We could all use a little self-care right now.
Unfortunately, many people’s usual coping strategies are simply unavailable at the moment, whether that’s socializing with friends or family, playing or watching sports, going to the gym or enjoying a little retail therapy.
On the upside, there are still plenty of ways that you and your clients can practice self-care during these troubling times, even if you’re under orders to stay at home as much as possible.
Mindfulness practices have been shown to offer a host of physical, psychological and social benefits that can lead to decreases in perceived stress, improved self-efficacy, enhanced emotional regulation and a greater sense of meaning and purpose in life.
Relaxation counters the short-term effects of stress by decreasing blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate and muscle tension. Over the long-term, relaxation can mitigate certain health issues, including hypertension, anxiety and even cancer (Esch, Fricchione & Stefano, 2003; Keefer & Blanchard, 2002), in addition to improving overall health and healing.
Here are some mindful practices that you and your clients might want to try:
- Mindful movement, such as yoga, tai chi, qigong, walking or cycling: Your clients might be surprised to learn that one of the two common aspects of practices that elicit relaxation is repetition (Benson & Klipper, 1975), as is experienced during exercises like walking and cycling.
- Meditation: This can include any of a number of types of meditation, which you should encourage your clients to research. While some people thrive with an ongoing transcendental meditation practice, others may simply want a way to get 10 or 15 minutes of quiet time or prayer during a stressful period. This is where the second aspect of practices that elicit relaxation comes in—a passive disregard of thoughts as they arise (Benson & Klipper, 1975).
- Breathing exercises: Again, there are a number of breathing exercises that clients can explore, including diaphragmatic breathing and pursed-lip breathing.
Sleep disorders are common in modern society, with one in three U.S. adults reporting that they usually get less than the recommended amount of sleep (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). This is only made worse by feelings of depression or anxiety.
Healthy sleep patterns should be part of every behavior-change program and are particularly important during these troubling times, when everyone is under heightened levels of stress. Inadequate sleep has been linked to a variety of health risks, including heart disease, weight gain, depression and reduced cognitive function.
Share the following tips with your clients to help them get a good night’s sleep (American Sleep Foundation, 2018):
- Create a relaxing sleep environment
- Follow a consistent sleep schedule
- Follow a soothing bedtime routine
- Limit exposure to bright light, especially blue light
- Try to be exposed to natural light early in the day
- Exercise daily
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Avoid eating a large meal too close to bedtime
So many of us are feeling isolated, lonely, anxious or depressed right now. As a health coach or exercise professional, one of the best things you can do is provide a positive experience each time you interact with a client. Also, remind them that none of us are in this alone, and that the importance of social connectedness cannot be overstated. Encourage them to use Facetime, Skype or another video conferencing tools to interact with friends and family members or to reach out to people they may have lost touch with over time.
People all over the world are having virtual dance parties, taking classes online, attending virtual happy hours and finding other creative ways to have fun and take a break from the craziness we’re all living through. We may all be isolated in our homes at the moment, but we need each other more than ever. That’s great advice to share with clients—and to be mindful of yourself.
American Sleep Association (2018). Sleep Hygiene. https://www.sleepassociation.org/about-sleep/sleep-hygiene-tips/
Benson, H. & Klipper, M.Z. (1975). The Relaxation Response. New York: Avon.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018). Sleep and Sleep Disorders. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html
Esch, T., Fricchione, G.L., & Stefano, G.B. (2003). The therapeutic use of the relaxation response in stress-related diseases. Medical Science Monitor, 9, 2, RA23–34.
Keefer, L. & Blanchard. E.B. (2002). A one year follow-up of relaxation response meditation as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. Behavior Research and Therapy, 40, 5, 541–546.