Steps to Self-Care
With the spread of COVID-19, now more than ever self-care is critical.
I’m used to working alone – in my home office – but if being away from an office or corporate environment is new to you, what can you do?
In my BE FREE Blueprint® emotional (and spiritual) health is one of the six key principles. Self-care is about maintaining a healthy mental state. Right now let’s focus on that – secrets to self-care.
Here are some ideas to maintain sanity during these challenging times of physical (social) distancing and while we’re in quarantine.
1. Take a shower
I’m serious. Take a shower and get dressed. It’s easy to want to sit around and work in PJs but taking time to get dressed and look nice is a game-changer.
I’ve been working at home for over 10 years and know the temptation to stay as you are after awakening. I mean, no one will see you, right? (Of course, unless there are others in your household.)
Look your best.
2. Keep a positive attitude
I was on the phone with a good friend the other day. It was still early in the morning and she asked me why I sounded so chipper. I wondered, why did I?
I don’t have room for negativity. My business will probably take a hit like many, but I think how much worse it could be. I think of those in the service industry or any industry where doors are closed. People with families to feed yet working minimum wage.
Yes, things could be worse.
A sure way to keep yourself stuck is living “in the negative.” There’s much we don’t have control over, yet a lot we do. Is your head – your thinking – in the right place? If you believe you can, you will. If you believe you can’t, you won’t.
Imagine having a bucket. A bucket filled with good stuff – love/ positivity/ faith/ friends/ family/ gratitude. When we’re in a healthy state of mind our bucket may drain some but it’s easier to fill it up. What about more challenging times like now?
If there is a gaping hole in your bucket that’s draining faster than you can fill it? What can you do?
- Phone a friend.
- Check-in on someone who may need extra attention.
- Pop outside for fresh air.
- Write a “thinking of you” note.
- Write in your journal (see below).
- Take the dog for a walk.
- Stretch—do simple yoga poses like downward dog and child’s pose.
- Take deep focusing breaths—mindful meditation.
- Play (with the kids or dog or kitty).
You’ve got the idea. Go ahead and add your own.
When in that moment you feel paralyzed and don’t know what to do, jot down a few ideas—your go-to ideas—to remind yourself to refill your bucket when it is emptying.
Our situations may not be identical, but we’re all experiencing this global pandemic. How are we dealing with it? I’m reminded of a quote by Charles Swindoll, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
What’s one thing you can do right now to move forward and feel better? How about simply taking a few deep breaths? When you inhale deeply, think love and positivity and on the exhale, breathe out concern and negativity.
3. Stay connected (OR do a digital detox)
Could you imagine if this pandemic happened in 1999? If we seem isolated now, imagine if it were twenty years ago, before the wide use of social media.
Create a sense of community wherever the most support is. For some it’s in Facebook groups, for others, it’s their NextDoor app. For others, it’s face-timing family.
Consider though if your online connection creates anxiety…find an alternative. You might need to:
Do a digital detox
If your mind is not in a good place or you gravitate to points on the internet causing anxiety, it might be best to stay off social media and the internet. I know some people are overwhelmed by the information and being online or watching the news makes it worse. Pull the plug and disconnect.
Realize it’s times like these where hucksters come out of the woodwork, preying upon susceptible people. Check the information on the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) website. In a recent FTC blog post… Sprays and pills that cure it all? Not true.
4. Quiet your mind
You’ve been thinking about starting a meditation practice so wouldn’t this be a great time to start? There’s no need to think of meditation as all woo-woo-y. I don’t – it is simply my morning quiet time, my routine.
Briefly though, with my cup of coffee, I sit in a huge comfy chair in my home office. It’s big enough for my Great Dane Lex to squeeze in next to me. Sometimes I write (see below Use the power of the pen) but I always read from a daily meditation-type book. I’ll say some prayers and focus on deep breathing. Then I’ll do my daily habit of writing what made me happy. (See below.)
One client’s me time was immediately when she got home from a long commute. She would make herself a cup of tea and sit on her sun porch. You might not have a commute, but after your workday allow yourself time to decompress. Another client used a few minutes before she fell asleep.
Most importantly – start to build the habit.
Review your routine. When is your ideal time? Mine is shortly after awakening before my day gets started. It’s been my habit for decades. If you have never done this, it may be challenging. Here’s how to start now.
- Find a comfortable spot. It might be the corner of a room, your bedroom, a sun porch in a comfy chair. Or by the fire in the living room. Designate it as your space for your me time.
- Make a commitment to sit there at the designated time – it might be morning or at day’s end. Whatever fits your schedule.
- Set an intention to sit for a few minutes. Start teeny tiny. Don’t think you need to sit for 20 minutes. When you set a target too big it may be too much and then too easy to get out of practice. That’s how behaviors stall and fizzle.
- The best way to start a habit that will be ongoing long-term is to simply begin. Set your intention at 2 – 5 minutes to start. Just do it. If you do more time, bonus points!
5. Use the power of the pen
Research identifies allowing 15 – 20 minutes sitting and writing can help in many ways including reducing stress, decreasing blood pressure, improving immune function, and improving the outlook on your life.
How does it work? There is something quite effective about getting stuff out of your head, removing the itty-bitty shitty clutter. It can make the difference between comfort and contentment and discomfort and discontentment.
When to journal? I take time during my morning routine. I’m already in the habit of sitting and drinking my coffee, so it’s perfect for me. It’s interesting how my journaling evolved over many years.
At times I write pages and pages, possibly every day. Over the years my journal may have lasted years and other journals only a few months to fill. I notice it’s proportional to what’s happening in my life – how much drama. Sometimes I’ve got the equivalent to a feature-length film and other times, just a short vignette.
Journaling can be an incredible release.
Some thoughts for journaling:
- Is someone (spouse, parent, child, friend, coworker, relative) upsetting/frustrating you? Are you allowing her or him or it to live rent-free in your head? Write a letter (of course not to mail). Start with Dear ____ and let the words flow.
- Is something upsetting you? Write a letter to it. Why not write a letter to COVID-19?
- Need a prompt? There are numerous apps but one I’ve used is, Brainsparker. It shows a word or two or asks a question or shows a picture. Flip thru until you find something of interest then write.
Getting your thoughts out may take practice but it is a healing process. Many clients who’ve started find it empowering.
If not writing, why not have a small object to hold…
Think of some small thing you can hold in your hand. Consider it a reminder or symbol.
For many years I held a crystal picked up in Sedona, Arizona. Now I keep it in my car in the console beside me—a perfect tool when traffic is getting the better of me. Holding it helps center me.
The stone I now hold in the morning is one I found on the shores of New Zealand—it’s perfectly sized and smooth as silk. It’s my touchstone and grounds me.
Or maybe you’d like to do this…
7. Consider a happiness jar
I wrote a blog post: What Makes You Happy? Neily’s Happiness Jar in January 2017 after beginning the practice the year before. It is a habit I’ve continued to this day.
Every morning I write on a colorful slip of paper what made me happy the day before. Then it goes into Neily’s Happiness Jar.
Others make a gratitude list or a gratitude journal. I know some people do it at night, some in the morning. I think the best time is when you’ll remember, like when you’re taking your quiet time. Whatever works! You do you.
What will you do?
Although we’ve never experienced a pandemic like COVID-19 before, it’s like any event we meet with difficulty. Self-care is always – will always – be essential to emotional health.
Remember the importance of taking care of yourself because when you take care of yourself, you’re in a better place to take care of others. (What does the flight attendant always say? Put your oxygen mask on first!)
I’ve touched on a few self-care ideas – mostly those focused on emotional health. I’m going to dive deeper into other components of my BE FREE Blueprint® over the next few weeks – food/nutrition, exercise, rest, and more.
Regarding self-care though, what helps you most with maintaining emotional health? As a reminder…
- Take a shower.
- Keep a positive mental attitude.
- Stay connected…or not (whatever helps you most!)
- Adopt your own quiet time practice.
- Keep your journal handy and write.
- Find a special soothing stone or rock or other object to hold.
- Start your own happiness jar.
Despite what the country is facing, what the world is facing, I appreciate the words of Retired Admiral William McRaven in a recent Washington Post opinion piece. “…we will prevail, because the only thing more contagious than a virus is hope.”
What additional thoughts do you have?
Listen to my Neily on Nutrition Facebook Live on this topic.
Image credits: pixabay.com, NeilyonNutrition.com
Jennifer “Neily” Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach