These days, during the COVID-19 crisis, everyone experiences varying degrees of stress, anxiety, depression, and fear. The world seems overwhelming and unmanageable at times, especially when combined with increased isolation.
What’s more, we often feel at a loss for control or predictability. We don’t know what hard even could be next. It may feel to you like COVID-19 and social distancing will never end. And, it may also feel like there is nothing that we can do to make it better. As a result, our existing stress, anxiety, and depression can increase even more.
Self-care is essential to maintaining mental health in quarantine which may help us feel more in control. 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 in this moment. Maybe it is to put down the phone, and have a water fight with the kids outside. Rather than consuming yourself on what your children are going to do for school in the fall, take some time and read with them or listen to an audiobook with them. 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 videogames. There are also plenty of free online classes, forums, and courses in a variety of topics that you can attend virtually. If you can safely socially distance, seeing a loved one outside can be a very helpful activity, even if you have to be creative to do it.
Take Care of Your Physical Health
Quarantining naturally leads to a more sedentary lifestyle if we don’t create a daily practice. Also, because of boredom, stress, or loneliness, we crave junk food now more than ever. 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 which nourish your physical body. Find creative ways to use fruits and vegetables into your diet. They not only help us feel better, but increase our immunity too. And make wise choices with social distancing and wearing a mask when needed. 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 walk out 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.
Switch up Your Routine
It has become harder to break up our routine with small rewards like going shopping, out to eat, or to the movies. But there are still ways to express spontaneity at home. Make a pillow fort and watch a movie with popcorn. Bake a new recipe. Go for a drive in a new direction. Camp in the backyard. Breaking up the mundane of isolation with fun activities sparks joy and adds purpose back into our lives.
Filter Online Stimulation
Of lately, most 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 the endings and disappointments we’ve faced, 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
If you are sick of being home all day, try making your home seem new. Refreshing your space helps to refresh your perspective. Tidy the place. Donate things that your 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.
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 just because you have more time on your hands.
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.
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 back-yard dinner, but you are not sure about your safety. It is ok to politely decline. Stay true to who you are and your values also help you feel better.
What are some ways you practice self-care?
by Dahlia Garofalo, BA and Cindy Anderson, Ph.D., ABPP
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