COVID-19 has thrown our entire world into crisis. There are few of us, if any, whose lives have not drastically changed due to the pandemic of the novel coronavirus disease. If there was ever a time for self-care, this is it.
For those who enjoy time at home, sheltering in place and observing social distancing might be fine. For those who are usually on the go, it may be nerve-wracking. It may also be stressful having spouses and children at home when they’re usually at work or school. Many people have also been laid off, so being home is especially stressful because it gives them too much time to worry about the future, not to mention added difficulty in finding another job.
Self-care has become a trending phrase, and many people associate it with the misconception of “lazy millennials,” or people who are looking for an excuse to avoid accountability. But nothing could be further from the truth. Every generation has recognized the importance of taking care of yourself. Self-care is simply shorthand for what we’ve always known.
So let’s start by defining what we mean by “self-care.”
What Self-Care Is and Isn’t
...selfish – it’s about making sure you’re at your best so that you can be fully there for others.
...about forcing yourself to do things you hate.
...gender- or activity-specific. Self-care could mean a mani-pedi (which my husband enjoys), but it could also mean watching a football game with your buddies (which my sister-in-law loves).
...about a particular set of beliefs. People of all religions and political persuasions can and should practice taking care of themselves.
...getting enough exercise.
...getting enough sleep.
...something that makes you feel better about yourself.
...something you do with deliberate and conscious intention.
There are different types of self-care: physical, mental, social, spiritual, and emotional.
Physical care includes sleep, exercise and a nutritious diet.
Mental self-care: Are you doing things to keep your mind sharp? This might include reading, watching interesting shows or movies, doing puzzles, etc.
Social self-care involves spending time with others. If you live alone during this time of social distancing, be sure to reach out over the phone or video conference.
Spiritual self-care may involve practicing religion or prayer, or it may involve self-reflection or meditative practices.
Emotional care is essential for resilience and coping during times of stress. It involves having a healthy outlet to express your emotions and talk about your feelings to someone who listens and understands.
How to Self-Care
Do what works for you. If someone tells you to try a self-care routine that sounds tortuous to you, feel free to ignore that advice.
Fill the self-care need you’re feeling now. Take the time to figure out what need is most present in your life right now. Keep in mind this might change over time or depending on the circumstance.
Do it actively – plan it, schedule it, commit to it, and let others know you’re doing it so they can help you stick to your goal.
Schedule time for daily self-care that includes time for healthy meal-planning, exercise, 7-8 hours of sleep, and time to meditate or quietly unwind.
If you find your schedule is too packed with things you’re doing for others, start saying “no” more often. This is especially true if these are things people can do for themselves – including (or especially) children. Once your child is old enough to take on a certain responsibility, it’s in their best interest to start doing it, and in your best interest to stop.
Self-Care Suggestions and Links
If you’re new to self-care, or if you’re finding your normal self-care activities aren’t working right now, here are some things to try. Pick something that sounds good to you. If it doesn’t work for you, try something else.
Exercise in a way that makes it fun for you.
Love working out? Try one of these free workouts online from Peloton, Nike and more.
Hate working out? Try dancing. Cleaning house. Here are 40 ways to exercise without realizing it, and many of them can be done while maintaining social distancing.
Eat a balanced diet of nutritious foods that you enjoy.
Even if you’re not a health-food aficionado, there are no doubt some nutritious foods you like. Can’t stand kale? That’s fine. Eat more cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, artichoke, beets, or other types of greens you like better. Hate avocado? Eat more hummus, bananas, peanut butter or edamame.
And if you love to bake, here’s a link to free live baking classes by Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi. Not sure how healthy these sweet treats are, but if you balance them with nutritious food, that’s a balanced diet, right?
Get enough sleep.
Adults need about seven to eight hours of sleep per night to function at their best. If you typically don’t sleep that much, this is a great time to start cultivating that healthy habit.
Start a meditation practice, even for just a few minutes a day.
If you’re not sure how to meditate, there are great guided meditations online, and you can probably find one that sounds interesting to you.
If you’re not interested in a guided meditation, simply spend some time reflecting in silence. Simple mindfulness meditation practices include:
Focusing on your breath.
Doing a body scan to relax your muscles.
Focus on the sounds and feelings in the present moment, and allow your thoughts to come and go without holding on to them.
As you feel yourself becoming lost in thought (and you will), simply recognize it, let it go, and return to focusing on your breath.
One method that many people find helpful in dealing with stress, crisis, anxiety, anger, or other emotions is the RAIN method – Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Non-identification:
Recognize the emotion you’re feeling, giving it a name. “I’m frightened,” or “I’m angry,” or “I’m overwhelmed.”
Allow the feeling. That’s not the same as condoning the feeling, but simply allowing yourself the freedom to feel the way you feel. “It’s OK to feel frightened or angry or overwhelmed. I accept that it’s how I feel right now, in this moment.”
Investigate – not so much why you feel the way you do, because you don’t want to reinforce the feeling. Investigate how your body is responding to that feeling. Are your shoulders tense? Are you clenching your jaw? Do you feel it in the pit of your stomach?
Not identifying yourself with the feeling means understanding that feelings are temporary. How you feel right now is not who you are.
The “N” could also stand for nurturing or practicing self-compassion. If your child or someone you love dearly were feeling how you’re feeling, what would you say or do to help them? How would you want to make them feel? Do that for yourself.
Organize your home and your life.
Marie Kondo’s tidying process has helped many people reduce the clutter in both their homes and their minds, leaving only that which brings you joy. You don’t have to commit to that particular form, but spending some time putting order to areas that seem chaotic can be therapeutic and have practical benefits, too.
Go outside more often. If you like to walk or run, this can help you fill your need to exercise, while you’re getting fresh air, a change in perspective, and some Vitamin D from the sun.
Play. If you have kids or pets, spend some time with them each day simply playing, with no other goal.
Unplug for a while each day. Meditate, walk or run in silence. Get off social media. Turn off the news. Put away the technology for a set period each day.
Do something that makes you laugh out loud. For me, it’s reading the “Damn You, Autocorrect” lists. I don’t know why, but they crack me up every time.Read something uplifting, like our #SilverLinings blog post.
Do a spa day at home.
Try a home-made facial, soak in a tub with Epsom salts, give yourself a manicure or a barber-shop worthy shave with a hot towel.
A gratitude journal might help.
Keeping a gratitude journal might be just the thing to remind you of everything you have to be thankful for. You may want to do it daily, but that might feel like too much. One study showed that once a week is about right for most people. They’re not for everyone, though, so if it doesn’t work for you, that’s OK too. Try something else.
If one or more of the above suggestions helped you take better care of yourself, that’s great. If not, find something that does.
If you do find something different, we’d love to hear about it, and other readers might find it useful as well!