Quarantine: Our Mental Wellness Matters

April 10, 2020
Caucasian woman performing a neck stretch

Quarantine: Our Mental Wellness Matters

Written by Matthew Blair Davis

It's been two weeks for most and we feel the walls closing in... A life-changing pandemic has crippled our lives and everything has stopped. For some, like me, no job to work and no place to go. We are worried about this horrible virus spreading, worried about money, family members in multiple states might have the virus, and family members in your own home right now could be driving you mad. The stress is building.

As a certified personal trainer of 23-years, my job is usually based on the physical side of improvement. I'm hired to increase an individual's wellness, but that doesn't always involve the physical component. Most of my peers are designing at-home workouts for our MUSC members to stay fit during these worrisome times, or you are "zooming" live workouts while watching your device's screen. This is all beneficial in a multitude of ways.


My biggest concern right now is the mental and emotional state of our MUSC members. Exercise is first and foremost a "stressor", and don't we have enough stress in our lives after two weeks of quarantine? How do we limit our daily mental and emotional chaos, during these stressful times? The last thing you need at home right now are 60 burpees and squat jumps. What I prefer are 60 minutes of daily stretching, breathing, and reflection. Do what makes you feel good, not what breaks you down.


Has your shoulder been acting up on you? Has your foot, knee, or hip been giving you trouble? Now is a great time to get on the floor, hold some positions you don't normally get into, and focus on some deep breaths. Nothing cures stress like a focus on your own breathing, the most neglected movement of the day. 


Like moving, breathing is "innate", but also like moving you can be taught to do it in a more optimal manner. Far too often, we take shallow breaths as the shoulders rise up, creating pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulder musculature. If we can learn to use the diaphragm, breathe with our belly as well as expanding the rib cage 360 degrees via deep breaths, it's a game-changer. Exhale long, until there's nothing left to get out. Just focusing on breathing alone will relax your body.


When it comes to stretching, always take a "global" approach. There's no need to spend 20 minutes stretching your hamstrings when your hip flexors, calves, chest, biceps, front shoulders, and neck all probably need it as well. There are certain areas that get chronically locked in position through your own life activities. You'll be amazed at the decrease in joint pain when you stretch the musculature surrounding the ankles, hips, shoulders, and neck. It's like a hydrating bath for the joints. Now you have the available hours to enjoy this daily. 


Again, at home these days do what makes you feel good, not what breaks you down. Do those things you never had time to do before. Personally, I'm spending many more hours with my 9-year old daughter, helping with home school and playing nightly board games. We're making exercise videos for web sites and watching some of her favorite YouTube channels. It's a time to learn more about your own family, and what you learn might just fascinate you. It's a time for reflection.


I'm doing what I enjoy to pass the time. Every day, I'm reading and watching videos on-line to improve my craft. If I have this time to get better, why not take advantage of it? What are you doing each day to better yourself now that you have the time to do so? Dwell on the positives in this situation, embrace it's uniqueness, and at the end you'll come away refreshed and itching to get back to your previous daily grind. 


For complimentary tips on stretching or breathing techniques to de-stress, feel free to email me at davmatth@musc.edu or find me on Facebook @matthewblairdavis for direct messaging.