Before the pandemic hit, I was always go, go, go, constantly flitting between work and social obligations and the dog park and so on. I've always been pretty (OK, very) Type A — always with a long and organized to-do list for my life. So when the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) brought everything to a grinding halt, I felt a bit unmoored. I could no longer unwind at my favorite yoga studio or neighborhood wine bar with friends after a long day at work, or even plan something for a month into the future. Like pretty much everyone else, I was thrown for a loop when the stay-at-home orders were put into place.
However, now that we're seven-ish months into the pandemic, I've had time to reflect and take more inventory of what my body and mind needs to feel at least somewhat at ease during this time. And I've found many practices that I'll forever have in my back pocket to help me slow down and take care of myself better — even when COVID-19 isn't such a stark reality. Keep reading to find out what I've started to incorporate into my daily life, and try some of these ideas out for yourself.
I've always had a very consistent yoga practice, but I'd never payed too much attention to the pranayama (or breathwork) side on its own. However, I decided to give it a try now that I'm spending so much more time at home — and it's been like an awakening.
First of all, there are so many different techniques that give different results. For example, there's kapalabhati breath (short, fast exhalations out the nose), which is both energizing and cleansing, along with similar practices that involve hand or body movements to whip up the energy within you. Then there are breath-retention techniques that challenge your mind to self-soothe and just simply cope with discomfort.
Focusing more on breathwork as a deeper, independent practice from yoga has given me the space to feel more in tune with what's going on in my body and mind and work to reroute some of that day-to-day anxiety. I'd highly suggest trying these techniques along with a teacher so you can get the full experience (I love LA-based Kyle Miller).
Both of my parents are therapists (I know, crazy), so I definitely know the benefits of going to therapy. There was a time when I saw a therapist regularly, but I'd stopped going for the past year or so since I didn't feel like I needed it right then. However, the pandemic has brought up so many issues that I realized it would be helpful to talk it out with someone on a regular basis again. Sure, spilling your guts to someone over Zoom is a little weird at first, but trust me, the awkwardness fades as soon as you're having a real conversation — and I'd definitely say the benefits outweigh the limitations of the format.
Most therapists now are offering telehealth, so ask your doctor if they've set up a system. If you've never gone to a therapist before, it can be difficult to know where to start, especially because the relationship with your therapist is such an intimate one. If you don't vibe, it's not going to be productive. You might start by checking out apps like Talkspace or BetterHelp, or see if your workplace is offering any mental health resources.
I've also taken this time to be a little nicer to my body and pay more attention to not causing any pain or sensitivities. For example, I had knee surgery about four years ago, and the knee is still a little fussy when I put too much pressure on it. I live in LA and love to hike, so I often go on steep climbs even though I know I'm going to be in major pain later. Instead, now I'm taking more time to find activities that aren't going to cause unnecessary pain and give more time to therapeutic practices like stretches and compresses.
I've also struggled with tooth sensitivity in the past, so I'm taking more steps to build up my tooth and gum health, namely, switching to Sensodyne Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste. It targets both tooth sensitivity and gum health and has a low-abrasion formula; in just a few days of use, my teeth felt less prone to sensitivity.
Since the pandemic started, I've been having a lot more issues falling asleep than ever before. I'm not sure if it's the added layer of existential anxiety that surrounds life right now, or that I'm spending so much more time at home, or that I am working from my dining room table and don't have to get up as early to head to an office. Whatever it is, I find myself tossing and turning until the wee hours of the morning a few nights a week.
So I've started using a few products and implementing some strategies to help myself get better rest. My two new best friends are my weighted blanket and my humidifier/essential oil diffuser. Both make me feel calm, cozy, and better prepared for a good night's sleep. I've also been limiting screen time to an hour before bed (I put an alarm on my phone to remind me when to put it away) and instead use that last hour to drink a cup of soothing decaffeinated tea, read a book (a real book, not via a screen), put on a face mask, and do a few minutes of alternate-nostril meditative breathing. So far, so good!