The past month of our lives has unfolded like something out of an apocalyptic horror movie or novel. I am constantly reminded of Will Smith’s solitary journey in “I Am Legend” and his quest for survival. This may seem to be on the extreme end of the spectrum but hey, who knows how dire this thing could get? Who thought this is how 2020 would unfold? Or rather, unravel? The majority of us came into this decade with record-levels of motivation and goals and were prepared to grow in all facets of our lives. On a more personal note, being the recovering control-freak that I am, my year had been planned to monthly minute detail and I have had to step back and watch “the year I thought would be” slip between my fingers with something akin to heartbreak raging in my chest.
It hasn’t been easy to be a human being in 2020 (or at least, in the first half of it – I am keeping hope alive that the second half of the year will be better!). So what do you do when life comes at you fast? How do you cope when the best laid plans you had for a particular season are rendered void, or at best, altered? It’s easy to become overwhelmed by ALL OF IT and so over the past week, I have been thinking of what wellbeing looks like in the time of COVID-19. In this article, I will share my experiences on wellbeing as it pertains to 4 areas of health and how I have been coping (and not coping) during this period.
Our bodies circadian rhythms have been disrupted by these lockdowns we have found ourselves in and this does not bode well for our physical health. I know I am not only speaking for myself when I admit that my diet has gone haywire, I am no longer adhering to a strict exercise schedule, my sleep pattern has been ruined and I am bingeing too much Netflix. It may be easy to justify this in the short term given all the chaos around us, but it is imperative we maintain some order during these times. Remember, it takes 30 days to form a habit and a hell-of-a-long-time to break one. The Zimbabwean lockdown will be 35 days at a minimum so whatever daily actions you cultivate during this period will become habits and default routine. All this to say: take care of your physical health!!! Eat a balanced diet, do some form of exercise – there are plenty of home workouts you can find on YouTube that will have you breaking a sweat in 30 minutes, and aim to maintain a schedule/keep a routine. At a minimum, wake up at the same time every day and eat a decent breakfast. Research has shown that doing these 2 seemingly simple things daily has a long term effect on not only your physical health, but your mental and emotional health as well. Our overall health primarily depends on the state of our physical health and so it needs to be priority number 1 – and it goes without saying that when one is living though a global health pandemic, you want your body to be as healthy and as resilient as possible to ward of any possible infection.
Living in the 21st Century comes with a lot of benefits but also bears its fair load of troubles. The internet age gave rise to social media and with it, increased connectivity and constant news updates. It’s well and good to stay informed of current events but there is a fine line between sufficient information and too much information. ‘Too much information” results in low-grade anxiety and excessive worry about the future and as such, is not beneficial in any way. It is imperative that we put measures in place to safeguard our mental health during this time and one of the ways we can do this is to limit our screen time and the time we spend online. I have started employing “Offline Days” where I completely don’t go on any social media platform and avoid news channels (Trust me – you can survive going 24 hours once a week without going online). I use that “Offline day” to read books, write articles (wink, wink), meditate and journal without the rush and noise of the world barging in on my thoughts. I find that it has been extremely beneficial in keeping anxiety at bay and when I log on after taking some time off, I am refreshed and refueled and ready to face the world again with renewed strength and hope.
I have been self-isolating alone during this lockdown but I have been able to draw on the support of close friends and family. It’s important that we constantly check-in with loved ones and commiserate with each other about the current status quo. Having deep meaningful conversations with friends and family will go a long way in ensuring we get to the other side in great emotional health. If like me you are isolating alone, you are at greater risk of experiencing loneliness and feeling cutoff from the world so you need to be intentional about reaching out to family. You may feel like you are fine after going days on end without human interaction, but honestly, you are not. We are made for community, connection and communication and we need other people to ensure our emotional health stays in check.
Is there anything like a global health pandemic and existential threat to make people draw closer to their Creator? The past 2 months have been such a faith walk for me and I keep surprising myself at how much I have grown. I read somewhere that “a tested faith is a faith you can trust” and I think for a lot of us, our faith is surely being tested by this pandemic. I have had more time to spend in the word of God (I am all caught up with my annual Bible reading plan whoop whoop!), I have been able to devote more time to prayer and I can now actually block out 15-minute segments a couple of times during the day to mediate and soak in worship music. Hands-down one of the best things you can do for yourself with this extra time is to draw closer to God and spend more time with Him. He has been my strength and peace during these uncertain times and I pray that you experience the same. He is not surprised by the way the year has unraveled, He remains seated on His throne and we will come out on the other side with a stronger tested faith.
The last thing anyone needs during these times are extensive to-do lists. People cope differently when under stress and some people thrive by keeping busy and being highly productive, whilst others need to embrace a slower pace of life and take it day-by-day. There is no one-size-fits-all and whilst both responses are fine, what remains key is that you take care of your health as everything else in your life hinges on this.
Wishing you good health and wellness during these times 😊
Amazing-Grace is a Chartered Accountant by day and pursues passion projects by night and over the weekends. She is an avid runner, reader and up-and-coming writer. She is also a member of a number of youth-led organizations which strive to make a difference in society. You can connect with her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/agmakusha , LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/amazing-grace-makusha-1a600927/ or Twitter https://twitter.com/IsntSheAmazing