Maximize Your Choices to Boost Well-being

Maximize Your Choices to Boost Well-being

"A time of crisis is not just a time of anxiety and worry. It gives a chance, an opportunity, to choose well or to choose badly." - Desmond Tutu

How are you doing? Frustrated? Sad? Angry? Anxious? Calm? Feeling like you’re stuck in a bad sci-fi movie or a nightmare?

I’m guessing you might feel all of these in the course of a COVID-19 day. While we don’t have much control over what will happen in the next few weeks and months, we do have control over ourselves, and how we intend to live the days ahead. So let’s think about the choices we have that can positively impact our well-being.

Hooray for Health!
Let’s consider the four key elements of our physical health:

  • Nutrition
  • Sleep
  • Breath
  • Movement

We know that a healthy diet is important for our immune system and our overall physical well-being. We also know we should be sleeping 7-9 hours per night, and sticking to a regular bedtime and wake-up routine. But, let’s tap into the power of breathing and moving as we navigate working and learning from home.

When you feel your anxiety beginning to rise, stop and breathe. Taking a moment to pause and notice your breath is an incredibly powerful tool to alleviate stress and anxiety, and helps to move us toward calm. In fact, it helps us let go of ruminating about the past, worrying about the future, and allows us to be more present in the moment. Try three to five deep breaths, counting to four on your inhale, holding for four, exhaling for four. Need a little help? Check out the free resources at Headspace.

Working from home has us sitting more than usual, which is definitely NOT healthy. Check out the health hazards of sitting here. Try to organize your workspace so that you can stand while you work. Consider setting a timer to remind yourself to get up to move- even if only to walk around your kitchen, or do 10 jumping jacks, wide arm circles or squats. Remember moving our bodies helps to send blood to our brains, makes us more vibrant, and helps us to be more resilient.

Prioritizing Positivity
As humans we are wired for negativity, and that is a good thing because it has allowed us to survive as a species. But, when left unchecked, it can narrow our focus and even spiral us downwards. One way to help us counteract these negative moments and frames of mind is to bring more positive emotions into our life.

Dr. Barbara Frederickson, a prominent positive psychologist at UNC, Chapel Hill, has done extensive research on the power of positive emotions and has identified the top ten emotions as:

  1. Joy
  2. Gratitude
  3. Serenity
  4. Interest
  5. Hope
  6. Pride
  7. Amusement
  8. Inspiration
  9. Awe
  10. Love

Frederickson’s “Broaden & Build” theory posits that positive emotions help us to trigger upward spirals which in turn broaden our perspectives and actions. This broadening helps us to build our intellectual, physical, social, and psychological resources.

As we continue physical distancing and learning/working from home, how will you include some micro-moments of joy in your day? Take a moment to think about the little things that are making you happy these days- that perfect cup of coffee, a laugh with your children or friends, chocolate, a good book, or a walk outside to bask in the awe of nature (Happy Earth Day!).

Finally, as we continue the emotional rollercoaster of the COVID-19 experience, remember that it is OK and normal to have good days and bad days. We are all figuring this out as we go! Just remember that taking care of you is essential to being able to help take care of others. Give yourself the permission to feel all of your emotions, and then exercise your right to choose little things that will make you healthier and happier.

- Erin Noviski, middle and upper school well-being teacher