your health a priority should be intertwined throughout every aspect of who you are.
This does not mean you need to jump on the latest diet trend, nor does it mean you need to spend hours at the gym.
You need to discover what being healthy looks like for you.
One of the most basic ways we can nurture ourselves is by eating. Our bodies are composed of the foods we use to fuel them.
If your car breaks down, you may decide to trade it in for a shiny new one. However, we are only given one body to live in, we cannot trade it in when it starts breaking down. This means we need to take good care of it. Just like a car needs daily fuel, frequent oil changes and yearly maintenance, so does our body.
Self-care has become a popular term in the last few years but how many of you can truly say that you take time to do it. As a mom of young children, luscious bubble baths and spa days are not a reality. Maybe you can relate? Your life may feel too full to add a regime of self-care, but it is not a one size fits all.
Taking care of yourself may look completely different for you than for your best friend. Prioritizing your health will take intentionality, but it may be easier than you think.
The way you think has a tremendous impact on your health and well being. We don’t need extra time in our schedules to think, it is automatic, and we do it all day long. Yet, when is the last time you took a thought inventory? You may think circumstances have the most impact on your life, but it is actually how we perceive the event. Practicing gratitude has an amazing effect on how we view both the negative and positive things that come our way. Research shows amazing benefits of living a life of gratitude. Those who cultivate gratitude in their lives tend to be happier and have a more hopeful and positive outlook on life.1
Living with gratitude may not be rocket science but it is something that we must be intentional about. Practicing gratitude is just that. A daily practice of turning our thoughts from dwelling on what we lack, to the good in our lives. There are many ways you can make this a daily ritual. You could make a habit of writing in a gratitude journal, leaving sticky note reminders around your house; or challenging a friend to text every night what you were grateful for that day. Get creative, make it fun and most importantly make it a part of who you are.
Another unsuspecting marker of health is our social connectedness. Social isolation and loneliness can lead to feelings of lethargy, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and even cardiovascular issues.2
If you have settled into a routine that doesn’t include connecting with others, I urge you to push yourself to find a community you can be connected to.
Baseball games, parades, church gatherings and community centres may be among some of the ways you used to connect with others. Activities you were used to may have changed or may not be open yet. We need to get creative. We need to find new ways to connect with others. You need to do what is comfortable for you, but just do something!
We have to persevere more than ever to be connected to each other. We need each other. We are not meant to be alone. Social connectedness correlates with positive feelings and lower levels of anxiety and better self-esteem. Life can be challenging. Think of ways you can reach out to someone today.
When we reach beyond ourselves and give to others, not only are we shining a bright light on someone else’s day, we will experience joy as well!
Breathe some fresh air! Feel the sand between your toes. Lay on the grass and look for images in the clouds. Find a trail and get your hiking shoes on. Grab your bike and explore your neighbourhood or your entire city. Go to the park and swing high up into the sky like your childhood self would. Read a book on your back porch.
As more places open up, don’t forget about the great outdoors. Learn to find rest and rejuvenation in nature.
Nourish your body
How we treat our physical beings has a huge impact on our health and well-being. Many things can lead to a weakened immune system, including stress. Gratitude and cultivating meaningful togetherness will help fight against stress. Laughing is another one! Maybe its time to turn off the news and turn on some comedy! Laughing has been shown to reduce anxiety, relieve pain, promote healing and it just plain feels good!
There are countless things we can do that will contribute to our health in a positive way and they don’t take money or a large amount of time. Simple things like eating more slowly, creating space for rest and loving those around us.
Our plans for the future may still be unpredictable but that gives us more reason to focus on the present. My daughter’s favourite show is Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood and in one episode they sing a little song that simply goes “Enjoy the wow that’s happening now!” This has made me stop and think on more than one occasion. Do we truly enjoy the little moments of our life? After all, it’s not vacations or big business deals that make up most of our days, it’s the little moments, day by day that add up to a life well lived. Your wow may be as simple as enjoying a good cup of coffee or watching the sunset. It is not the big exciting things in life that matter most, it is the simple joys, the little wows that we often let slip by in the busyness or stress of our days.
You have persevered through a lockdown, you have shouldered the worry, and you have endured many changes, now it is time to live your life to the best of your ability. It’s okay… laugh a little, smile a lot and enjoy the wow!
1 Charlotte van Oyen Witvliet, Fallon J. Richie, Lindsey M. Root Luna & Daryl R. Van Tongeren (2019) Gratitude predicts hope and happiness: A two-study assessment of traits and states, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 14:3, 271-282,
2 Beutel, M. E., Klein, E. M., Brähler, E., Reiner, I., Jünger, C., Michal, M., Tibubos, A. N. (2017). Loneliness in the general population: Prevalence, determinants and relations to mental health. BMC Psychiatry, 17, 97.
3 Lee, R. M., & Robbins, S. B. (1998). The relationship between social connectedness and anxiety, self-esteem, and social identity. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 45(3), 338–45.
Take the time to write down three things you are grateful for!
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