We like to think of self-care as a house. You build a strong foundation of self-care that you can build upon. This is the time to tend to your ground floor – your foundation – and work to make it as stable as possible to best support you through this time. Our self-care can often be the thing we neglect most during times of uncertainty and stress. Many of us opt for self-soothing instead. While self-soothing can be tremendously helpful as well, it’s easy to turn to things that soothe us in the short term but fail to support us in the long term (i.e. too much wine, ice cream, screen time, etc.). Self-soothing is of course important through this time, but tending to your self-care will be the foundational support for your mental health and well-being, there to support you through the unpredictable challenges many of us face right now. Below we talk about the six areas of self-care and ways to tend to each one.
How are you taking care of yourself physically? What foods are you putting in to your body? Are you moving your body? How is your basic hygiene? How about sleep? Trying times can make this part of self-care more difficult, especially if you are experiencing feelings of depression or hopelessness. One of the ways we find helpful to work through these is to picture yourself as a child. Really connect with this image and think about how you would care for this little one. When we can recall this part of ourselves, we can often care for ourselves in the way this part of us needs most. Things like exercise can also be challenging when we’re stuck inside, especially with many gyms and yoga studios temporarily closing. Some great resources for helping with this are Alo Moves and Glo for yoga (both offer free trials to start!) as well as Yoga with Adriene which is entirely free. For more Pilates inspired movement, Melissa Wood Health has great options, and for more strength and cardio based workouts, Tone it Up (currently offering 30 days free for new members) and Popsugar Fitness (entirely free) are some other options. It’s also okay to go for walks outside in unpopulated areas because fresh air is an essential for your physical and mental health. For your diet, again, focus on nourishing yourself. We recently published a blog post on the importance of nutrition for mental health. These can be helpful tips for figuring out how to best nourish your body and support your mental health. Times of stress are also those where we tend to overeat or drink as a way of coping. First, be gentle with yourself if you fall into this pattern. Then, evaluate where you can better support yourself. Maybe it’s only having half of your dessert. Maybe it’s choosing tea over wine. Any small movements towards better supporting yourself will help. Oh, and of course – wash your hands!
How are you processing and supporting your emotions during this time? If you’re working with a therapist and can’t get in to their office, ask if they offer teletherapy. Many practices (including ours!) are happy to offer teletherapy through safe, HIPPA compliant platforms, as well as phone sessions to best support clients. If you’re not working with a therapist or teletherapy isn’t an option for you, think about other ways of coping. You can explore journaling, meditation (This app is great!), yoga and other forms of movement, calling a friend or family member, cooking, dancing, singing, taking a bath, screaming into a pillow – the possibilities for coping are endless. Tune in to what helps you. It’s important to also tend to your emotional self-care even when it doesn’t feel bad. Using your coping skills as preventative measures is immensely helpful.
This is especially difficult right now when many of us are practicing social distancing. This is a great time to embrace technology and call/text/FaceTime friends and family. Video chat can be especially helpful because it allows us to see nonverbal forms of communication such as facial cues and body language. These are essential for connecting our mirror neurons (the parts of our brains that promote us feeling connected!) This can also be a time to send extra love and support. Perhaps it’s donating to a cause that is supporting those most in need during this time. Perhaps it’s sending a thoughtful email to someone, just to let them know you’re thinking about them. Being physically distant from people does not mean we need to be emotionally disconnected. If you have roommates or a partner you live with (and can safely interact with!), use this time to do activities where you truly connect. Turn off your phones and do an activity together that promotes presence. Cook something new together, play a board game, or simply talk while giving each other your full attention. Another way to increase feelings of social connectedness is to practice a Loving Kindness Meditation. In this practice, you bring in thoughts of love, kindness, and goodwill and extend these out to others.
While some of us are fortunate enough to be able to work from home without an interruption in pay, some individuals who are unable to do so are facing a cut in their income. If you fall into the first camp, practice gratitude for what you do have. If you fall into the second category of people, coming up with a budget can be essential for your self-care at this time. While it can often feel easier to ignore the situation, the longer you put off practical planning, the easier it will be to find yourself in an overwhelming amount of stress. For both groups, detach as best you can from the way the market is going (your 401k will recover!). It’s easy to begin panicking when we see downward trends, but remember that the economy does and will recover. Focus on controlling what you can and letting the rest go. This is also a great time to learn about and practice conscious spending. In this practice, you learn to focus on budgeting in a way that puts your values first. It’s also important to explore your options and advocate for your needs during this time. For example, if you have travel plans coming up that need to be cancelled, reach out to hotels and airlines for refunds or vouchers. And of course, remember to breathe.
This area of self-care relates to how intellectually stimulated and fulfilled you feel. If you’ve been wanting to learn a new skill or dive into a book for a while, this is a great time to do so. In practicing social distancing, it’s likely you have some extra time to dedicate to this area of your life. Take a moment to ask yourself, on a scale of 1-10, how intellectually stimulated you feel in your life. If it’s lower on the scale, this may be a great time to check out resources such as https://www.skillshare.com or https://www.udemy.com – sites where you can access all sorts of classes and courses to learn new skills. If you were feeling like you were at, let’s say, a 12 on this ten-point scale – this might be a time to relax! It’s possible for some of us to overdo it in this area, so scaling back can be just as valuable to your self-care.
This, of course, is a very personal and individualized area. If you’re religious and regularly attend services, this can be a great time to research what options exist online. Many services are working to be held online, which can allow you to connect with your faith in this way. Spirituality may mean something different than religion for you as well. All forms of spiritual self-care are valid. The real question is looking at something bigger than yourself. Perhaps this means connecting with mother nature. Can you get outside in an area that isn’t very populated? Maybe it means getting on your yoga mat. It could also be meditating or prayer. Whatever form of spirituality you choose, this time is a great opportunity to work on getting outside of ourselves and looking to something bigger. Oftentimes, this can be essential in helping us get through trying times.
When looking at all of these areas together, it can be easy to get overwhelmed, especially in a time that feels overwhelming to begin with. It’s important to remember you do not have to do all of these things at once. It’s just as helpful to pick one area and make one small change to support your overall self-care. The important thing to remember is that when we care for ourselves, we can often care for others in a more meaningful and supportive way as well. Take your time to tend to yourself. This will help support your mental health during this time as well as aid you in supporting others because let’s be real, we could all use a little extra support from one another right now.