COVID Leaves Longer Lasting And Far Reaching Effects. But You Can Bounce Back.
Be it a job loss or the death of family members, there’s no doubt of the far reaching effects of the COVID pandemic. If you weren’t directly affected by the disease, chances are you know someone who has been. And that effect usually involved loss. Even so, once the initial shock of isolation and the “3 W’s” wore off, things didn’t get any better. As one caregiver put it “Everyone’s world seemed to stop…except mine.”
Conversations on How Far COVID Effects Reach
In an effort to help folks continue to move forward from the year that was 2020, Tune-Up Fitness, home of “Yoga Tune-Up” and “The Roll-Model”, offers a four part series to “…share conversations and insight with the best and brightest in brain science, respiratory function, movement health and adaptability, physical training and nutrition, entrepreneurship, and grief.” Each conversation covers different aspects of how folks can look at 2020 as a call for change, whether in personal or professional lives or on other levels. At the same time, these conversations may shed light on how 2021 can be embraced as an opportunity to incorporate change into our lives. Please click on the “Part 1 & Part 2” headings to read each conversation in full.
Part 1: “Grief, Hope & New Beginnings”
Tune-Up Fitness contributor first interviewed Michelle Cassandra Johnson. Johnson is “an author, social justice activist, yoga teacher, and anti-racism trainer. Her first book, Skill in Action: Radicalizing Yoga to Create a Just World, explores how yoga practitioners and teachers can become agents of social change and justice. Her second book, Finding Refuge: Heart Work for Healing Collective Grief, will be released in July, and is a guide for being present for our grief while staying open hearted.” In addition, Johnson has 20 years experience as a therapist.
The Importance of Grief
Johnson explains the premise behind her new book as “…the experience of collective grief and what happens when we don’t grieve.” Johnson believes we must acknowledge harm before we can begin to grieve properly. However, without that acknowledgement, there really is no “space to grieve.” As a culture, we seem to teach each other to stuff emotion, which, in the end is harmful.
How Do You “Love” Your Neighbor?
Johnson notes that COVID “has illuminated how we treat one another.” As a nation, we indeed took more notice of those “on the front lines” of the pandemic. Individuals and organizations reached out to assist those who weren’t able to work from home or those that suffered job loss because of closures. So, checking in on one another became important once more.
The “Understanding Grief Exercise”
Johnson offers a brief exercise for you to begin understanding your own level of grief. So, grab a pencil and a notebook and consider these questions:
- What grief are you holding in your heart at this time?
- How is what you are holding in your heart affecting your mind? Body? Heart? Spirit?
COVID Reaches To Effect The Business of Fitness
LaShaun Dale, a consultant and pioneer in wellness and group fitness, also spoke with Tune-Up Fitness. Dale has seen first hand the effects of COVID on many types of business, not just the fitness industry. She saw several shifts in the way “business as usual” changed.
We all want to look good, especially when we are in front of people. Well, COVID brought the world of TV production into many living rooms, kitchens, dens and other spaces. So a lot of people used to conducting class in person suddenly had to learn how to be producer/director/’reality’ TV star. Dale says “Embrace the change”. She noted:
- “Just be yourself”
- “Whatever you don’t know how to do, make that the next thing on your ‘to-do’ list”
- Be willing to learn
- Don’t worry about what your audience thinks. Focus on delivering a quality product.
Dale does encourage folks to periodically talk with a trusted friend or advisor for genuine feedback. It’s important to know if you can do something better or more efficiently.
The Importance Of “Restore”-ing
Dale also points out how COVID highlighted the importance of practices like meditation, recovery, flexibility and stretching. While these are practices athletes should be continually doing, not everyone either has or takes the time to stretch after a strenuous workout or may not know where to begin. Remember, MissionFiT offers Restore as part of an athlete’s membership package. If you haven’t heard of Restore, contact Coach K for more information.
Dale’s “4X4 Exercise” is designed for the fitness professional. However, the questions she poses seem to reach across the board. So grab a pencil and a notebook and consider these questions for yourself:
- Name three things you wanted that didn’t happen in 2020.
- Name three things you didn’t want that did happen in 2020.
- Name three things that were unexpected in 2020, but you’re glad they happened.
There are a few follow-up questions to the 4X4 Exercise, so make sure you visit the original post and scroll to the bottom to get the most from the exercise.
Part 2: How Pandemic Life Changed Our Breath & Our Life
Tune-Up Fitness next spoke with Ryan Glatt, “a brain health coach and creator of the Brain Health Trainer curriculum. Glatt combines his neuroscience training with a decade of experience in exercise science to create comprehensive health programs to optimize brain health.”
A “Brain Concussion”
Glatt notes the lasting effects of COVID, the Zoom meetings and conference calls, among other things, have left their mark on us. Glatt explained “…the emotional and logical centers of our brain— have been affected by [COVID]. Some people have called Zoom fatigue a digital concussion.” So your ability to focus, memory or cognitive function may be effected by all these changes. Even your mood may change more frequently than before.
An Injury Needs Rehab
By equating the physiological responses of the brain with an injury, it’s easier to put the problem into perspective and thereby creating solutions to solve it. But Glatt explains “It’s all the stuff that you’d probably roll your eyes at if I started listing them; sleep, mindfulness, social support, positive affect, engaging in novel activities, AND so on and so forth.”
Every recovery plan should be tailored to fit the individual. So what works for one person might not work for the next person. However, staying mindful is one way to help shape your response. Another is through cognitive flexibility. Glatt defines this as “your ability to react or respond to unexpected circumstances.” Glatt explains the best way to respond seemingly ever-changing situations is to deal first with what’s in front of you and not worry about what you can’t control at that time. Other helps include:
- Breathing Exercises
“For more advice from Glatt on how exercise affects brain function, watch him in the docu-series Broken Brain 2 by Dr. Mark Hyman, and listen to this in-depth conversation with Dhru Purohit on the Broken Brain podcast.”
Learning To Breathe Through The Far Reaching Effects Of COVID
“Dr. Belisa Vranich is a clinical psychologist and author who’s devoted her career to helping people breathe better. She’s written several books, including Breathing for Warriors and Breathe: The Revolutionary 14-Day program to Improve Your Mental and Physical Health”.
Addressing Panic Attacks
Vranich recognizes the blend of the psychological effects of COVID and focused breathing techniques. When working with people who suffer from panic attacks, she asks these questions:
- “First, What’s “normal” to feel right now? Normalizing in that scenario is understanding that everybody’s feeling this way and you’re not the only one.
- Second, What’s a real threat? Maybe it’s someone in your circle that’s not being cautious about COVID exposure.
- Third, What can you actually do about it? You have to take measures to be safe from that person who’s not taking COVID seriously.
- And, fourth, How can you calm your nervous system in the moment? And that’s the trickiest part, because people think they should be able to meditate or something like that right away. But if you’re anxious and having a panic attack, sitting down and trying to calm yourself is impossible. It’s like giving a hyperactive child a lot of sugar and asking them to sit still.”
Addressing The Respiratory Side
Vranich notes that cardio exercise is great for the heart but most people don’t think of focused breathing as “exercise”. She explains that if people aren’t breathing efficiently, they may be at more risk respiratory diseases like COVID. And what is “efficient”? Diaphragm breathing, not chest breathing. While breathing comes naturally, proper breathing does not. “Breathing is a movement.”
Learn Your Breathing IQ
Vranich has developed a “Breathing IQ” test, a free diagnostic tool folks can do at home. The benefit is folks learn what their breathing patterns are. Are they efficient? Are they using the diaphragm or chest? Vranich also recommends these practices:
- “Commit to a daily journaling practice. Set a timer for 15 minutes and just write. Don’t reread it right away because you might be too critical. As you write, you may begin to notice themes about the experiences, events, or people that bring you joy, stir sadness, or elicit other emotions that can help you identify the things you need or value most in your life.”
- “Get a copy of The Pocket Pema Chödrön and read one page every day. It’s about understanding that everything is in a state of change all the time and our mental flexibility is the most important resource to get through times like this.”