Health and Wellness

Former monk Jay Shetty on how to remain calm, happy and present during COVID-19 pandemic

Photo: Katarina Benzova.

During uncertain times, it's normal to feel anxious. 

"Whenever there's any major change that happens in our life, we naturally experience uncertainty, or unease, or anxiety or pain," Jay Shetty tells CNBC Make It

Shetty is a former Vedic Monk, who for three years spent hours each day fasting, studying and volunteering in India and Europe. Now, at 33, he shares what he learned online, through his podcast and social media.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about change across the board in our lives: from jobs, to relationships, financial stability and health. "Usually we are trying to just deal with changing one area of our life," Shetty says. "The anxiety and the pressure that we feel from changes is extremely heightened right now more than ever before." 

"Considering that we can't change the global uncertainty or what's happening, we can change the personal certainty of what we can do in a day," Shetty says. Here are some tips from Shetty that will help you stay grounded, calm and happy during the pandemic.

Build a routine in your day

Routines are one of the best ways to feel a sense of purpose, Shetty says. Following the simple acronym, TIME, helps him prioritize the most important elements of his day. It stands for:

Thankfulness: Take a moment to be thankful or grateful for a person or place in your life. For example, you could give thanks for old memories from a trip you took, or a time when your family visited you.

"There is so much greatness in our life that our mind tricks us into forgetting," Shetty says.

Insight: "When you feel like your problems are growing, the only way that you can overcome them is when you feel you're growing at the same time," Shetty says.

Read something enriching, dabble in a hobby or learn a small new skill each day, he suggests. "Now you feel better equipped to deal with whatever problem you're going through," he says.

Meditation: Finding moments of peace right now can be a challenge right now, but meditation is one of the best things you can do, Shetty says.

"If we can have a moment of peace, then we get clarity about how to conduct the rest of on days," he says. "We are better in speaking with our partners, we're better at managing on Zoom calls and all the other crazy things we have in our schedule."

If you're new to meditation, Shetty suggests starting with an exercise called "box breathing."

To do it, sit somewhere in your home where you feel the most comfortable and calm. "Breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four and breathe out for a count of four," he says. Continue this for a few minutes.

Most of our stress and anxiety comes when our body and breath aren't aligned, he says. This is one way that you can "create a relaxed breathing pattern," he says.

Exercise: A little movement every day is going to boost your mood, Shetty says. Whether you're working out, running up the stairs in your home or having an at-home dance party, find some way to incorporate exercise, he says.

Let yourself get distracted

Staying productive and motivated while working from home can be a challenge for some people. The reality is that you're going to feel distracted sometimes.

Shetty likes to put an hourglass on his desk, so that when he feels his mind wander, he can take a break for a set amount of time, then get back to work. A kitchen timer or an alarm on your phone will also work.

"It just makes it more fun," Shetty says. "Rather than seeing distraction as a bad thing, I see it as a little reward or a break."

Tap into your senses

How do you stay optimistic when the news is so grim? Shetty says focusing on you your senses is one easy way to stay positive in the face of a pandemic.

First, find something to look at everyday that brings you joy, he says. For example, it could be a piece of art in your home, or a funny video from a past memory.

"Organizing your photo gallery is a great tip for that, because you find things that you forgot actually happened," he says.

Then, indulge in a scent that you find calming, he says. For some people, that might be a lavender candle or a bundle of eucalyptus branches. Others might prefer the smell of baked goods.

"Scent has a certain power over us," he says. Even though you're at home, smells can transform your surroundings and the way you feel.

Finally, make sure your soundtrack is soothing. "If you're listening to the news, that's going to have an impact on your mood," Shetty says.

Make a playlist of your favorite songs that make you happy, or listen to nature sounds on YouTube. Even listening to a comedy album could give you a boost, he says.

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