Make time in your schedule for these core human needs.
By Elizabeth Markle
It’s a crazy time. We are sheltering-in-place, leaving the house only for essentials like groceries and medical care. And while we’re all (appropriately) focused on caring for the physical health of ourselves, our families, our communities, and society at large, our mental, emotional, and social health needs are quickly emerging as profoundly important, as well.
These are structures you can apply to your life right now. Whether you’re in generally good health or struggling with chronic physical or psychological conditions, we believe that every person needs these four things, every day!
1. Move. Our bodies need to move. They need to stretch, reach, twist, bend, step, sweat, to whatever degree works for our unique shapes and constitutions. They don’t care if it’s at the gym, out in the neighborhood, or in your living room—they just need activity. It’s not just about “staying in shape.” It’s about your immune health and your mental health, as well! Build movement in your structure, at least 20 minutes per day! YouTube exercise videos range from three-minute workouts to more than an hour, and many of them are family-friendly, too.
2. Nourish. You might have a sense of what foods make you feel lively, focused, resourced, and sane, right? And there are certainly those that are just for fun (hellooo, chocolate). At Open Source Wellness, we suggest not banning or outlawing the small treats that bring you joy, but rather setting up a daily structure that (mostly) fills you with nourishing, healthy foods. Always wanted to make a dietary change, learn to meal prep, teach your kids to cook, or sample a new cuisine? Now’s the time! Structure one or two 30-minute chunks of cooking into your days.
3. Connect. This one, more than ever, is key. Humans need to feel connected. We need to feel seen, heard, and understood by another human—and to extend the same in return. And since it won’t “just happen” throughout your day, you’re going to need to schedule it. More to the point, you’ll need to ask for it. To get vulnerable enough to say, “I really want to connect with you. Can we talk?” Tell the truth about how you’re feeling, what you’re experiencing. Invite them to do the same. Listen with kindness. Offer your support with generosity. High-quality human attention may feel like a scarce resource right now, but you can generate an infinite supply of it.
4. Be. Amid all the “doing”—the preparing, protecting, adjusting, coping, responding, providing, procuring—humans need moments to simply BE. It’s not necessarily about serenity, or warm fuzzy feelings. It’s about pausing long enough to let your nervous system come back to baseline after prolonged activation. Experiment with what works for you. If meditation or guided relaxation works for you, great! If watching a crappy TV show while snuggled into the couch helps you to just BE, that’s good, too. And if painful emotions get too loud or overwhelming when you try to slow down, that’s OK, too.
Perhaps start with a little inventory. Of the four aspects of this “Universal Prescription,” which ones are you strongest in? Which ones do you incorporate effortlessly, as a part of your routine? Which ones might need a bit more attention, more practice, more cultivation? Then, pick one to focus on first: How might you structure it into your days?
In short, this is an opportunity to get really intentional. To choose rather than to drift. In the absence of everything that normally dictates our days, we are called on to create the structures that will support our health, physically and emotionally, in a time of profound uncertainty. Try out weaving Move, Nourish, Connect, and Be time into your days, and let us know how it goes for you!
And in case the term “social distancing” bums you out as much as it does for me…try on “expansive solidarity.” We’re right here, in this together…spaciously.
About the Author
Elizabeth Markle, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, researcher, and chair of community mental health at California Institute of Integral Studies. Dedicated to multi-theoretical and multi-level approaches to individual and community health and healing, Elizabeth’s current area of study and innovation is around combining clinical expertise with social entrepreneurship to create sustainable, thriving cultures of health and wellness. She is the cofounder of Open Source Wellness (www.OpenSourceWellness.org), a nonprofit initiative offering experiential behavioral health and wellness via a “behavioral pharmacy” approach in collaboration with health care providers and insurers.