Tending to mind, body and soul

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Atlantans look for ways to de-stress and deal with the new normal.

Thousands of Atlantans are trying to relieve stress by baking desserts — or at least eating them. Isn’t it ironic that stressed is desserts spelled backwards? Either way, people are anxiously looking for ways to chill. For some, it’s exercise, mediation walks and gardening. For others, perhaps it’s driving in the country, cleaning house or completing puzzles. These unique times require a holistic approach to your well-being. So, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shares ways to care for your mind, body and soul.

New interests

“If you told me five months ago that I would spend hours working on puzzles, I would have said you were crazy,” says Mark Woolard, an entrepreneur based in Marietta.

Woolard is like many who, during the pandemic, found new hobbies to pass the time and relax. He gave his two-and-a-half-year-old grandson, William, a set of bongos for his birthday, and William returned the favor for his grandfather’s birthday. “We do Zoom bongo sessions, and I’m not musically inclined, but I wanted to learn how to really play. It provides a little bit of escape. For an hour, I’m off doing my thing, and it serves a purpose because I’m actually learning something.”

Woolard swears he is not banging to get his frustrations out; instead “it’s more like getting into the groove of music and feeling that pulse and flow.”

Pinewood Forest resident Shauna Galligan is a stunt woman who has appeared in several Marvel movies. With the entertainment industry shut down, she turned to animal rescuing. “I saw a baby squirrel freezing by a tree.” She rehabbed it and then a couple of more, even when they required round-the-clock care. She drove a dumpster dog to a new home in Los Angeles. “I had to focus on doing something for somebody — of being of service,” she says. “We’ve lost our purpose, our routine, our jobs. I had to find something that will keep my spirit connected to something I’m passionate about — animal rescues. I like contributing to this world instead of waiting around for life to happen again.”

Turning your life right-side up

Charlie Levy, 24, just graduated from Dartmouth College with a five-year engineering degree and was ready to start his new life. He planned to move to Seattle and already had several verbal job offers. Then came the letters and emails informing him of a hiring freeze. So, he moved back with his family in Morningside and temporarily re-set his life.

“I definitely had days where I thought I’d be living with my mom for the rest of my life and waking up at noon,” he says. “I knew that wasn’t the norm but I wasn’t that motivated to keep busy. I was binging on tv and realized that I was going through the same steps every day with nothing changing. Hobbies can only sustain you for so long. I had to force a faux routine and then start doing things.”

With so much political and racial strife in Atlanta, he decided to volunteer with SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) that works to end white supremacy. He helps in expanding its base education programs and taking part in “lots of zoom calls.” He also started an internship with a design firm. “I needed to get out of the house.”

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Staying in touch

JoAnne Donner pivoted from being a mediator to a personal transition coach. Her company, Donner Coaching, assists those with life transitions, including challenges related to COVID-19. A former writer, Donner penned articles on how people were coping and interviewed people all over the country from a 15-year-old to a 90-year-old.

Happiness, she says, relies on personal connection. “People are wired for human connection. People are renewing friendships. It’s life-affirming. I had one person get on Facebook and connect with high school friends from 40 years ago. It warms the heart.”

She notes that when someone reaches out, the response is “being welcomed with open arms. All we have now is each other, and we all have to make the most of it.”

Mindful connections

Tokea Morales, owner of By Design Consulting Solutions, assists people with transformations. She believes the key to destress is to realize — and take back — your power. “You can be an irrational optimist and ignore what’s going on. Or you can be a total pessimist, and your brain starts to think you can’t move forward. You have to have a rational middle ground. You need to still have hope despite the times.”

Like Donner, she believes in the power of personal connections and to be grateful for people and memories. “Train your brain to scan the environment for things you’re grateful for. Spend 21 days rewiring your brain to be grateful; exercise for 15 minutes a day; meditate for two minutes a day and keep a journal. You will see a difference, and it doesn’t take a lot of time or money.”

Mandy Roberts, owner of Decatur’s FORM Yoga, agrees that being present in life is key. “Our brains love a habit so work into your schedule something that is worthwhile. Anchor your body by concentrating on your breathing. It’s crazy to think about but mindfully slow down your breathing and come into the present without judgment but with compassion and curiosity.”

And, of course, treatments

Heal Thyself Atlanta is a Grant Park wellness salon that offers services such as colon hydrotherapy, V-steam, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, Chakra Balance Crystal Healing and Emotional Freedom Techniques. “Since we’ve re-opened, we’re getting more bookings because people are looking to destress. There is a lot of stress. People have to let go of things,” says co-owner Lala Huseynova. She suggests a colonic to clean the gut of toxins and a massage to align the spine from stress.

Kirkwood resident Tara Murphy, owner of the public relations agency 360 Media, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago and assembled a “healing tribe”. “Whether you have an illness or have trouble dealing with COVID, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole. You need a lot of coping mechanisms. When something like this happens, you have to figure it out and fight it.”

Murphy relies on several holistic treatments, all designed to heal her body, reduce negativity and fight stress. Acupuncture keeps the energy flowing and helps her feel grounded and less stressed. She visits a chiropractor and goes to Hydra + in Virginia-Highland for vitamin IVs and hydrogen-oxygen therapy. “I go there when I’m tired or feeling off. The treatments reset your mood and you’re not depressed and stagnant.”

She also does restorative yoga coupled with a neuromuscular massage. “When I feel my body shutting down, I go there. I also learned that baths with Epsom salts reduce stress. You have to do it often; it’s not a one-and-done thing.”

Time in the fridge

The “game-changer” was Icebox Cryotherapy Midtown where Murphy is submerged in ultra-low temperates as cold as -256 degrees. “It gives me energy and puts me in a good mood.” She is such a fan of cryotherapy that, before the business re-opened recently, she spent time in a friend’s restaurant freezer.

“I was worried that so many of my healing tribe was closed but you can get a lot online,” she says. “It’s so easy to get overwhelmed. We’re all going through a situation where our world is rocked. What we thought was normal isn’t,” she says. “We’ve had to adjust and shift. It’s making us think about what’s important. I have friends and music and my dog and my garden, and it takes my mind off everything.”

As for Levy, who says that he’s also enjoyed hiking in the North Georgia mountains and spending time with his family, he is back on track. “It’s been awfully nice having this time with my family,” he says. He just got a firm offer and signed a lease on an apartment in Seattle.