7 Healthy Habits to Help You Claim Control During Uncertain Times

7 Healthy Habits to Help You Claim Control During Uncertain Times

Mental and Emotional Health
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The COVID-19 crisis threw the world into chaos. Millions of people have lost their jobs, and many of us fear for our health. How can you regain a sense of calm amid all this uncertainty?

The best way to navigate the stormy seas of a pandemic typhoon is to use healthy habits as your compass. Why? Because doing so will prevent you from establishing harmful coping mechanisms that create problems down the line. They also help you make the most of a challenging situation and evaluate your options for moving forward with a clear head and a calm mind. Below you’ll find seven healthy habits to start implementing in your life during this time.

1. Deep Breathing

Do you want a stress-relieving activity that you can do anywhere, anytime, for free? Stop what you’re doing and inhale. Now, exhale for twice as long, and as you do, let your shoulders sink away from your ears as you relax. Repeat.

Deep breathing is the ultimate way to stop yourself from overreacting when everything seems to rain down on you at once. Learning how to perform 2-to-1 breathing, as described above, gives you a potent coping mechanism that doesn’t make you gain weight or slur your speech. Place your hands on your belly to remind yourself to expand those lungs before relaxing them.

2. Exercise

Working out is one of the top stress-busting activities around. If your thoughts are racing, lace up your sneakers and try to outrun them. By the time you finish your first lap around the block, your body will start to release endorphins — natural, opioid-like chemicals that reduce your perception of pain and make you feel elated.

For maximum stress-relief, engage in moderate-to-low intensity activities like dancing, walking and yoga. High-intensity routines can increase the level of cortisol in your bloodstream. This hormone helps your fight-or-flight response, but it can also increase feelings of anxiety.

3. Eating a Healthy Diet

Eating a nutritious diet helps your body manufacture the hormones and neurotransmitters it needs to keep you balanced and healthy. When levels of either go out of whack, you can experience increased anxiety and depression, and physical symptoms can create additional stress.

Try to avoid turning to unhealthy habits like eating poorly or drinking alcohol to cope with stress. When alcohol moves to the small intestine, it kills beneficial bacteria there, which can throw your immune system off. Avoid drugs and alcohol and get the right blend of healthy food and nutrients to restore your flora.

4. Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness destroys catastrophic thinking by returning you to the present moment and reminding you that whatever you’re worrying about isn’t happening at this exact moment. All you need is a quiet place where you can sit and focus on your breath. This practice also helps you build self-awareness by forcing you to look at actions you have taken and empowers you to find more effective methods going forward.

5. Yoga

Yoga incorporates both your mind and body, which means it addresses the physiological and mental processes that create stress and anxiety. YouTube is an excellent source of how-to videos, and you can also find inexpensive apps to download on your phone or tablet. Don’t worry if you can’t tie yourself into a pretzel yet. You can find practices ideal for any fitness level, including specialty workouts for those with disabilities.

6. Volunteering

When you perform acts of kindness for others, your body releases a neurochemical called oxytocin that increases feelings of well-being. You won’t need to look far, as the pandemic has created many volunteer needs to fill. You can explore virtual opportunities that don’t even require you to leave your comfy pants.

7. Getting Outdoors

Just because you have to follow social distancing rules doesn’t mean you can’t leave your couch. The outdoor air has fewer germs than the stale stuff in buildings, and the sunshine will feel delicious on your skin. Even if you only have a balcony, you can plant a container garden. Many parks have begun to reopen — why not spend a Saturday afternoon practicing shinrin-yoku, or forest-bathing, as the Japanese call it? Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch alfresco under the trees.

Embrace Healthy Habits to Regain Control During Rocky Times

In uncertain times, it’s tempting to fall into unhealthy behaviors like substance abuse. However, by clinging to healthy habits like the seven above, you can maintain your sense of calm and successfully navigate the chaos.

Struggling mentally during this pandemic? Explore counseling near you.

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Mia Barnes is a journalist and Editor in Chief at Body + Mind. She has 2+ years of experience writing about health, beauty and lifestyle.