We have all been challenged with figuring out a new normal during this stay-at-home order and health crisis. The mental struggle to adapt is uncomfortable. It’s not easy dealing with huge unknowns, financial concerns, and worry for the health of yourself and other loved ones. On top of that, there are so many injuries, pain, and chronic issues that existed even before our world was turned upside down. I’m guessing your normal aches and pains, like mine, have not taken a break. If anything, my normal chronic tight spots got worse. With more time at home and less scheduled commitments, wasn’t I supposed to be feeling better? I knew that the stress and shock I felt the last few weeks were causing some issues, and I was reminded of how connected our mind and bodies truly are.
Our body and brain respond to a stressor by releasing adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones. These hormones serve a necessary purpose. They increase your heart rate, blood pressure and amount of usable energy in the bloodstream. They also increase substances in the body used for cellular repair. Basically, your body arms itself for a fight. It primes the body with alertness and energy to respond to a threat. These hormones also cut off some “non-essential” body processes. Digestion slows, and your body’s normal healing and repair duties pause. Even your immune system response changes to ensure sure your body is focused on handling the perceived stress. Once the threat diminishes, hormone levels return to normal and the body returns to “business as usual.” But what happens when we constantly feel under stress and our new normal is a constant barrage of worries and anxiety? What happens to our body when it constantly feels under attack?
Mayo Clinic states “The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follow, can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This puts you at increased risk of many health problems, including:
· Digestive problems
· Heart disease
· Sleep problems
· Weight gain
· Memory and concentration impairment.”
My whole calendar cleared when the threat of coronavirus became very real for our community and a stay-at-home order began. I literally opened my page for April and crossed out EVERYTHING. For some reason, I still had trouble remembering simple to-dos and scheduled video chats. I had tension headaches, couldn’t fall asleep easily, and started eating A LOT. I was existing in a bit of a fog, trying to establish a new routine for my family at home while shifting my whole plan for the next month (Or two? Or three? Or more?...cue hand wringing, nail-biting, and uber-anxiety!!!) Each person has a different list of fears associated with how COVID-19 is affecting their world but our stress response is the same.
We are not simply working from home for a bit or taking a stay-cation. We are trying to keep up with life's demands while changing our entire method of operation, all amidst the fear and uncertainty that accompanies a global health crisis. So how do we battle this constant state of stress? If our body is stuck in fight-or-flight mode, disrupting our body’s normal processes, how do we break the cycle and maintain good mental and physical health? There definitely is not one right answer for everyone, but here are some things that have worked for me recently:
I stopped being so productive. Life cannot be business as usual when a global health crisis has completely upended my normal routine. Some people may find productivity relaxing, but it quickly became a source of anxiety for me. I allowed myself to forego getting ahead with school work and tackling reorganization projects and just focused on activities I enjoyed that were healthy for me and my family. Instead of jumping into a to-do list in the morning, I take a few hours to just play with my two daughters and do……nothing. It’s been freeing and I feel myself taking deep breaths and becoming more present in my environment, and I'm creating so many fun memories with them.
I focused more on gratitude than fear. There are some major social media rabbit holes out there ya’ll. I spent a few days glued to screens and radio, constantly reading updates on mortality rates, community spread, and stock market losses. Massage therapist message boards were on fire with concern for our industry far beyond the next few months. I had to turn it all off. It only fed my stress response. I limited my consumption to a few minutes of fact-finding in the evening. With more time NOT deep-diving into fear-filled articles, I just reflected on the bright side of every situation. I'm gracious to have a big, safe, virus-free yard and garden where my girls can run and play and throw mud pies at each other. I donated to some local organizations providing childcare to essential hospital employees and I remembered how fortunate I am to have the option to stay home with my two girls. Even if the future is a bit uncertain, I am gracious for a healthy family, food in my kitchen, and a roof over our heads. We play “roses and thorns” at dinner with my two girls who are two and five years old. A rose is something great that happened that day and a thorn is something that wasn’t so great. Sometimes it’s hilarious and sometimes it's sentimental, but it’s always thought-provoking and a great way to express gratitude.
I got moving. As a working mom, workouts have been the physical and mental stress relief that is so necessary for me to stay balanced. I feel 100% better after burning off energy, clearing my brain of distractions, and feeling strong. I just try to move and sweat a bit each day. It can be a simple morning stretch session, a twenty-minute dog walk, an intense virtual HIIT workout with gym buddies on Zoom, or digging around in the garden getting some Vitamin D. The release of endorphins and pain-relieving, mood-boosting hormones are so necessary to battle the mental load we are carrying. My favorite workouts have been live virtual kickboxing classes. I get to see and chat with other people and sweat at the same time. My kids join in, sometimes still wearing their PJs.
I rested. All my normal tight spots that flare up every few months decided to join together and return full force. I know that the anxiety I felt was creating muscle tension. Just think of how you hold your body when you are anxious or depressed. Your shoulders turn inward, your back folds forward and you hang your head. The mental stress literally hurts. I’m trying to be mindful of spending some time unfolding, doing ‘heart-opener’ yoga, stretching very slowly, and using home remedies to combat the aches and pains. Heat packs, therapy balls, naps, Epsom salt soaks, restorative poses, sleeping in.....use whatever tools you need to keep you calm and relaxed, especially since you can't visit us for normal bodywork ;)
I treated myself well. Remember that constant stress response we are trying to prevent. Think of ways you normally pamper yourself when you are stressed or have a tough week and DO THAT THING, and do it more often! You have to balance out the bad with the good. I spend time gardening every day. Kitchen experiments are yielding some awesome breads and desserts. I exfoliated and put on a brightening face mask twice this week! I watched Space Jam on Netflix (withOUT my kids...lol...nothing like an old favorite!) When my two girls are napping, I sneak a spoonful of peanut butter covered in chocolate chips. The most important rule…know that these little gifts are necessary and throw the guilt out the window.
Hopefully, some of these may work for you, but it’s important to listen to your gut and do the thing that feels right. Just try to focus more on the ‘roses’ than the ‘thorns.’ Take things one day at a time and try to end each evening with some gratitude. We’d love to hear what your roses are! Here are some of the ways our team at Bull City Soles is combating the quarantine woes and focusing on the roses.
Bull City Soles is closed until April 30th. We plan to reopen May 1st if the stay-at-home order is lifted and Governor Cooper allows Massage Therapists to resume massage and bodywork. We will keep you posted if anything changes. Our Bull City Soles team loves what we do and miss you! We appreciate your support and understanding during this difficult and uncertain time.
To continue to support your self-care we have Tune-up therapy balls and cupping kits that are available in our ONLINE SHOP for no contact curbside pickup or we can mail them. We will charge your credit card on file and leave outside the office with arranged pickup times. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram for self-care tips from our Bull City Soles team. Stay well and see you soon!