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How to Stay Positive During a Pandemic

Promoting our well-being: five tips

One) Sleep
It is time we learned to value sleep, not as a luxury but as a necessity (Maas, Cornell Lecture, 2000). Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of sleep. Further, there are no negative mental health outcomes associated with getting too much sleep (Maas, 2010). That said, sleep has been different lately. When we are home all day, not engaging in our daily exercise, work, and social routines, it has become harder to adhere to a clean circadian rhythm. My advice is simple: whenever possible, go to bed on the early side, and wake up when you are rested (if and when feasible, abstaining from an alarm for waking).

Sleep has both psychological and biological benefits. Sleep is critical in regulating cortisol levels (our primary stress hormone). Specifically, lack of sleep promotes stress reactivity, reducing our ability to appropriately respond to external stressors (Vargas & Duran, 2014).

Further, adequate sleep improves our cognitive abilities, as well as our ability to focus (also known as executive functioning) (Grissmer, et al., 2010). Sleep also improves our memory retention (Van Der Werf, et al., 2009). The type of sleep identified to improve memory is deep, intact sleep (the findings on napping, are mixed). Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is proven most effective at enabling us to store new information into long-term memories (Maas, 2010; 2012). Sleep also promotes emotional regulation and boosts our immunity functioning. So, make your nights count and get some rest.

Two) Movement
The Ancient Greeks knew that training the mind was as important as training the body.

Attending to the mind and body in tandem is essential to our mental health and physical well- being. Research supports the role of exercise in increasing our cognitive, social, and motor performance (Ratey, 2006). Exercise improves our memory and learning capabilities. Further, exercise increases levels of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) (Ratey, 2006). BDNF promotes neuroplasticity; neuroplasticity is a process that allows our brains to change in response to learning new information (Shaw, 2001). During times of stress, neuroplasticity helps us to adapt; neuroplasticity facilitates our mental flexibility during times of change.

That said, circumstances have changed. Many of us previously relied on gyms, aquatic centers, yoga studios, and various indoor facilities to keep us fit. Yet, we must provide our brains with an antidote to stress; exercise provides such an antidote. Thus, it remains critical that we move each day, even when we don’t feel like it. Perhaps this means doing yoga in the morning, or calisthenics before dinnertime. Alternatively, walking or running outdoors (local policies and weather permitting). Or getting in the water (by swimming or surfing- policies and weather permitting). However, you enjoy moving, move each day. You won’t regret it.

Three) Communication
It may sound trite, but call your mother! When you miss someone, call them. Alternatively, schedule a video call. Hearing someone’s voice (and seeing their face) improves communication. Texting is appropriate for orchestrating plans. Yet, life is too dynamic for text. Furthermore, there is far more miscommunication as a result of text than positive connections generated. Nevertheless, many defaults to texting out of habit. I suggest, stop texting (unless you are discussing something truly simple). Also, never text as a panacea for your boredom. Pick up the phone. Call your loved ones. If they vet your calls (and insist on texting), you may need to table the relationship for the meantime. You will have more free time as a result.

Four) Libations
“Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life”- George Bernard Shaw. As we all know, alcohol serves as both a psychological and physiological anesthetic. Ethanol was traditionally used in medicine to produce immobility in response to pain (Wong, et al., 1997). Thus, it is no wonder that so many of us are drinking more than usual during these stressful times. Before you reach for that final glass, just remember that we are in this together (and you will feel better in the morning 🙂

Five) Safety
Please wear a mask when you leave the house! Also, anytime you are indoors, or outdoors with anyone outside of your household. The more often everyone wears a mask, the faster we will return to our previous lifestyle.

*Disclaimer: I am not purporting my own perfection during this time. Far from it. That said, I have noticed that some days are better than others. Thus, I compiled the list above to help others stay sane (and ultimately, positive), during such unprecedented times. Sophie Aiyer, PhD., Developmental Psychology
Realtor (California); License #02108229

Below is one of the pictures Sophie has shared from Victoria, Australia in 2019.

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