Whether you are currently working from home or still commuting into the office, every aspect of our lives has been impacted dramatically by the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of us our daily rhythms and routines have been changed significantly, which can feel disorienting and uncomfortable.
In times of crisis there can be a strong urge to shut down and only do what is necessary or feels safe. While it is important to slow down and attend to our emotional needs in difficult times, we must be mindful about how we care for ourselves.
Maintaining good self-care practices during times of crisis is an essential part of reducing stress and increasing our ability to cope effectively.
Self-care means attending to our physical and emotional needs. Keeping up with everyday rituals and schedules as much as possible can provide some sense of normalcy and consistency, especially when many aspects of our daily lives have been greatly interrupted or radically changed. When we are mindful about attending to our needs in healthy, caring ways, we communicate to ourselves that we have value.
Consider some of the following when developing your own self-care goals and regiment.
- Sleep Hygiene: Try to get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night and set the same sleep and wake time every day. Limit electronics before bed and in the bedroom. Avoid the urge to do waking activities in bed, in effort to reserve your bed and bedroom as a sanctuary for rest and relaxation. Create an environment for sleep, meaning dark and cool. Get outside at least daily to help sync your circadian rhythms to the cycle of the day. If you are having trouble sleeping, try a guided meditation, gentle/restorative yoga, a herbal tea that promotes sleep or get tested for a sleep disorder at ECHN’s Sleep Disorder Center if none of those techniques work.
- Healthy Eating: Be sure to eat 3-5 meals a day, with plenty of whole grains, lean protein, unsaturated fats, fruits and vegetables. Try to drink 8 cups of water every day as well. Avoid snacking out of boredom, and portion your food out on a plate to limit overeating. Try to have your last meal within 3 hours of going to bed to help promote better digestion.
- Move Regularly: Aim to move for 20-30 continuous minutes every day and make a point to get up and move every hour for 2-5 minutes at a time. There are so many ways to stay active – from more traditional exercise like running, lifting weights or doing a fitness video – to the daily activities that keep us moving like doing yard work, going for walks, cleaning around the house or playing with your kids.
- Relax: It may feel like there is nothing to do but relax. Setting aside specific time for mindful relaxing can keep us from getting stuck veg’ing out in front of the television or computer for hours. Try more traditional ways of relaxing through meditation, coloring, puzzles, yoga or listening to soothing music. If you like to be doing something while relaxing, low energy activities like crocheting, knitting, gardening, reading or working on a crossword may be a better fit.
- Take Care of Yourself: Make sure to keep up with regular bathing, even if you are not leaving the house regularly (showering, brushing and flossing your teeth, washing your face and brushing your hair). Get dressed in clothing other than pajamas every day. Keep up with the chores around the house.
- Practice Self-Compassion: It is normal to be struggling during a time like this. You are not weak if it is difficult coping with the many thoughts and feelings the pandemic has brought up. Use a kind voice when talking to yourself rather than the harsh judgmental tone that can arise during times of increased stress. It helps to imagine what you would say and how you would talk to a friend or child if they were going through a similar situation.
- Validate Your Feelings: Take time to understand and accept your emotions. This can be done through journaling, talking to a supportive friend or letting yourself have a good cry at the end of the day.
- Be Creative: Creativity is a positive and empowering way of expressing emotions. There are so many ways to express yourself creatively. Examples include cooking, crafting, painting, building, collaging, fixing, photography, drawing, singing, playing music and even baking.
- Do Something Empowering: Once a day do something that makes you feel in control or that you can complete. Because we don’t have control over what is happening in the world around us, and it is hard to make plans for the future, it is natural to feel powerless right now. Engaging in tasks in which we have control can help reduce the feelings of helplessness. This can be something as simple as paying a bill, cleaning a room in the house or making the bed.