We're living in a pandemic that will just not end. Here's what I've been doing since the lockdown of March 2020 to stay happy and healthy.
1. Box breathing
I do this immediately after I get upset over something. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds. Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds. Hold your breath again for four seconds. Repeat as long as you want.
I love this because I can do it even while doing a procedure in the operating room and nobody knows.
2. The Triple Column
I do this as soon as I can get some privacy after getting upset. I got this form David Burn's book, Feeling Good, which I recommend if you're struggling.
On a piece of paper draw two vertical lines separating the page in three columns. In the first column, go crazy writing everything you are upset about. Once you're done, now use the middle column to identify the cognitive distortions within your statements. Then in the final column, rewrite a more rational statement.
A wonderful example of what is common:
Column 1: I'm going to make a mistake when I play a song for a group of people.
Column 2: Fortune Telling (this means that I have no evidence suggesting this will happen.
Column 3: I may have made some mistakes but this next time I might get it right.
When I was depressed many years ago, I did this every day and 99% of my worries were cognitive distortions. Now I only do it once every few months. Although, I might start up again now that omicron is surging.
3. The 3.5 minute workout
I recently became certified in functional movement and hold a general opinion that Americans have weak abdomens and can't squat.
Let's fix that.
A good squat uses the glutes, leg muscles, and requires good ankle flexibility. No weights required for this.
Turn on the song Flower by Moby. Every time he says "Green Sally down" do a deep squat with feet together. Get your butt as low to the ground as possible with chest up. Breath out on the way down. Now go back up (and inhale) when he says, "Green Sally up." For the second verse, drop down to a pushup or elbow plank position and go up and down when he says, "Green Sally up" and "Green Sally down." Final verse is your choice because it's twice as long and you'll be burning.
Do this twice a day. Do NOT tell me you don't have 7 minutes in your whole day to work out. Thanks to Dragon Master Bri for this one.
4. Honey Spinach
Feeling hungry? Grab a handful of raw spinach and put it on a plate. Add a little dollop of honey for dipping. Voila, honey spinach! My 5 year daughter came up with this one. Don't reach for chips and refined sugar snacks; they'll just deplete you and make you feel terrible.
I started doing some tapping (emotional freedom techniques) after the lockdown started in 2020. I found Dr. Jill Wener's website and reviewed the literature. There are some studies that demonstrate that it is an evidence-based practice and that its efficacy for anxiety, depression, phobias and PTSD is well-established. Use this video starting at the 2:30 mark to try it out.
6. See a Psychologist
I love talk therapy. You get to unload about all your problems. If you're really struggling, this is absolutely essential. Even if you're ridiculously happy, it's essential.
7. A morning ritual
A good ritual gets you started on the right vibration. Break it up into 3 components: physical, mental, and connecting with nature.
Here's what I do. I balance on my tip toes on one leg for 90 seconds which activates my glutes. If you have knee problems, you'll want to do this because it strengthens your glutes. While I do this, I think of three things I am grateful for. Feeling grateful makes us less fearful. And as David Steindl-Rast says, "when people are not fearful, they are not violent."
Then balance on the other foot (90 seconds) and imagine everything you are hoping for has already worked out and all your problems have been solved. In my experience, when I spend time thinking about what I want to happen, it actually happens. Maybe not right away, but eventually it does.
The nature part means that I'll make a connection to the earth: I'll either: drink a big glass of water, take a cold shower, go outside, or get my bare feet in the grass.
8. Cut out gluten
I asked Emilee Wise, a nutrition expert to help me in April 2020 because I had body aches, acid reflux, and constant runny nose. Here's one of the unexpected outcomes: I gave up gluten for thirty days and all my problems went away. It wasn't easy giving up beer, noodles, and bread. But it worked. Now I sometimes bring some gluten back in and modulate my gluten intake up and down depending on the symptoms. Try it for yourself and see what happens.
9. Play an instrument
Even on my busiest days (yes, I'm still busy even though I'm not working in the hospital much), I try and get five minutes of piano practice a day. Playing an instrument activates every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. Disciplined, structured practice in playing an instrument makes your brain function better and you can apply this to other activities (like doctoring).
Stay healthy and happy 2022!
Well, what did you think? How are you coping with this shit-show? I'd love to hear from you.
Would you like to stay connected to me through my monthly newsletter? I will never abuse your contact information. In order for my book to be successful, I need readers. Please write to me; hold me accountable. I'm dying for some connection during this #$@^!& pandemic.