Foundation of Well-Being- Start with the Physical
We are in unique times, there is no doubt about that. I haven’t spoken to anyone that is not experiencing some challenging moments (or many) as we all navigate the unfolding of this collective global experience.
To feel good emotionally, we need to do what we can to feel well physically. The physical body needs to feel safe and secure in order to allow for us to feel emotionally well. If the physical body is overwhelmed then it is impossible to work on those other spheres. Here we will begin the journey towards complete well- being.
Below is a list of the 5 Pillars of Quick Emotional Recovery that focus on the physical body:
How the 5 Pillars Work to Manage Stress:
1. Sleep: Adequate sleep boosts your immune system and increases your tolerance to stressful experiences. It is easiest to get the sleep we need with a strong circadian rhythm, or sleep wake cycle. Even in these times where schedules often go out the window, aim to go to bed around the same time every night, and wake up at the same time. This will anchor in a good rhythm and pattern for ideal body and brain rest. Having a soothing bedtime routine can ease the transition between wake and sleep and move you effortlessly into dream time.
Effective Tip: Check out this free video on iRest Yoga Nidra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Psl9FKh6qPg This practice will help you ease into a restful sleep, releasing the stress of the day.
2. Hydrate: The drier your climate, the more at risk you and your family are for dehydration. The trick with dehydration is that by the time you are actively thirsty, your body is already significantly dehydrated. Dehydration can make someone feel lethargic and irritable. Starting the day with a large glass of water when you wake up in the morning will hydrate the cells that lose so much hydration through sleep. Having that glass of water in the bathroom and making that part of your family's morning routine will ensure you all start the day feeding your cells with the fluid needed to help them do their job effectively.
Fun Tip: Make some fun flavors using slices of oranges, lime, cucumber or mint.
3. Eat Real Food: Real food comes from the earth and not a package. Packaged food comes loaded with additives and chemicals that can negatively impact the well being of our physical body. Scientists really don’t know how processed food impacts our physical well being over long periods of time, but when we tune into our bodies we can feel how certain foods are impacting us. When craving processed foods, try eating a whole piece of fruit and see how you feel. Most people will experience a renewed sense of well being as they pull away from processed foods. The added benefit is that you will also be upgrading your immune system to fight off viruses and infections.
Tip: Run an experiment. Before eating that bag of chips or chocolate chip cookies, eat a piece of fruit. Notice if that changes your desire for the packaged food.
4. Exercise: Sufficiently moving your body daily will release significant amounts of stress. Sitting home on the couch all day will absolutely increase stressful responses to challenging life events. When possible, get outside into the fresh air (keeping good social distancing of course). Even walking outside in the snow or rain will boost your endorphins and you will return home feeling renewed. Online you can find numerous free videos to help you continue movement throughout the day with yoga, stretching, dancing or just about any other form of exercise you’re interested in.
Empowering Tip: Commit to 10 minutes of exercise to begin with. What people notice is that once they are moving they tend to want to add on a little bit of time.
5. Finally… BREATH. As we get older and push stress down into our bodies we tend to anchor in a pattern of shallow breathing. Some researchers estimate that many people are breathing into just 20% of their lung capacity which can trigger a chronic fight or flight response.
Practice Tip: A simple technique to retrain your body to get adequate breath is the 4-4-4 breathing technique. Breath in through the nose to the slow count of 4. Hold your breath to the slow count of 4. And then breath out as slowly as possible through your mouth to the count of 4 (or even 7). Repeat 20 times (which would take about 5 minutes) and you will notice an immediate release in stress and anxiety.
Yes, we are in unprecedented times and sometimes we can feel like the world is in chaos. We also have unparalleled opportunity to begin to anchor in wellness practices that may have seemed impossible a month ago. Taking care of your body will offer you a great sense of well being and resilience as we navigate these times together.
Alaina Reichwald, LMFT