Brandy Petrie's photo of Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs. Depicted: a colorful landscape with green foliage and trees, blue skies with clouds, and reddish rock formations.

The #SocialDistance pause was an opportunity for Brandy Petrie to take time for her photo hobby. She took this shot of the famous red rocks of the Garden of the Gods Park in her new Colorado Springs hometown. (Photo courtesy Brandy Petrie)

A stay-healthy checklist for body and mind

BY BRANDY PETRIE, PhD, UB GSE ‘14
Psychologist, Counseling Center, Colorado College

A good routine

Create structure and stability by keeping your usual routine. Try to accomplish at least one productive thing a day: Laundry, washing dishes, taking a bath. They all count. Even simple tasks can feel overwhelming right now. So be kind to yourself. Small things are challenging. Kudos for making them happen.

Sleep, diet, excercise

Sleep, eat and move. Walk anywhere. Inside or out. Take care with wine, beer and alcohol. Overindulgence can hurt and bother your sleep and mood. Be mindful.

Let sunshine in

Breathe in fresh air. Feel the sun. Get outside as much as you can while following local guidelines and laws.

Find that long lost hobby

Is there a languishing saxophone, zither, recorder, camera, paint set or puzzle box in the back of your closet? If you feel like you suddenly have a lot of free time, now may the moment to resurrect a forgotten pastime. Paint by numbers, anyone?

Friends and family, virtually

Zoom together. We may be physically isolated, but we do not need to be psychologically isolated. Reach out to friends and family. Try FaceTime, Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype and other platforms that let you see friends while you talk.

News and social pauses

Social media can be a great way to connect, but too much can be just that. Let yourself turn it off. Staying informed is important, but don’t check the news more than a few times a day. Even that can be too much. Listen to your instincts. Pause when you need to.

Emotions can move

Acknowledge grief, sadness and other difficult feelings rather than ignoring them. Noticing emotions and letting yourself feel them is a sign of emotional agility. For more insight, check out this excellent article about grief in this time of social distance from the Harvard Business Review.

Stress strategies

Practice stress management, like breathing exercises, meditation and yoga. They help manage anxiety and stress. Discover meditation techniques online. Apps and websites with tips are free or come with discounts. Consider SmilingMind.com.au, Headspace.com, Calm.com and the Apple Breathe app. Lessons in grounding techniques can help. Try Googling on your own to find videos and resources that resonate.

For uplifting perspective, take a listen to Laurie Santos, a professor at Yale University, who shares the latest scientific research and surprising stories at The Happiness Lab podcast. She also teaches an excellent, free course on the science of well-being.

If you do find yourself overwhelmed with anxiety, focus on one day at a time. If that doesn’t work, pick one worry and make a plan to tackle it.

Be good to yourself

Self-compassion is one of the greatest tools to get through this difficult time. For ideas, check out the resources, information and exercises from Kristin Neff, PhD.

Coping is not one size fits all, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list of ways to cope. If you have a history of mental health struggles, you may desire additional support. Many therapists are adapting and providing tele-therapy while face-to-face interactions are not possible. If you or a loved one is in crisis, call a local crisis line or 1-800-273-TALK or text 741741 for support.

About Brandy Petrie

GSE alumna Brandy Petrie’s put together this well-being checklist as pandemic closures first took effect this spring. 

“I kept writing and kept writing,” she said. “Apparently I had more to say than I realized.” 

The Harvard Business Review’s article about grief resonated. This natural reaction to the drastic changes in society wasn’t obvious to everyone at first. As a psychologist, she knows simply taking time to notice and identify feelings can be transformative. 

“If we can actually stop and give it a name that can be really important and helpful,” said Petrie. “It can motivate us to take action. It can reduce anxiety. You can’t heal what you can’t feel.”

For her, the #SocialDistance pause was also an opportunity to take time for her photo hobby. She took the shot of the famous red rocks of the Garden of the Gods Park in her new Colorado Springs hometown.