These days, there is a lot going on in the world. We are coping with scary diseases, job changes, job locations, and health changes. Many of us have lost loved ones since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Given all of these things, varying degrees of stress, anxiety, depression, and fear are common. Life can feel pretty overwhelming, and we may feel at a loss for control or predictability. These are such big issues that sometimes we don’t feel like we can make anything better.
Self-care is essential to maintaining mental health. Personal care provides a sense of purpose, agency, and fulfillment in our lives. It helps us to slow down and appreciate things about the world and ourselves that we once took for granted.
Your self-care routine remains unique to your personality, needs, limitations, and preferences. Still, it can be hard learning how to integrate self-care into your daily life. Below are some self-care practices to help you get started.
Take One Day, One Moment at a Time
It is really easy to look ahead and tell ourselves, “This is never going to be over,” or “This is going on sooooo long.” Another way of coping is to try to stay focused on today, and then even down to this moment. Notice everything around you, and concentrate on what you can do at this moment. Maybe it is to put down the phone and play outside. Instead of setting future goals, consider some small things that you can complete today, where you are. If we can improve the moment, and take one moment at a time, the future will take care of itself.
Stay Connected with the Outside World
Staying in touch helps to create perspective. As social creatures, we need to tap into that primal need when we feel disconnected. Call your mother, write a letter to a loved one, facetime your partner, or chat with a friend while playing video games. If it is safe, taking time to connect with loved ones is important, probably now more than ever.
Take Care of Your Physical Health
For many, quarantining during COVID led to a more sedentary lifestyle. Also, under stress, many people crave (and consume) more junk food than what is good for them. Take small steps towards keeping your physical health in check. What type of exercise energizes you? What types of foods energize you? Incorporate practices into your life that nourish your physical body. Find creative ways to use fruits and vegetables in your diet. They not only help us feel better but increase our immunity too. Make sure that you see your physicians regularly again. Ultimately, the healthier you are, the better you will feel.
Fresh air and sunlight work wonders for mental health. If able, try going on a hike or walking in nature. Observe the blooming flowers, the earth beneath your feet, and the chattering of squirrels. Sit on your porch or in your backyard for half an hour a day. Smell the scents of pine and earth as you walk through the forest. Turn off the air conditioning on cooler days and open the windows. Just like we need connection with people, we need connection with the natural world too.
Filter Online Stimulation
Much of our stimulation and human connection filters through the internet. It’s a blessing to live with such a powerful tool at our fingertips, but too much social media and news affects mental health. The media often focuses on the worst of the world, creating fear and helplessness if obsessed over. Likewise, obsessing over other people’s lives on social media has the potential to reduce self-esteem through social comparison.
It’s important to identify your online triggers. Do you get stressed out every time you watch the news for more than fifteen minutes? Do you feel small in the light of your sister’s Instagram story? Stay away from all that makes you insecure, depressed, angry, helpless, and irritable. Invite into your life what makes you feel capable and connected.
Express Your Creativity
In light of all that we have experienced in the last few years, creating gives us hope and purpose. What project have you always wanted to try? What hobby have you always wanted to pick up? Buy some yarn and a crochet hook. Pull out the old watercolor paper. Blow the dust off your wood carving or bead-making set. Start baking, gardening, or trimming bushes into whimsical creatures. Use your creativity to express and renew yourself.
Make your Space Enjoyable to Live in
After spending so much time at our homes the last number of years, it may help to try making your home seem new. Refreshing your space may refresh your perspective. Tidy the place. Donate things that you don’t use or need. Move your furniture. Gather fresh-cut flowers or herbs on the windowsill. Burn candles or spray lavender around the living room. Play ambient noise in the background. Tackle some small projects that you have been putting off. Small things can, and often do, improve our mental health by improving the moment.
Its Ok to Set Boundaries
As part of being kind and gentle with yourself, give yourself permission to say no to things as well. Maybe someone expects you to do more than your part on a work project. It is ok to talk about that and ask for more assistance. Maybe someone invites you over for a backyard dinner, but you need more time alone or with your family. It is ok to politely decline. Stay true to who you are and your values also help you feel better.
Be Gentle with Yourself
Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do everything or even anything on this list right now. You are not lazy, unmotivated, or unproductive. Few of us maintain optimal energy levels to take on large projects and habits presently. You are not required to be productive all the time.
Self-care revolves around recharging your body, mind, and soul. But you may not contain the energy to incorporate everything on this list into your life right away. Take small steps and practice self-compassion.
What are some ways you practice self-care?
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