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I Asked Wellness Leaders How They’re Coping During COVID-19. Here’s what they said.

While their picture-perfect yoga poses, Zoom offerings, and vibrant veggie-filled meals on Insta may lead us to think life is peachy for many wellness leaders, here’s the truth: They are dealing with many of the same struggles we’re all facing during these uncertain times. Which is why I asked them to get real about how they’re keeping stress in check as they ride the waves of this unprecedented global pandemic.

Turns out, even Insta-influencers who seem the most wellness-y of all have had to find new ways to find comfort and purpose during this crisis.

Here’s what they shared with me. And here’s hoping it helps you, too.

It’s a Prime Time to Seek Spiritual Wisdom

Spiritual junkies like myself know this all too well: There’s a lesson to be learned from every less-than-ideal experience life throws at us. Throughout this crisis, most of society has been collectively confused and worried, scouring the internet and glued to press briefings in an (often futile) search for certainty. Yet each passing day we are reminded of the fact that our future continues to be one giant question mark.

Lisa Hayim, RD, an NYC-based dietitian and founder of The Well Necessities, says her antidote to the uncertainty is reading spiritual books. “The common theme in these books is that we will go through tough periods, but we will also come out of them,” says Hayim. “Reading these books provides safety knowing these words have been written long before COVID-19.”

Much like the responses from crises of the past, spiritual texts and teachings can hold great wisdom and hope in overcoming this current adversity. Leaning into these universal messages and spiritual insights might provide more comfort than any breaking news segment has.

If you’re eager to step away from your screens and dive deep into some spiritually-informed books, I have some recs for you–

  1. Both practical and powerful, Into the Magic Shop by James R Doty, MD, delves into the life of a neurosurgeon and the spiritual lessons he learned one summer as a boy that would carry him through a life filled with failures and success.

  2. The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz is a spiritual-staple on anyone’s bookshelf, reminding you of how to break past limiting-beliefs and is worth reading again and again

  3. If you’re not into lengthy novels, The Art of Wellbeing by Meredith Gason is the book for you. It’s a beautifully crafted and illustrated book with ways to artfully allow well-being into your life, filled with meditations, visualizations, and plant-based recipes.

Being More Mindful Really Does Help

In many ways, this current crisis and our safe-at-home conditions have forced us to be more mindful. Most of us have been stuck inside for weeks which has, unintentionally, allowed our most raw, authentic selves to emerge. When I feel like crying, I cry. When certain emotions make me feel uncomfortable, I’m forced to sit with them rather than distract myself by going to the gym or meeting friends for brunch,

I’ve been able to notice emotions arise in the moment, from shedding tears to uncontrollable bouts of laughter, and I’ve made a habit of leaning into them. Now that I no longer have the luxury of pre-COVID distractions, like going to the gym or brunch with friends, I am forced to feel what I’m really feeling rather than avoiding it. But what’s become so clear to me during this time is that our mindfulness practices can help us find the same kind of present-moment awareness.

Meg Josephson, a meditation teacher and content creator, can relate. “I've been finding a lot of purpose and pleasure in the smaller things—the warmth of ginger tea as it hits my tongue, the breeze against my face when I walk my dog,” she says. “In a time where the future is so uncertain, it's crucial to soak in the day-to-day moments. It's been a practice in it of itself to release my grip from what the future is 'supposed' to look like.”

To Josephson’s point, we all want this to be over and we’re eager for life to resume back to what it once was. Unfortunately, none of us have the power to make that happen. Which means accepting this time for what it is, is all we can do. Yes, there is a real threat in the air right now (literally), but unless we are the brave souls in hospitals or essential jobs, we do not need to constantly be on high alert. Meditating an hour a day is a great way to lower stress—but so is this simpler version of tapping into the tiny moments, noticing sensations, and letting this all unfold without judgment or fear as prevailing emotions.

You Can Find Purpose Every Day

Considering the devastation happening globally, the question “What gives me purpose?” may seem more daunting than ever. Yet before you go spiraling down some dark rabbit hole thinking about how you might answer, remember that you don’t need to reinvent yourself to find purpose right now. In fact, now might be a perfect time to look outside yourself, for ways to help others.

Remy Park, better known as Veggiekins on Instagram, told me she’s found purpose in new furry friends. “I’ve been fostering cats so that I can provide a home for displaced foster cats,” says Park. “As a plus, I get a new companion each time and it literally gets me out of bed in the morning. Giving back and doing good is scientifically proven to boost your mood, and focusing on what I have to give rather than what I've lost has been really great for my mental health.”

Self-isolating can be incredibly lonely, and welcoming a pet (even temporarily) into your home during this time is a win-win for everyone. If a furry friend isn’t in the cards for you, consider thinking up ways to find purpose daily and do what you can to give back. Maybe it’s the joy you find in late afternoon Zoom calls with colleagues or the donation-based yoga class over Zoom with your favorite teacher. Whatever it is that gives your purpose right now, acknowledge it, embrace it, and allow it to let you keep on, keeping on.

It’s More Important than Ever to Pursue Creativity

As an aspiring wellness leader myself, I have my own tools I am leaning on during this time (Hint: you’re reading it!). I find myself opening up more—if not to people, certainly to my notebook pages and laptop screen. Writing has been a creative outlet for me lately, inspiring me to express myself, reflect, and get a lot more thoughtful than usual. I look forward to a weekly, two-hour memoir class I signed up for when the novel coronavirus threw my best-laid Spring plans for a loop, and I’ve been embracing the spontaneous late-night writing sessions that class has inspired.

I’ve also taken this time to write my first eBook, “Well-Being in the Waiting”. The idea came to me before all of this COVID-19 craziness, as I found myself struggling with periods of waiting in my own life. Once our new, lockdown lifestyle settled in, I recognized that being in the waiting is currently a collective experience. So, I gathered the best info from my grad school and health coaching programs to create this guide, which is filled with tools and techniques from psychology (positive & CBT approaches), mindfulness, yoga, and simple, plant-based recipes. Essentially, it’s filled with a whole lot of goodness wrapped up in one PDF that’s meant to help you find presence in these unprecedented times. And for every copy I sell, I’m donating one to a healthcare worker on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.

What are you doing to find some peace, purpose, and well-being during this global pandemic? What advice from my eBook has resonated with you the most? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or on my Instagram.

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