Caring for physical, mental health during lockdown is paramount

Meditation, workout routines can reduce stress, irritability, improve interactions with housemates

By Nik Chupkin, Editor-in-Chief

When Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted the statewide shelter-in-place order, I was excited to be spending more time with my parents and brother at home, where we started eating family dinners every night.

Little did I know, I would be stuck at home for much longer than a couple of weeks, and pretty soon I began fighting with my family members about the most trivial things.

Not closing the door during a Zoom meeting or forgetting to take out the trash would invoke my father’s wrath. I found myself constantly angry at my brother, and repeatedly talking back to my parents.

Living with the same people for so long, not seeing my friends for months at a time and rarely leaving my house became immensely stressful. I started feeling lonely and irate, had trouble falling asleep and lost a lot of weight quickly — all of which are symptoms of stress, according to Web MD.

To reverse the adverse effects of stress that I experienced during the pandemic, I knew I had to start caring for my mind and body. I started meditating, a practice that promotes awareness, decreases “rumination,” or distracted daydreaming, increases attention, and contributes to building effective emotional-regulation strategies, according to the American Psychological Association.

Daily meditations have made me generally calmer and less irritable. I also zone out less often while in class.

Meditation doesn’t require hours at a time. Starting at just five minutes per day and slowly working up to longer meditations is enough to feel its positive effects, according to Melbourne Meditation Centre.

I use a free guided meditation app called Smiling Mind. Other options include Calm, Headspace and Aura, some of which are free to download.

In addition to meditating, I also began a regular workout routine, which is helping me stay active at home.

Routines “can help create a sense of structure and normality,” according to Beyond Blue, an Australian mental health support organization, so I work out with Barclay Spring, Convent & Stuart Hall’s athletics, strength and conditioning coach. Spring also offers regular group workouts over Zoom and has an arsenal of workout videos on his YouTube channel.

After working on improving my physical and mental health, I noticed how I became calmer and less irritable during times of stress. My approachability and patience has also increased, which helped facilitate positive interactions with my family members.

It could still be a while before we get approved to come back to campus, so we have to find ways to stay sane at home for just a little bit longer, and there is no better way to do that than practicing self-care.

Pandemic or not, I know that routinely caring for my health makes me feel happier and healthier, and I hope to make it into a life-long practice.