Self-care in the Time of COVID-19
This week we will be exploring some ideas and tools to help us manage our mental health, as well as maintain (and strengthen) the relationships we have with our families and loved ones. Most of us are used to being outside our homes and apartments for long periods of time during the day while we are at work and school, in addition to many extracurricular activities, such as sports/exercise, church, and clubs/groups we belong to, and spending time with our extended families and friends. The social distancing and quarantine mandates resulting from the COVID-19 crisis have brought many of us closer (literally) to our families and loved ones as we are now all at home, together, a lot. This, too, will take some adjustment, for us as we continue to stakeout our at-home workspaces, try to develop a “new” routine and schedule, and attend to our usual responsibilities.
We hope the information provided is helpful to you and your families (even if you are not in the same household) as you face some of the stressors of dealing with your “new” normal at home. We know that this crisis has increased the level of stress and anxiety for so many of us; the same stressors, anxieties, and frustrations that we experience also take a toll on our relationships with families, loved ones, and friends. Managing our work/study schedules and household responsibilities, while also taking care of ourselves and our loved ones, on a good day is a challenge. The COVID-19 crisis has added new challenges for many of us such as difficulties managing finances, challenges in parenting, re-arranging childcare, and caring for our aging parents or compromised family members, or caring for our friends/loved ones who area sick, emotionally drained, etc.
Tune in this week for tips on how to maintain your mental health and wellness, along with that of your family/loved ones, while simultaneously attending to the various challenges families and loved ones may be face with during this stressful time.
As always, part of our LECOM family, we are available to provide support and help with questions or assist you with a referral to mental health services.
Self-Care in the Time of Coronavirus
Taking care of yourself is not a luxury; it is essential. Self-Care (attending to our own physical, mental, and emotional needs) helps us boost our self-esteem, be more productive at work/school, build up a stronger resistance to disease and illness, etc. and benefits our friends and families. Unfortunately, the demands of life (e.g. school, work, being in a romantic relationship, being a parent, caring for elder/immunocompromised family members/friends, etc.) sometimes lead us to push self-care to the bottom of our list of responsibilities.
Prioritizing your own wellbeing and self-care is something mental health professionals stress all the time, but it is especially important during difficult times, such as the one we all face with COVID-19. During this difficult time, when children are home, your roommates/partners/family members are at home and stress is running high, it is more important than ever.
Here are five (5) basic tips to help you get started.
Make Time for Yourself:
Right now, much of the personal time that was part of daily routines — commutes, time alone at home or at the store, social time with friends, etc. is not available for most folks. This is especially true if your roommate or partner/spouse is now at home or if you have children at home. Without this, we have to be “intentional” about creating space to recharge and decompress. Ideas include:
taking a shower or a hot bath,
taking a walk around the block alone (or with your dog),
designating time to read or watch a show alone,
designating a spot to “zone out” alone,
using a spare room or lanai as a “vacation” spot,
planning for adult or couples time after the kids have gone to bed, etc.
Prioritize Healthy Choices:
The added stress and lack of structure we’re all experiencing right now can make it very easy to slip into “habits” that feel good now, in the moment, but can be detrimental in the long run. Taking care of our bodies is vital not just to stay alive but doing this also helps us ward off the negative effects of stress. While some of this may seem quite elementary… it is easy to slip into “stinkin’ thinkin’ such as “I am not going anywhere, anyway”, or “no one will see me” , or “they (family) have seen me worse”, etc. Remember, your body is your “temple” and you must honor and respect it.
Maintain physical hygiene:
Wash up/bathe, brush your teeth, your hair, etc. everyday.
Put on clean clothes every day.
Make healthy food and drink choices (less sugar, lass fat, and more nutrition).
Eat meals regularly (3-4 meals each day)
Do not skip any meals.
Minimize/eliminate alcohol intake.
Practice good Sleep Hygiene.
Keep a schedule that is like what you were doing at work/school.
Maintain a fairly consistent sleep schedule; Go to bed and wake up around the same times.
Get 7-9 hours of sound sleep each night
Keep lighting off or very dark while sleeping and remove any blue lights from the sleep area.
Make your bed every morning.
Keep a schedule and create a routine. Plan your days and time but do not forget to leave some time to be spontaneous and play. Use your usual schedule as a guide.
Stay physically active/exercise: This is NOT the time to stop or start a new routine or pressure yourself into “getting in shape” or not eating ice cream or binge-watching your favorite T.V. show. It IS a time to be more “intentional” about your level of activity or lack thereof. It does mean being thoughtful and “intentional” about how you are moving or not moving and treating yourself and your body.
Yes, the gyms are closed… but the sidewalks are not. Be creative and innovative and have some fun. Just remember to practice social distancing.
Go for a walk/bike ride.
Go on a Scavenger Hunt.
Play catch/tennis/cornhole, etc.
Play frisbee in your yard; do the “hula-hoop” jump rope, etc.
Watch Yoga/Exercise Classes on DVD or online. YouTube has thousands.
Play “Simon Says” or “Mother May I” or Twister.
Have an Indoor Dance Party.
“Perfectionism and the coronavirus don’t mix,” says David Anderson, PhD, a clinical Psychologist at CMI. Now IS the time It’s time to be exceedingly realistic, both at work and at home; whether you are single, involved, married or whether you have children or not. Avoid burnout by setting realistic expectations for work, home, and play.
Set realistic goals for the time we are living in. It is great to plan for the future, but given our current circumstances, we need to also give ourselves room for flexibility and space.
Give yourself grace when you cannot meet some of the “realistic” goals you have set.
Practice forgiveness and self-compassion and remind yourself that these are unprecedented times. There is NO manual, playbook, or protocol for us to cling to. We must build our own … that also means we can make it unique and to fit our needs. Most importantly, cut yourself some slack…. We are all doing the best we can under incredibly unique and trying times.
Everyone is a bit anxious right now and feeling “stressed” is rampant. With so much worry, anxiety, and uncertainty floating around it is easy to absorb other people’s fears and concerns without even realizing it. If you have a friend or family member who’s in the habit of sharing worst-case-scenario news or is prone to sending anxiety-provoking text messages, you will need to practice a little “emotional” distancing. Let them know that you care and you are interested but that you are trying to manage the flow of information coming into your world and limiting your exposure to troublesome news and negative information; or better yet, use the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your phone, you can always reconnect when things are mentally ready or things are calmer.
Reconnect with things you enjoy:
Think proactively of things you can do with this enforced time at home. Get back in touch with your hobbies or activities that you enjoy but rarely have time for, or make the choice to learn a new skill. Maybe there’s a knitting project you’ve always wanted to try, but you’ve been too busy; or you’ve been meaning to learn how to needlepoint. Maybe you love to paint or do puzzles, but because you are so busy all the time rushing between work, school, home, and caring for loved ones. it’s been years since you had the time to do it. If young children make solo activities unrealistic, seek out activities you can do and enjoy together, like baking bread, coloring, listening to music, or making art.
Finally, remember, being kind to yourself will not only help you stay calm during this difficult time, it will help ensure that you have the bandwidth you need to take good care of your family. When you’re running on fumes, caring for others can tax your already depleted resources and bring you to a breaking point. But when you prioritize your needs, you’re filling the “reserve” tank, emotionally and physically, and that means you’ll be in a better position to be compassionate toward others and to offer comfort and care to others when they need it most.
Take your “staycation” to the next level. Once a week, plan a morning, afternoon, or evening, to take a vacation. Try one of the following ideas or think of your own and HAVE FUN!
Plan a picnic lunch in the family room on the floor.
Take a Virtual Museum Tour.
Find a Webcam from a desired travel spot and watch it on TV for at least an hour.
Have a beach day on your lanai or in your yard.
Try cooking food from a different culture.
No pool: put on your bathing suits and break out the “sprinkler” to run through.