Splitting her time between Bali and Chicago, travel advisor and certified yoga instructor Mary Tilson’s mission is to empower others through the tools of yoga and carefully curated experiences – including group retreats – which promote health, freedom and joy in the present moment.
As we find our global community in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has never been a more important time to practice self-care in the spirit of our collective wellbeing. Few moments have felt more opportune to dig into the ancient wisdom of yoga and scientific research with the aim to remain well in this time of uncertainty. Join us as we lean into our ability to find stillness and serenity during this period of social distancing.
Anxiety and fear exist like a chaotic, unstable uprising of energy – the moment you simply pause and drop anchor back down, something magic happens. You begin to reclaim control of your physiological state.
One of the most immediate and powerful ways to shift our nervous system into a more calm and relaxed state is to orient ourselves in the present moment by grounding into our physical body. Yoga is such an effective, widely accessible and empowering tool because it allows us to call on our internal resources and re-pattern our response to the stressors of daily life. Anxiety and fear exist like a chaotic, unstable uprising of energy – the moment you simply pause and drop anchor back down, something magic happens. You begin to reclaim control of your physiological state.
Try it now. Plant your two feet into the earth, or any available surface inside your home. As you ground the energy down, visualize roots growing into the surface beneath you. Begin now to call on more of your senses by taking a look around. Observe the four walls around you. Gaze up at the ceiling and down at your feet. You are sending another subtle cue to your nervous system that you are safe in this moment. Take a deep breath in through your nose, feel the sensation of breath enter the body, notice where the breath expands first. Can you consciously deepen and lengthen the flow of breath so it enters all the way into your low belly? Notice the smells. If you feel comfortable closing your eyes, turn your gaze inward for a moment. What are the sounds vibrating within your field of awareness? Notice how this inquisitive journey allows you to experience the present moment from a new perspective.
As the entire world goes into lockdown mode – closing the doors of homes, local businesses and international borders – it is more important now than ever to keep the flow of energy moving through our bodies! Does the idea of a self-guided home movement practice seem particularly foreign? This is an amazing opportunity to deepen your relationship with your body. (Important disclaimer, unless you are a certified movement specialist, it’s not advised to try deep or advanced postures without professional guidance. Instead, follow the same approach as a cat stretching its paws across the floor first thing in the morning, tapping into the ancient and instinctual intelligence and alignment cues of your own body). Also, consider turning your favorite music on and start your own dance meditation!
As a complement to this journey of self-discovery, there are of course incredible resources to practice Yoga & Movement online including glo.com and the Alo Moves App which feature exceptional teachers in a range of modalities.
3. Conscious Consumption
Right now, every communication outlet is being inundated with messages about COVID-19. News headlines are carefully crafted to tap into fears and insecurities, in turn creating a feeling of urgency to consume more. Believe it or not, even reading these messages can alter your body chemistry, pumping you with adrenaline and cortisol, altering the flow of breath, increasing tension in the body and influencing your usual thought patterns and decision-making processes. You may be aware of this already, and yet, we are all still just as vulnerable. While it’s important to stay up-to-date with current events and be aware what’s going on in the world, it’s crucial that we have guidelines in place that keep us in control of our well-being so our nervous systems are not constantly hijacked by fear.
Here are three key rules for being a conscious consumer:
Don’t sleep with your phone in your bedroom. Sleep is vital to our wellbeing and your place of rest should be treated as a sacred space. Take a cue from media-mogul Arianna Huffington and tuck your phone into a charger outside your bedroom (don’t worry, alarm clocks do still exist!).
Disconnect from the internet a minimum of 30-minutes before you go to sleep and 30-minutes after you wake up. Aside from the benefits of avoiding blue light as your eyes adjust to a resting state and awakening, being disconnected for this period allows you to be in charge of your thoughts as opposed to messages from the media or your friends, family or loved ones dictating your state of mind.
When you do go on social media or to read the news, make it a scheduled event. Sit down, be fully present and engaged with what you’re reading during this predetermined time. Then, when you’re done, be done! There is no reason to open social media and news apps one hundred times in a day. When we let this become an addictive behavior, it can be incredibly destructive to productivity and our ability to stay grounded in times of uncertainty.
Working from home or readjusting to others in your house requires a great deal of self-control and self-accountability. Whether you are more likely to slip into a groove of laziness or take it to the other extreme, removing all boundaries between your work and personal life, establishing a routine is something everyone can benefit from in their day-to-day lives as a part of the new normal.
Here are a few simple suggestions:
Wake up early, and gift yourself the first 30-minutes of your morning free from technology or communication with the outside world. Consider starting a gratitude journal so that you can remember everything you have that makes you feel stable versus the things out of your control.
Eat nourishing foods at regular meal times. Appreciating that every individual body has different needs, increasing your intake of vegetables and plant-based foods, reducing (or eliminating if possible) sugar, alcohol and all processed foods. Aim to drink at least two-liters of water as well.
Schedule a movement and mindfulness practice into your day and make it as non-negotiable. Put it on your calendar the same way you would if it were a meeting with your boss or top client.
5. Connection (at a distance)
Offer loved ones your undivided attention, ask questions without interjecting your opinion and listen with non-judgmental ears.
“Liking” and commenting on friends’ social media posts are nice ways to support your friends, but let’s not get mistaken, those are not methods sufficient to engage in meaningful conversation! The digital space has opened up more channels for communication than ever before, and yet, feelings of loneliness are at an all-time high. Take time to consider which of your friends or family members have been heavily hardest by this global pandemic. Try a video call instead of phonecall or text. Offer loved ones your undivided attention, ask questions without interjecting your opinion and listen with non-judgmental ears. This is also a great time to get creative. When was the last time you sent a handwritten letter? Can you imagine what a fun surprise it would be to be on the receiving end? This period of #socialdistancing is an opportunity to strengthen our connection when we let our creative minds go to work!
6. Show Empathy + Act in Service of Others
Ways to be of service may be more accessible to some than others, but we all have a role to play in our collective healing. Instead of allowing your decision-making and behaviors to be hijacked by fear, stay rational and follow the regulations by medical professionals. Even if you are in good health and confident in your own immune system, it is our collective responsibility to prevent spreading to vulnerable populations. Look out for each other. Check-in with the people who are immunocompromised (elderly, pregnant women, those with pre-existing health conditions, etc.) and ensure they are getting their needs met while staying in a protected environment; the emotional support you will be offering by simply showing you care cannot be underestimated. If you’re able to dedicate even more time or resources to servicing others, consider supporting local businesses with gift card purchases, donating to your local food bank or volunteering with a charitable organization working on relief efforts.