Pandemic Era Self-Care
We are well into the second year of the Covid 19 global pandemic. It has affected everyone on the planet in some way. Some of us have lost loved ones, been separated from them, suffered
We are well into the second year of the Covid 19 global pandemic. It has affected everyone on the planet in some way. Some of us have lost loved ones, been separated from them, suffered from unemployment or financial loss, lived through isolation, or one of many other things. Parents have been at home with their children and trying to maintain their education while also trying to maintain their own sanity. According to International Investment, 1/3rd of us have experienced a decline in our mental health. Adding self-care routines to our lives will allow us to decompress, process, alleviate anxiety, and maintain a positive outlook which can also be a positive influence on others around us.
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was an influx of postings on social media of people making bread, learning how to knit, taking a new language, or enrolling in an online school. As time went on and it became more challenging keeping up this positive mindset and new hobbies became more difficult. Words like fatigue and languishing became common. Some turned to self-medication with alcohol, drugs, social media, or work, some suffered in silence and some became depressed and/or angry. Even if you have always been good at taking care of yourself and had a great self-care routine in place – these ever-changing new realities have been a serious challenge for the majority of us. So let’s look at some ways to incorporate self-care and mental health back into our days as we move forward.
Limiting your news consumption is one way to alleviate your stress levels and negativity. It is hard to maintain a balance of needing to know the latest and getting caught up in a spiral of information. Try deciding on a particular news source you trust and limit yourself to one or two check-ins a day.
Setting boundaries with friends, family, and co-workers is also a way to maintain a safe space for yourself and those around you. Everyone seems to have different ideas as to what their comfort levels are – when you set your own boundaries it will make it easier to navigate social situations or requests from others. If you are invited to a place and you do not feel safe – you can always make suggestions for alternatives such as moving the event outside where social distancing is easier or that everyone uses an online meeting option such as Zoom or FaceTime. It is important to keep our social connections and interactions with others. Isolation can be a huge contributing factor in depression. Reaching out when you are feeling overwhelmed. Speak to your friends, family, or someone you feel close to and express your feelings.
Mindfulness meditation is an amazing tool to utilize. It brings your awareness to the present moment. Letting go of what happened in the past and what might happen in the future. People will sometimes say “I can’t meditate it’s too hard” or “I am terrible at it!! My mind just races all over the place!”. No one can be bad at meditating. It is called a “practice” for a reason. The benefits of meditation are really endless. It can help greatly with anxiety and depression, can relieve stress, lower blood pressure, assist in chronic pain relief, improve your sleep and so many other benefits. The key is being kind to yourself. When starting out is usually helpful to listen to a guided meditation and there are so many podcasts and sources available. You can find some here at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center offered in several languages.
Good healthy food and exercise are also essential for your body AND your mind. It is hard to feel motivated to work out at home. Try and find something that you find interesting or different. Challenge yourself or set up a group challenge with your friends. Agree to check in and encourage each other. Same for cooking – you can do a recipe exchange or join online cooking groups. When one day seemingly just bleeds into the next and the next it is hard to feel inspired. Incorporating a great playlist can help boost your mood and your motivation. Try a yoga class with a great soundtrack like the ones here. Get outside and walk! Walking is a wonderful way to get exercise and free your mind. You don’t need to become an Olympic athlete. Just get moving.
Something that I try to do every day is practice gratitude. It can be written in a journal, in meditation, or shared with your friends and family. Remembering things that you are grateful for is a great way to maintain and foster a positive attitude. Sometimes when we are overwhelmed, it is hard to think that anything positive is happening. When you practice gratitude it helps give you an appreciation for the smaller things in life. They don’t need to be grand gestures or things, they can be as simple as I did laundry today, I had a great cup of tea this morning or a friend I haven’t spoken to in a long time reached out. Cultivating gratitude connects us to our life and others as well as offers perspective.
Parents who have been at home with their children have likely felt the weight of the world on their shoulders these months. They are expected to be chefs, teachers, counselors, housekeepers, drivers, referees, and more! Where is there time for self-care!? According to the Journey of the American Academy of Pediatrics, since March 2020 it is reported that 27% of parents report a worsened state of mental health. The pressure of providing children’s education as well as the usual day-to-day care can be staggering. It is important to try and find brief times in the day for yourself. Getting outside and taking the kids to a beach or a safe place to entertain themselves can give the parent a chance just to sit and be quiet. Explaining to your children that you need a quiet day and put on movies to entertain them so that you can read a book or catch up with friends or do something that brings you joy. Take turns if you are co-parenting. One day Dad can take them to the beach and you can relax and do nothing. If you have friends or family who will volunteer to watch your children – take them up on it! Without self-care, burnout is a definite.
There are many more options for pandemic relief. We would love to hear what YOU are doing to get through these crazy times. Please tell us your favorite ways of navigating this pandemic. We are all in this together and together we will get through this.