Walking through the park with my husband recently, he said, “Remember bringing the boys out everyday to crawl around on those picnic tables?”
I sighed and smiled and remembered. We are often stopped in our tracks by a sweet memory of some lovely moment with our boys when they were smaller, full of joy at having found some new way to move their bodies or at discovering something new about their world.
But it wasn’t toddlerhood we were wistfully remembering through rose-colored glasses; it was lockdown. As I have said here before, I would not wish COVID on anyone. Not the infection on any individual and not the pandemic on any civilization.
The repercussions on the individual health of so many of us alone, not to mention the effects of missed developmental social milestones on a generation of kids. But here’s the thing. For those of us who lived and are trying to move forward, it may be worthwhile to look back every so often just to make sure we don’t forget some of the ways we learned to survive that might still serve us here three years later. When I first wrote this list in March of 2020, fighting COVID was being likened to war.
For many, the combination of hiding from an invisible enemy and not knowing exactly what we are supposed to do spurred helplessness. We froze, a normal response to an untenable situation, but not sustainable. I needed something that I could do. So I made a list of simple things, shared it here with you, dragged my family along and focused my energy on at least one of them each day for at least a few moments.
DRINK A CUP OF WATER
Even mild dehydration can impair brain function. We need roughly 72 ounces a day. More if it’s dry out or you’re under stress. How to know you are getting enough? Look in the toilet. Anything darker than a yellow tinge and you need water.
STAND ON ONE FOOT WHILE YOU BRUSH YOUR TEETH
Because it’s new! And it’s hard. Practicing a new skill stimulates neurons in the brain, which forms more neural pathways and allows electrical impulses to travel faster. This helps you adapt faster to changing circumstances, and that can help you live better, longer.
Life can make us want to just curl up. So start small. Stand up every hour. Take a lap around your house, climb some stairs, spin in a circle. Have a dance party with your cat! Once you get moving, your body will ask for more.
LEARN HOW TO SAY “THANK YOU” IN A NEW LANGUAGE
Bonus points if you use an actual dictionary. Not only are you learning, you are reinforcing the gratitude. This small dose of thankfulness can spark joy which improves respiratory function, circulation and digestion. And if you stop searching for that dictionary you saved from college and just Google, it only takes a minute.
CONNECT WITH SOMEONE OUTSIDE YOUR FOUR WALLS
Text, call, send a carrier pigeon. Now that we can — walk next door! Creating connection is one of the most simple health strategies available to us. Just a quick conversation with your neighbor about what you did today can do the trick.
WRITE DOWN FIVE THINGS YOU’RE GOOD AT
Humans are excellent at discovering weaknesses. But self-esteem boosts creativity and gives you a more positive outlook. My list includes stirring peanut butter back together after it’s separated. It doesn’t have to be rocket science. Just give yourself a little credit.
SET A TIMER FOR 30 SECONDS, BREATHE
Deep breathing sends calming to our brains. It can lower your heart rate, decrease your blood pressure, reduce muscle tension and help you feel less stressed overall.
Try it now! Close your eyes, notice that you are breathing. See if you can breathe through your nose or send your breath more widely into your torso.
Get curious for just a moment about how that feels. That’s it. You meditated! If you are struggling with the effects of the pandemic, please know you are not alone.
This list of things isn’t meant to take the place of getting professional help. Reach out to a trusted health professional and if you can’t find one, please let me, or someone, know.
There is help out there. And even if you are feeling like your life is pretty much back to normal, maybe there are things (like dragging your teenage kids to the park to jump up and down) that might serve you in your post-pandemic life that you’d like back.
Start small and remember that the most trying times of our life won’t last, but the things we learn from them can. Not because adversity necessarily makes us stronger. That’s a fantasy reserved for superhero movies, but because adversity can remind us that sometimes the best answers are the most simple.
Caring for ourselves, connecting, remembering that the little things are sometimes all we can do, and that’s enough.
Erika Taylor is a community wellness instigator at Taylored Fitness, the original online wellness mentoring system. Taylored Fitness believes that everyone can discover small changes in order to make themselves and their communities more vibrant, and that it is only possible to do our best work in the world if we make a daily commitment to our health. Visit facebook. com/erika.taylor.303 or email erika@ tayloredfitness. com.