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5 Tips to Protect Your Mental Health During COVID-19

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It’s no secret COVID-19 has impacted the mental health of almost everyone around the world. Statistics consistently indicate increased levels of anxiety, depression and other mental health struggles. This makes sense, because the pandemic has caused more fear, uncertainty and isolation.

To help you cope with the ongoing stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic, brain health coach Aneesh Chaudhry, founder of SoulPhysio Lifestyle, shared his tips on supporting your mental and physical health in this interview.

Here’s what Chaudhry shared:

What are your tips for protecting our mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Most importantly, our health and wellbeing needs to be our number one priority above all else in life. Making our health a priority is the first step toward making changes to improve our well-being. Just the act of prioritizing wellness and scheduling it into our daily routine has a positive effect on our mental health. Most people are used to keeping some kind of schedule or to-do list to stay organized on a daily basis.

Activities such as going for a walk, going to the gym, cooking food, and meditating all need to be prioritized and scheduled along with all of our other tasks. Taking action toward improving our health daily, no matter how small, creates positive changes in the brain that will ultimately lead to us reaching our goals and making wellness a lifestyle.

2. What are some signs we should look for to determine if COVID-19 has impacted our mental health?

COVID-19 has been a significant and traumatic event for everybody in their own unique ways. The brain processes and holds onto this trauma, which has an adverse effect on how we are able to function on a daily basis. For example, one fear most people have amidst the pandemic is going out in public and catching the virus. This has resulted from the stay at home orders and the heightened awareness that everybody has had during this prolonged period of time.

A major sign that this is affecting us in a negative way is when we are still in fear of being in public places after it has been deemed safe to be out in public again. Months from now, when it’s clear to do so, one major change that will benefit all of us going forward is to adhere to safety recommendations, but take steps to reduce your fear of venturing back out into the world. Constant fear creates stress in the mind and body that has a negative impact on our health over the long run.

3. What are some tips that we can try at home to improve our mental and physical health during this time?

Two of the most important activities that will have a profound impact on physical and mental health that can be done at home are exercise and meditation. Exercise can take the form of any type of movement including walking, running, yoga, body weight exercises, pilates, and more. Our body is a great form of resistance when utilized in a safe way. We do not need a gym filled with equipment in order to engage our body to reap the immense benefits of exercise. It is very important that we aim to get 20-30 minutes of movement per day at a minimum.

Meditation can be thought of as the equivalent to lifting weights for the brain. There is a lot of research that shows meditation increases blood flow to the brain helping to create the growth of new brain tissue. There are many different types of meditation out in the world today, which can be very overwhelming. For a complete beginner, a simple meditation practice involves finding a quiet room and sitting upright with the eyes closed for 5 minutes at a time. This will be very difficult as the mind wanders to all kinds of different thoughts. The key is to use the breath as an anchor and focal point to bring the attention back to as the mind wanders. Practice makes perfect!

4. What are some activities we can do with kids to improve their mental and physical health?

Children are ultimately a direct mirror of the behavior exuded by their parents. Having a conscious awareness of one’s own health is going to have a very strong impact on our kids. Making wellness a family activity increases incentive and accountability for parents to make healthy changes as well. This can be as simple as going for a walk daily with our children and spending a few minutes a day to explain to them the significance of how going for a walk impacts their health in a positive way.

Another great way to make wellness a family activity is through cooking a meal together as a family and then sitting down together to eat after cooking without any devices at the table. Having kids do simple tasks such as stirring food on a pot, chopping veggies, retrieving items from the fridge, and reading the recipes are all easy ways to get them involved. This then creates a positive association in their brain about the importance of cooking healthy meals and eating together as a family.

5. What are your top tips for boosting brain health?

  • Brain Healthy Nutrition: Cooking fresh food daily based in fresh
    fruits and vegetables to help nourish the body and give it sustainable
  • Meditation: Daily meditation increases blood flow to the brain to help spark the growth of new brain tissue. Who doesn’t want a bigger and more active brain?
  • Movement: Move your body for 20-30 minutes a day minimum. Regular movement increases circulation and supports your mental and physical health.
  • Journaling: This is a great tool to help process emotions and create awareness around negative thoughts that wreak havoc on the mind. Consistent negative thoughts typically have some underlying cause, which can be addressed via journaling.
  • Community: We are a byproduct of those we surround ourselves with. It is important to keep people around us that value their health, care for our health and well-being, and we can call on in times of need.

Aneesh Chaudhry is the founder of SoulPhysio Lifestyle, a brain health clinic and integrative health care network that specializes in treatments that combine both Eastern and Western medical techniques. Chaudhry holds a bachelor’s degree in neuropsychology from Wright State University and a personal training license through the Cooper Institute. In addition, he holds a number of other mental and physical health certifications including accreditation as a Reiki master, a mind-body specialist, a brain health coach, and a performance nutrition specialist. Chaudhry is on track to be a licensed Ayurvedic and integrative medicine practitioner in 2022 and following this, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physiology and health.

Header image via metamorworks/Getty Images

Originally published: December 23, 2020
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