COVID-19 has disrupted the structure and routine of daily life, and it has taken a toll on MESSA members and their families. While life as we knew it won’t return any time soon, there are ways to cope with this new way of life by focusing on overall wellness — both physical and mental.
MESSA Health Promotion Consultant Rhonda Jones is the driving force behind MESSA Wellness, a program that focuses on mindfulness, movement and nutrition to help members feel calmer, stronger and healthier overall. Jones is a registered nurse and certified health education specialist with a master’s degree in health behavior. She’s also a personal trainer and has extensive training in mindfulness practices.
Since the stay-home order has been in place, Jones has heard from MESSA members experiencing depression, anxiety and fear. Members are also reporting high levels of fatigue, low levels of motivation and a propensity to overeat.
“Anxiety and depression has probably been the No. 1 thing that people are reporting, which leads to the other things,” Jones says. And those feelings can lead to greater health issues, including weight gain, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Without being able to travel to member meetings to help start or revive a worksite wellness program, Jones decided to host weekly wellness sessions during May on Zoom. As part of MESSA’s Spring Self-Care Challenge, she brought together experts in mindfulness, movement and nutrition to help reduce members’ stress during this time of heightened anxiety. All of the sessions can be viewed on MESSA’s YouTube channel: youtube.com/MESSAhealth.
Here are Jones’ tips to help increase your own overall wellness:
“One of the simplest things people can do that will address everything is mindfulness,” Jones says. “It’s my go-to because you don’t have to buy anything, and you can do it anywhere, anytime.”
One of the easiest ways to practice mindfulness is to focus on the breath. Try this breathing exercise: Breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for four, breathe out for four, then hold for four. Repeat this for at least a full minute.
Another technique is known as the 4-7-8: breathe in for four, hold for seven, breathe out for eight.
In addition, Jones recommends smartphone apps such as Calm and Headspace for more guided mindfulness exercises.
Make sure you move
“There’s something about being at home all the time, paired with the stress, that makes you sit,” Jones says. “At the end of the day, you’re fatigued and you may not feel like doing a 30-minute workout.”
But movement is essential to your overall health.
Jones suggests creating a mini-schedule of movement to follow throughout the day. At 10:15 a.m., plan to do 25 crunches. Schedule a 20-minute walk at lunchtime. Do 20 pushups at 2:20 p.m.
“I do this, and I feel like I accomplished something at the end of the day,” Jones says.
Get plenty of rest
In the short video below, Jones shares three tips for getting a good night’s sleep:
- Maintain a schedule, getting up and going to bed at the same time every day.
- Get regular exercise, but not too close to bedtime.
- Avoid sleep disruptors, such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
Pay attention to posture
Many people have created work stations at home that may not the most ergonomically correct, leading to poor posture and resulting pain.
“When we are deep in our flow, we can take on poor body posture and not feel it until it becomes a spasm or a muscle imbalance,” Jones says.
Jones says she tries to stay aware of the position of her body, particularly if she knows she will be sitting for a long period.
“I make sure my shoulders are square and in line with my hips when I’m sitting,” she says. “I make sure my feet are flat on the floor, with a straight line that runs from my ankles to my knees, which helps support my lower back and protects my hamstrings. If I sit like this, I feel my core engage and I’m much less likely to suffer from muscle imbalance or injuries.”
Making small changes to the way you approach each and every day can help both your body and mind feel better.
This article was originally featured in DiscoverYou May/June 2020.