Finding a Sense of Calm During COVID-19

We are all navigating these challenging times differently, but one thing that is common among all of us is that….

…..the unknown can be stressful and scary.

Some of us may be in the medical field trying to save lives when we are fully aware of the risks.

Some of us may be working in various other essential services such as grocery store employees, waste management, deliveries, banks, government officials and others working long, stressful hours while being exposed to the public.

Some of us may be teachers trying to learn how to teach our entire curriculum virtually and communicate with students in an effective and efficient way.

Some of us may own businesses that are crumbling before our eyes.

Some of us must work and figure out safe child-care. Some of us are stressed out just trying to keep our families safe.

Some of us are trying to home-school our kids while managing various other responsibilities.

Some of us just want to see our friends and go back to living life.

Some of us may be in toxic home environments where the risks have just escalated.

Some of us may feel isolated and depressed.

Some of us may have loved ones who are sick or have died and we are grieving and unable to be with them.

We are stressed in different ways and none of us know how long we are going to have to live this way and the uncertainty and fear can be overwhelming and consuming.

Stress causes our bodies to go into the “Fight or Flight” response – we are at war with coronavirus, an invisible enemy. As our stress increases, the stress hormone, cortisol, is released into our blood stream. Cortisol increases blood pressure, heart rate and suppresses the immune system, the last thing we want to do right now! Cortisol also causes the body to crave more fat, sugar and comfort foods. As a result, many are forecasting significant weight gain during the quarantine which can lead to various other health complications.

The message is clear. We need to manage our stress.

We cannot control what’s going on right now. We can only control our response. Take baths, write in a journal, go for a walk, read, pray, watch a funny movie, enjoy a virtual get-together with friends or family, practice deep breathing, participate in an online Tai Chi, Yoga or meditation class.

Do whatever it takes to either interpret your stress differently or take care of yourself so that stress doesn’t tear you down.

A growing body of scientific evidence has supported mindful exercise as a significant means of favorably altering various aspects of health. Scientific research on Yoga has been enormous (well over 2000 studies) since the first research began in the late 1920’s and since 1985, thousands of research abstracts have been published on Tai Chi. Ralph LaForge, MD, a physician specializing in the benefits of mind/body exercise reports

“Meditation and mindful exercise have been credited with reducing stress and helping to manage anger and depression, improving muscular strength, flexibility, balance and coordination, reducing falls in the elderly, improving glucose tolerance, enhancing cardiovascular health, increasing self-awareness, self-efficacy and personal empowerment, decreasing pain and pain sensitization, reducing blood pressure, improving lipid profile, improving bone mineral density, improving pulmonary function, decreasing mortality in hypertensive individuals, decreasing mortality and/or clinical events associated with cardiovascular disease and more.”

That’s a long list of benefits!

Even just stopping yourself when you’re feeling stressed and focusing on slow, deep breathing can be very helpful and bring forth incredible health benefits.

Try this to help reduce stress:

5 minutes of mindful meditation when you first wake up each morning or right before you go to bed. You could focus on your breathing, or contract and relax your muscles moving from your toes to your head.

Or perhaps make a mental list of everything you are grateful for – a gratitude mindset and focusing on the positive can be very helpful to minimize the stress response.

If you need a little more guidance with meditation there are apps that can guide you through a mindful meditation. Search for “HEADSPACE” or “CALM” in your app store.

Most important – don’t let the stress steal your joy and consume you. Stay well and know we are all in this together!

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan

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Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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