**This article was written in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stuck at Home
If you’re like me right now, you’ve probably been sitting at home under a Stay at Home Directive in order to help keep the world safe against this unprecedented Coronavirus. If you’re like me, you’ve probably been going a little stir crazy. There are only so many things to do around the house to pass the time. I don’t really stream these days and no, I don’t feel like cleaning my closet, but that’s for a different article.
After a solid week of working from home, I started to feel like I was losing my mind a bit so I forced myself to go for a run to try and calm my mind. It was a warm, breezy Texas spring afternoon and the smell of Bluebonnets filled the air. As my breathing and heart rate got faster and faster, I felt the intensity of the last few weeks start to ease in my mind, I started to feel a little more prepared to embrace whatever life threw at me.
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
Or so they say. But is there actually a correlation between physical activity and better mental health? According to research, not only does regular physical activity help with physical health, it also can help a wide variety of mental health conditions as well. Some of these conditions include depression, anxiety, stress, ADHD, low energy and many more.
Physical activity includes forms of exercise like running, walking, and biking, but it also includes other forms of active body movements like dancing, gardening, and playing. When we engage in physical activity our bodies release an array of endorphins and dopamines. These are what some call “feel good hormones;” this response helps lower stress levels and helps relax you. Regular physical activity also improves sleep which can be impacted by stress and anxiety.
If physical activity is so good for us, why is it difficult to get into the habit? The more we become a society where jobs require more mental work than physical work to get the resources we need on a daily basis, the less working out or getting exercise seems to make sense. It is not necessarily easy to start something new when we might not feel the benefits immediately but as with starting any new healthy habit, it takes practice and some self-compassion when you mess up.
Getting enough physical activity without being in lockdown can be hard enough. With most gyms, parks, and pools closed it can be easy to give up on finding new ways to stay active. But remember: healthy mind, healthy body. Now is the time to slow down and give yourself exactly what you need — a mental break. That’s where physical activity comes in.
Tips for Staying Active While Social Distancing
Hit That Subscribe Button. There are tons of YouTube channels that cater to just about any workout style that makes sense to you, so take your time finding just the right one and then subscribe to the channel. If you like the YouTuber, chances are you’ll like the workouts they put out. The hardest part about working out is sticking to a routine. If you subscribe to the channel, chances are you’ll see more videos from them and continue to be inspired.
Get Comfy. Being comfortable during your workout is extremely important. Fortunately, at home you don’t have to worry about other people looking at you, so you do you! There are other ways to get more comfortable, too. For example, it is difficult for me to exercise indoors without a cold fan blowing on me. Without a draft, I feel stuffy and can’t breathe too well. I put the fan next to me and that helps.
Chart Your Progress. For some people, seeing their progress is a huge motivation. Did you do 5 pushups yesterday and 6 today? That’s progress. Did you watch 2 workout videos last week and 3 this week? That’s progress. Did you eat a whole pint of Blue Bell after your last Jazzercise workout? Who cares.
Involve the Family. Take a walk as a family, ride bikes, have a dance party in the living room, or do yoga together. Involving your children in physical activities with you provides time to connect as a family and models healthy habits for them.
Get Outdoors. I love being outdoors, and getting my heart rate up outside is the best self-care exercise for me right now. Being outside watching the flowers bloom reminds me that regardless of the state of the world, life continues on, earnestly and alive.
Be safe. If you do choose to run outside in public, there are a few safety considerations to take. First, run in a place there is less traffic and keep the six-foot social distancing rule. This will keep you more safe from vehicles and from a congestion of people which is important right now. Run during the day if you can, but if you decide to run at night, make sure to wear a headlamp or bike lights to let others know you are there. Light colored, reflective running gear is always good to wear.
Additionally, make sure to check with your local, state, and federal guidelines to make sure it is allowed for you to be in public exercising at this time. Things are changing rapidly, so make sure before heading out the door.
You Got This
I know you do. Just remember — this is uncharted territory for all of us. We are all feeling a growing anxiety. We are all a bit afraid and worried for ourselves and the ones we love. That is a natural part of being human at a difficult time. I think I’ll continue to try and run every day at least a short distance and take breaks from the news when I can for the sake of my own mental health. With regular physical activity and a positive attitude, we can all continue to be strong for ourselves and the people around us.