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.
At times I have a few minutes but often I spend more time. It’s my me time. It sets the tone for my day. In another post, I’ll talk about my personal morning routine in more detail.
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
Have you ever used a diary or journal to write – to get thoughts out of your head? It’s powerful. Consider it free therapy for yourself.
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…
6. Find yourself a soothing stone
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
Thanks Neva! How are you taking care of yourself these days?
Thank you! Agree! yes, take a shower and wash your hair! Wash your clothes, jacket or coat!!
My pilates ball and weights are out now…great reminder Neily Nutrition!! …. I never use them as much as I should, but now it’s critical to get the exercise we need daily. You motivated me !! <3
Glad you liked the post Jane! Take care of yourself and your family!
I like your advice! Even though I stay at home, sometimes I still dresses up and wear perfect makeup. Also,it helps feelings positive attitude when I dresses up. Haha
To be honest,I have never talked much to friends who are in my country since I came to U.S.Because of this time,I have a lot of time to talk to them about my life and school. And,I’m happy that they still remember me.
I’m so pleased you enjoyed my blog post! Thanks for your comment.
Love these advices! I usually take a shower to relieve the stress and it’s absolutely effective.
Glad you liked the post!
Great post! I love that it was so practical simple things that you can put into action to make a huge difference. Our perspective is so important. This reminds me of a proverb from the Bible that says”As a man think so he is”. Our minds are where the battle starts. Yes, this pandemic is awful,but in the mist of the craziness there’s so much to be grateful for. Being other’s focus has made a difference for me. I feel much upbeat the days that I volunteer at a local food pantry.
I’ve also started writing down at least 1 thing I’m thankful for each night before I go to sleep to keep perspective. Thanks for sharing!
Yay! My happiness jar….I have a whole blog post about that you might have seen. What Makes You Happy? | Introducing Neily’s Happiness Jar
Great post! I love that it was so practical simple things that you can put into action to make a huge difference. Our perspective is so important. This reminds me of a proverb from the Bible that says”As a man thinks so he is”. Our minds are where the battle starts. Yes, this pandemic is awful,but in the mist of the craziness there’s so much to be grateful for. Being other’s focus has made a difference for me. I feel more upbeat on the days that I volunteer at a local food pantry
I’ve also started writing down at least 1 thing I’m thankful for each night before I go to sleep to keep perspective. My time in the Bible grounds me and encourage me, but I need to add more space for silence in my life unplug more often than I do right now. Thanks for sharing!
I love all these ideas Neily! One of my favorites that I have picked up this year is journaling. It has helped me so so much in letting all my negative thoughts out. Before I started journaling my thoughts, I always felt like it was better to talk to someone about my thoughts, but I’ve realized that I prefer to write them down. I want to see what I’m thinking you can say. Also, when I write about positive things I like to look back and reread what I wrote. Thank you so much for sharing these!
Thanks Kasie! I love journaling too – one of THE most therapeutic things to do. Thanks for your comment.
Great points for difficult times! I happen to broke my arm a few weeks before we went into quarantine, and keeping an attitude was really difficult! So, I got the opportunity to practice gratitude by writing what was a “pro” of my situation VS “why did this happen to me?”!
Great attitude Jenniffer! Thanks for your comment.
these are great tips- simple but effective!I especially like the idea of of happiness jar . Remembering what we are grateful for is always a good way to stay positive,no matter the circumstances
Glad you found them helpful!
Thank you for this post! I agree with the first point a lot because when I first moved from working in the office to home, I would NOT get ready and I always felt sad. Now I actually get ready and it’s such a mood and confidence booster!
It DOES make a huge difference when you ‘get ready’ when working from home. Thanks for your comment Leticia!
The article is great and the information is necessary for all of us during this pandemic
That was one of my first posts when the pandemic hit! How are you taking care of yourself?
I have met/interacted with very few people in my life that actually have a positive influence on my life and you will be very proud to know that you are one of those. What an amazing article. It felt as if I was reading pages from my personal diary! I share I, too, consider myself to be a positive person, always trying to find good in every situation. Like you, I also believe that if you want to keep yourself stuck, just continue thinking negative. One thing that I always teach my two young daughters is that ‘What you think, you become’. If you think you are stupid, you start acting stupid. If you think you are amazing, you will do amazing things. I tell them to feed positive words to their brain if they want to be productive yet happy in life.
Thank you for this article, it reaffirmed my faith in ‘positive thinking’!
Maliha – what a beautiful comment! You sound like an amazing mom – your daughters are fortunate 🙂
It is so awesome to see these suggestions from a Dietician. wellness is integrative, mind, body and spirit. As an advocate for mental health, with a father and son that suffer from severe mental health disorders, it is encouraging to see anyone, especially wellness professionals, with a platform, addressing mental health. Not only do you dress it, you offer actual solutions. “I don’t have room for negativity” when you have overcome trauma, as I have, you learn this lesson. words of wisdom. Life is too short to fester and focus on the negative things we can not control. Serenity comes from letting go of what we can not change, and focussing on what we are able to change. I love all of your suggestions.
Glad you appreciate my post Lisa! I take a wholistic approach in the work I do!
I will definitely use some of this awesome advice! I am full time mom with a full time job and going to school full time and sometimes I feel like I don’t take a moment to do anything for myself like a sit down and take a mental break.
Thank you for the great tips.
You’ve got a busy schedule! With so much on your plate, self-care is a priority 🙂 -Neily
Wow! This message so resonated with me. The information was so true and so very helpful. I love your approach on wellness it seems you have looked a wellness from every aspect and I have only had the chance to read a few thus far! I love he idea of the happiness jar that is powerful. Gratitude is an amazing gift as it is a gift we give to ourselves that helps us to see all of the many great things in our lives and most of all appreciate them. I am living this content, I cant wait to dig dipper into these blog posts. Thank you. Jessica
Thank you Jessica! I’m so glad you enjoyed the content. Feel free to share with others! -Neily