Dr. Rivera

Dr. Karla Rivera is a district-wide psychologist here in Irvington. She is here to provide support for children and families as we face these challenging times.

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Have the Past Two Years Taken a Toll on You

Have the Past Two Years Taken a Toll on You? Mindfulness Can Lead You Back to Better Health

Over the past two years, the pandemic has taken a toll on our emotional and physical health. There is Covid 19, but we have experienced many changes in our health not caused directly by the virus. According to Katie Camero of Buzzfeed, doctors are seeing changes in our bodies over the past two years due to changes in our lifestyle that aren’t for the better.

There are changes in our posture due to being hunched over laptops while working from home, damage to our vision from our eyes working double time on screens, issues with our skin due to lack of vitamin D from sunlight, mask wearing, and letting go of skincare routines.

Our brains’ ability to focus has suffered due to stress and the stimulation of doing more of life online. Many of us have found it difficult to socialize as we once did. Those returning to work may find the social demands challenging, and those still working at home may continue to lack important social interaction they had pre-pandemic.

We’ve seen changes in our gastrointestinal tracts and in our bodies’ weight. Poor health habits are contributing to both. People consumed more sugar over the pandemic- consuming excessive sugar can increase inflammation in the body and other health issues. Increased use of alcohol has also taxed our health. According to a recent John Hopkins study cited by Camero- 60% of adults reported increased drinking and 34% increased binge drinking over the pandemic. Alcohol is a toxin that affects every organ system.

Then of course, we’ve seen an uptick in anxiety and depression and other disorders of our mental health, and many of us are coping with grief and loss. So….what can we do to embark on a new healthful path? Self- care is all important now as we seek to recover from the past two years and to begin anew. Mindfulness is an important tool we can implement to help us get there.

Practice Mindfulness: Learning to be more mindful can help us to be aware of the choices we’re making for ourselves each day, and more able to practice self-care. Mindfulness is about being present in our lives- really paying attention to what we’re doing in the present moment- without judging ourselves. It means noticing what our thoughts and emotions are and what we’re experiencing physically. By living in the moment and being more self-aware, we take ourselves off autopilot. We become conscious of and more in control of the decisions we’re making for our health.

Practice Eating Mindfully. Pay attention to when and how you’re eating as opposed to mindlessly snacking or eating on the go. Listen to your body’s hunger cues- ask yourself if you’re actually hungry? If not, is your desire to eat driven by emotions like anxiety or boredom?

If you are hungry, take time to sit and enjoy whatever you choose to eat- avoid eating in your car or in front of the tv, or while checking your phone. Prepare a plate, take your time to fully experience the tastes and textures of your meal. Pay attention to when your body feels content. Eating in this way allows you to feel more satisfied and less likely to overeat.

Practice Working Mindfully- Focus on the task in front of you, and set aside your phone.As you work, avoid checking your email or social media. Keep your attention solely on whatever you’re working on. When your mind wanders, bring it back to what’s in front of you. You will find that you are more productive and efficient when you don’t multitask or allow distractions in. Also pay attention to how long you’ve been on a screen? How do your eyes and back feel? Is it time for a break?

Exercise Mindfully: As spring approaches, get outdoors and get some exercise. Getting outside is essential to our emotional and physical health. Spending time in nature is calming and helps supply us with needed vitamin D (vitamin D supports bone and brain health- including warding off depression), and gives our brain and eyes a reprieve from screens. Exercise has a wealth of health benefits and conversely, being sedentary is highly hazardous to your health. It’s important to our emotional and physical health to get regular exercise.

To get the most out of your exercise – practice being fully present. If you’re walking or jogging, put away your phone and focus on all the physical sensations around you and within you. Notice your breathing and how your body moves through space, how your muscles feel, and the ground beneath your feet. Notice the sights and smells and sounds around you. Being present in this way will help you reap the most benefits of your movements.

By beginning to be more present in your life, you can improve your mental and physical health and begin to rewind some of the toll the pandemic has taken. Mindfulness can lead you there.