The new normal is getting old. Fast. Even Vogue editor Anna Wintour is wearing sweat pants. “I think a lot of us are mentally exhausted,” says Vaile Wright of the American Psychological Association, acknowledging that the background noise of pandemic stress is continuously draining us with its drumbeat of dread mixed with the ongoing drone of uncertainty. Please don't beat yourself up if you find yourself lying in bed in the morning pondering everything that you would have accomplished by that hour in a previous life. As the realization sinks in that we're only a few steps into what will likely be a marathon journey, it's more important than ever to put on our mental sweat pants and be gentle with ourselves as we try, and sometimes fail, to choose habits, pastimes, and ways of thinking that support our good health. The 5-Minute Recharge is here to help you select the best mental sweat pants with evidence-based tips, encouragement, and wellness tools. Let's get started!ONE TREE-HUGGING QUOTE“When you hug [a tree], you feel it first in your toes and then up your legs and into your chest and then up into your head. It’s such a wonderful feeling of relaxation and then you’re ready for a new day and new challenges.”
― Þór Þorfinnsson, a forest ranger in Iceland, recommends the 5-minute tree charge. Þór also suggests that you close your eyes and press your cheek against the trunk
Embrace the Banana Bread Mess
(Why is banana bread the official coronavirus comfort food?)
THREE OF THE BEST MENTAL SWEAT PANTS #1 ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE A COMPASSIONATE MESS Now is the perfect time, especially for perfectionists, to practice self-compassion. Fortunately, it's really easy to do. According to compassionate expert Kristin Neff, associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, there are three simple steps to self-compassion. The first step is to PAUSE and ask yourself, “How am I doing?” and notice how your body feels. If you're anxious, where are you holding the tension? Be willing to be with your feelings, and if you sense discomfort somewhere in your body, offer a soothing touch. Next CONNECT with all you have in common with the rest of humanity, and know that you're not alone. Never before in history has “We're all in this together” been so true: acknowledge that there are many other people who are feeling just as you're feeling right now. Finally, be KIND to yourself by asking: “What do I need right now to be happy and healthy?” Another good question to ask yourself is, “What would I want a dear friend to whisper in my ear right now?” Allow yourself to feel the tenderness in the answers to these questions, and act on their wisdom. There's research suggesting that self-compassion works by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system that's wired to respond to kind words and gentle touch with relaxation and a feeling of safety. The feeling of relaxed safety that self-compassion generates makes it much easier for us to do what we need to do and perform at a higher, more enjoyable level than the cattle-prod approach of self-criticism that assumes pain and fear is motivational. When we direct kindness toward discomfort, we are better able to move happily forward.
“One of my favorite phrases is that the goal of self-compassion practice is to become a compassionate mess. Life is messy--that's the nature of life--and the goal is just to be compassionate for whatever form the mess is taking in that moment.”– Kristen Neff, Ten Percent Happier Podcast#2 THE BEST BURNOUT PROTECTION The type of meditation that can protect against burnout on the front lines of a pandemic and strengthen our self-compassion muscle is known as loving-kindness. Set aside a few minutes each day to sit quietly and repeat compassionate phrases that resonate with you and direct them to yourself and others, including people you love, people you're neutral about, people you have difficulty with, and all of humanity. Typical phrases include may you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you live with ease, but if these don't sound right to you, you can make up your own. As you repeat the phrases, picture yourself and others however you please--you may find it easier, for example, to imagine yourself as a child. Experiment with words and images until you are able to feel a sense of kindness and compassion. This type of meditation is especially helpful for first responders who are likely to burn out if they take in and feel all the suffering they witness on the job. Loving-kindness meditation is an exercise in feeling for rather than feeling with others. Research shows that loving-kindness primes you to take action against suffering, rather than experience it in a way that can be harmful, and conditions you to be kind to yourself and others.
“With mindfulness, loving kindness, and self-compassion, we can begin to let go of our expectations about how life and those we love should be.”– Sharon Salzburg (you can find a guided 15-minute loving-kindness meditation with Sharon Salzburg here)#3 THINK LIKE A DANE Denmark is consistently at or near the top of the world in measures of life satisfaction. One reason, according to research, is that Danes' expectations compared with citizens of other countries are relatively low. They have set themselves up for happiness according to this formula based on a study of 18,000 people that examined happiness from moment to moment: happiness = reality minus expectations. If ever there was a time to revise expectations down it's now. This doesn't mean you don't try your best, but you relax and give yourself the freedom to just do it. Badly. The important thing is showing up, doing the work, and being pleasantly surprised by the results.
“Constantly measuring reality against an imagined reality is taxing and tiring, [and] often wrings the joy of experiencing something for what it is.” – Jason Fried, CEO Basecamp***********************************The Fast Five
1. The Eight Rules of The School of Life - YouTube (Time 7:26)
2. Phone sex is mentioned for the first time on The Ten Percent Happier Podcast in “Love in the Time of COVID” - Podcast interview with relationship expert Esther Perel (Time 1:15:38)
3. Lynne found a great standing ab workout in “These No-Cost No-Equipment Exercises will help you stay fit at home”- Fast Company
4. “Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary” - The New York Times
5. “In every interaction with other people, we can leave a trace that makes them better off.” (Jane Dutton) - WorkLife with Adam Grant Podcast (Time 38:36)
***********************************YOUR 5-MINUTE RECHARGE CHALLENGE
YOUR BEST INTENTIONS
“Epidemics are part of the cycle of life on this planet. The choice is how we respond. With greed and hatred and fear and ignorance? Or with generosity, clarity, steadiness and love?”– Jack Kornfield
This week's 5-minute recharge challenge is super simple and comes from clinical psychologist, mindfulness pioneer, and bestselling author, Jack Kornfield.
Answer this question:
What is my best intention, my most noble aspiration, at this difficult time?
This question is not an invitation to write King Lear. A noble aspiration is kinder than a big hairy audacious goal, although it may gently direct you toward something extraordinary. The answer could be as simple as “I vow to be kind, no matter what.” When you find the answer to the question, write it down expressed as “I vow to...” and keep it in a prominent place so that when you're feeling lost or confused you can remember your vow and let it guide you to constructive thought, feeling and action.
“With this pandemic we have to accept where we are, the uncertainty of it, and then say, 'All right, I'm going to steady my own heart and see how I can contribute.'” ― Jack Kornfield
Wishing you the best intentions in the week ahead,
Lynne & Addie