Beyond The Mask: Steps to Get your Mind and Body Back to Social Interactions
As more of the population is getting vaccinated and life is steadfastly marching towards returning to normal, many people are finding themselves filled with a sense of uneasiness towards a return to normal life. This past year has been difficult, to say the least, and according to The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF.org), is a non-profit organization focusing on national health issues, 4 in 10 adults in the US have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder post the Covid-19 pandemic. Coupled with the fact that South Asians in general are known to be reluctant to discuss mental health issues, this situation can leave many feeling even more anxious at the prospect of venturing back out of quarantine lockdown.
Mindset and Wellness Coach Sonia Jhas (SoniaJhas.com), one of Canada’s leading wellness and fitness gurus, offers steps to make the transition easier. Sonia has been on the covers of many health and wellness magazines, is a regular on morning television shows and a social media influencer with over 350,000 combined followers. Her holistic approach to wellness acknowledges the mind and body connection and her clients have benefited with long-lasting, transformational results.
When it comes to post-quarantine anxiety and depression, the very first thing Sonia recommends is to mindfully acknowledge these feelings instead of suppressing them and then commit to making positive changes and create an actionable plan. She says, “The more we suppress, the more shackled we actually end up feeling to the emotions we’re trying to run away from. By acknowledging our feelings, we give ourselves the opportunity to actually understand ourselves in a better, deeper and more meaningful way.”
Only by acknowledging and understanding our feelings can we actually “take action” and move towards renewed peace-of-mind, but Sonia prompts, “Acknowledgement then requires action.
Can you commit to really doing the ‘work” required to help you move through what you’re feeling in a productive, healthy way?” Ask yourself the following questions: What does that ‘work’ involve? Do you need to talk to someone? Do you need to seek help? Do you need to reframe your thoughts and feelings?
One simple yet effective way to offload your emotions and reorganize your mindset is through journaling. According to Psychology Today (PsychologyToday.com), “Journaling is all about dumping that stuff floating around in your head and then being able to walk away from it. By externalizing your thoughts and feelings through journaling, you tend to have less to ‘carry around’ psychologically. Your brain will thank you. Journaling also gives you the unique ability to look back and see how much you have grown, both emotionally and spiritually.”
Sonia adds, “When you allow yourself to journal first thing in the morning, you open up a stream of consciousness that can give you incredible insight into how you’re really doing.” The simple act of journaling your thoughts let’s you realize what’s laying beneath the surface of your stress and anxiety. Journaling helps clarify and pinpoint the things that are worrying and frustrating you. It also helps uncover any negative feelings you may be holding onto.
By allowing yourself to write for 10-20 minutes, first thing in the morning, you open yourself up to tremendous release and re-organization, which can really set the tone for your day. Sonia says that soon you will feel more in control by recognizing the fear-based narrative and realigning it to the values more in tune with your core criteria for life. “Experiment to figure out what works best for you and your wellbeing.”
Another tool to help you restore your mindset and reduce stress and anxiety is to practice breathwork and meditation. Both of these practices have significant mental and health benefits and are known to reduce stress and anxiety as well as improve memory function and attention span. Sonia adds, “Another benefit of meditation and breathwork is that it improves feelings of self-worth, self esteem and self confidence. I find breath work to be really productive for me. It gives me something concrete to focus my mind and energy on.”
Five Minute Breath work Exercise
Although there are any different formats and techniques to breath work, Sonia suggests to start with the basics. Set a timer for five minutes and inhale through the nose for four slow counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, and repeat. As you get more comfortable, you can experiment with different techniques – breathing through the mouth, different “counts”, etc.
Restoring Energy Levels Through Nutrition and Movement
If you are like most people, after a year in quarantine, you’ve probably gained a few pounds and may have noticed that your energy levels are not the same as they used to be. Sonia says, “The key to getting back into shape is to avoid taking an ‘all or nothing’ approach.” She suggests to simply begin by moving your body more and focusing on better nutrition. The goal is to start building positive momentum before the world opens up so that the mountain doesn’t feel so hard to climb later. Sonia adds, “Start by increasing your hydration; it sounds silly, but it’s ‘low hanging fruit’ that you can tackle easily which will help to reinforce your focus and commitment”.
As far as diet is concerned, Sonia likes to begin by layering in the “good stuff” instead of removing things from your diet. Instead of going cold turkey on all that sourdough bread, she suggests adding in one big salad or green smoothie a day. Other things to consider would be to increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. Similarly she recommends to begin deliberately moving your body for 20 minutes a day at least three times a week. Go for a brisk walk, take an online yoga class or do an at-home workout. You don’t need to workout seven days a week to reap the benefits. Set yourself up with small goals and build from there.
Sonia concludes by reminding us that this pandemic has been a collective experience and that we are not alone. Even though social media may have us believing that everyone is “thriving and happy,” we know that this has been a collective experience that has been so difficult in so many ways. You are not alone for having fears and anxieties and concerns about the world opening back up. There are many alongside with you and the more you open up and communicate about what you’re feeling, especially with family members and close friends, the less alone you’ll feel.
“More often than not, when you have the courage to share, people meet that courage with vulnerability and share as well. This can be particularly hard for South Asians,” adds Sonia, “as we aren’t raised to value and emphasize vulnerability – it’s rarely about “feelings” and almost always about ‘succeeding.’ It’s ok to reach out for help and communicate your feelings.” Finally, Sonia says, “try to tap into your inner-voice, the more you do so, the easier it will become and soon you will be feeling like your pre-pandemic self.”
Sonia Jhas is a mindset and fitness coach whose particular brand of healthy, holistic living addresses both the physical and mental aspect of wellness, leading her clients to long-lasting transformations. She is an Ambassador for the Canadian Mental Health Association and has been dubbed as one of North America’s leading voices in health and wellness with features in over 75 publications. SoniaJhas.com @soniajhas