By John Neville
Summer is usually a time to destress: it’s when we spend unstructured afternoons hanging with friends, when we seek spontaneous adventures and enjoy long-planned trips with loved ones, and when we take the hard-earned time to truly unwind and connect.
With social-distancing in place, it’s a challenge to create these same organic moments of real relaxation. Here are seven ways to stay present and truly recharge, even during quarantine.
1. Busy-ness in the mind and tension in the body are the exact same thing: they both cause stress, chaos, and a nagging discomfort that makes it hard to focus or reset.
Whenever the mind is busy, the body is tense. Learning to progressively relax the body has enormous health benefits. The body scan is a great exercise for releasing tension from the body. You can sit in a chair or lie down, let the audio play, and focus on feeling your body relax as deeply as possible.
Turn the ability to relax into a game, sport, or form of fitness. See if you can relax more deeply today than you could yesterday. This process is wonderful for cardiovascular health, as it can dramatically improve circulation.
2. Relaxation doesn’t mean inactivity:
Feeling anxious or bored? Prioritize movement and turn relaxation into a sport. Go for a walk or hike, do a stretch routine or a body scan meditation, and spend as much time as you can outdoors. It’s important to prioritize nourishment, too: make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and eating fruits and vegetables.
3. Take deep breaths:
Everybody knows it’s helpful, but how many people actually put deep breathing into practice? Several times throughout the day, inhale deeply through the nose and exhale passively through the mouth. Set a reminder for your breathing exercises to hold you accountable.
4. Get down to Earth:
Studies have shown that earthing or grounding —making direct contact between yourself and the earth—has tangible health benefits. I know what you’re thinking—aren’t I always in direct contact with the earth? No! In fact, it’s easy to go days or even weeks without physically touching the ground. Take time in the day to put your bare feet in grass, walk along the beach, or have a picnic.
Earthing/grounding reduces internal inflammation and toxicity, minimizes stress, improves sleep, and boosts your immunity.
5. Hang with the fam:
Social support is crucial for all of us to feel our best, and right now, getting the support we need can feel especially challenging. Most teenagers take the social support that they receive from their families for granted. But don’t do it! Look your family members in the eye, and speak kind, positive words to them. When you can, sit down for mealtimes “unplugged” and together. Consider a family book club or game night—take the time to ask meaningful questions or source advice from your loved ones.
6. Minimize your screen time and connect with nature:
Since we’re all on-screen more than ever before, make sure you’re using your leisure time to breathe fresh air, spend time outdoors, and explore hobbies that don’t involve our glowing rectangles of technology. Read books or magazines, consider learning to knit or crochet, or use this time to learn to golf!
7. Gratitude is the attitude:
Now’s the time to dig deep and consider what we’re thankful for. You can pull out a notebook or journal and write down things that make you feel especially grateful. It could be something as simple as a beautiful sunny day or your favorite song! Bottom line: expressing gratitude feels good. It’s easy to focus on what you lack, and this can be depleting. The more content and grateful you are with your life exactly as it is, the stronger you will feel. This inner strength will propel you towards bigger goals and greater achievements.
In times of great change or challenge, remembering how many privileges you currently enjoy is a great antidote for stress. The ability to stay calm and positive even when you narrowly miss an important goal (an A in a class, a high SAT score, admission into your top choice school) will empower you to take more smart risks in the future. Stay present, stay healthy, and stay calm!