When this pandemic is over, we are going to be OK. How OK we are is dependent on the self-care that we administer during this long and seemingly unending quarantine. For some persons, being inside with restricted social movements feel like torture. In contrast, for others, it’s just another day in the year being home. Whatever your perspective is about this period, look for opportunities for self-growth and self-care.
Advantages of self-isolation and self-care
The advantages of self-isolating are getting to know yourself, your family, and friends without the distractions of electronics, and resting. Once we get over the binge-watching of TV, Facebook, and other social media, let us turn our attention to creating a period of internal cleansing. This internal cleaning will have long term benefits for our relationships and inform our future decisions. Getting to know yourself is one of the best investments you can make in yourself. Developing a relationship with yourself is no different from getting to know someone. You have to ask the right questions with a healthy curiosity and honesty. What are the behaviors that are preventing me from spending time with my family? Do I binge eating when I feel stressed? Do I feel uncomfortable when I pamper myself? Does my job define me? What are the costs associated with my behavior/s?
When we ask ourselves deep questions, we can evaluate how our behaviors affect our interactions with others, and if they are in line with our values. Usually, when our values are not in line with our responses, we feel anxious and stressed. I’m a controller personality, and when things don’t happen in my timelines, I get anxious and fidgety. It took me years to realize that the need to control was the source of my anxiety. As I work through the need to always be in control, I’ve since learned to redirect that energy to something positive. Now, whenever I feel anxious, I clean. I clean out my closet, drawers, and cupboards. I get rid of things that I’ve been holding on to forever, thinking that I will need it. After 6 months or 2 years of not using an item, maybe it’s time to re-gift or donate it. I found that when I cleaned out spaces, not with the intent to restock but to declutter, my anxiety disappeared, and my environment felt lighter and brighter. Just this simple activity enhances creativity, and I found my mind pregnant with solutions to challenges. When we remove the attachments to things, we remove the clutter in our thoughts and emotions. We create a space for ideas to flow into our lives.
Quarantine is stressful, and the unknown is frightening. How am I relating to this stress? What is making me uncomfortable about this period? What will I change when this is over? Do I overeat or undereat? Am I making healthy food choices? Am I spending time getting to know friends and family in a deeply meaningful way? Is the family using this downtime to be creative, or are we worrying? Whatever path we are on in our professional, emotional, or physical journey, we have had to stop, think, evaluate, bond, and create a new pathway for a healthier life.
Here are some tips for self-care during this pandemic.
Declutter: Cleaning out the clutter when everyone is at home can be a beautiful bonding moment with family or friends. It’s a moment in time to share memories about the items we are removing from our spaces. Some of the memories may not be pleasant, while some of them are. Still, in sharing, we can let go of the situation or identify which emotion needs to be healed. By creating a playful moment around organizing and decluttering, we can learn about each other as we pass the time away.
Manage Anxiety: Everyone wants to get on with their lives and get back to what is comfortable and predictable. That was the old normal. However, when the pandemic is over, we will never truly get back to “normal.” There will be a new “normal.” Many persons will be emerging from this experience with a different perspective. Anxious thoughts about the future will arise; when they do, we must redirect those thoughts into a pleasurable activity to maintain our sanity. Hold a dance competition with family members, play with a pet, clean out a closet, organize a shelf, Google a craft project to do with items in the house. Do something different from the anxious thoughts. Engage in a guided meditation, yoga, or a simple walk in the yard. If you don’t have access to an open space or a private room, sit in a chair and pray, color, or read.
Check into your Emotions: Taking time to self-care is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. Pay attention to how you are feeling. How you process your emotions will vary from individual to individual, but some activities may work for you, so experiment. Here are some actions you may consider: journaling, coloring, speaking with a therapist, minister or good friend, engaging in some form of spiritual practice online or by yourself; listening to music and dance or sing (even if others tell you that you can’t dance or sing). Look for opportunities to be grateful, even if you are living through the darkest moment. Practice living in the moment – not in the hours to come, or the hour past, but at this present time. Stop for a few moments and take a deep breath while counting to ten. Most importantly, Laugh. Laugh loudly. Chuckle. It doesn’t matter how you laugh as long as you laugh. Laughter releases those feel-good hormones like endorphins, which can temporarily relieve pain and promotes an overall sense of well-being.
Physical Movement: Daily movement, when possible, is needed to improve overall health. By getting more physical movement in the day, you can improve balance and manage your weight. Try to incorporate strength training and stretching into your routine. Commit to 5 minutes per day with family members doing some form of physical activity. Have jumping jack competitions with the children, or skip. If space is restricted, march on the spot as a competition to see who can march the longest. Listen to your body and determine how you feel. Don’t overdo exercise in one day, and then forget about it for the next 4 days.
Sleep: It is so important to get between 6-8 hours of restful sleep. Rest is a critical part of self-care as without sleep, you are not able to function properly throughout the day. Try and establish a scheduled bedtime, and have light meals at least 3 hours before going to bed. Avoid over-stimulating activities like some exercise, as this could prevent you from falling asleep. Caffeine taken with dinner will keep some persons awake. Skip the caffeine after lunch if it will keep you up at night. Try having green tea instead or fruit-flavored herbal teas. Create a practical sleep hygiene and stick to it.
Eat healthily: Now that we are stuck at home, some persons have been able to order take out while others are busy cooking at home. Whatever channel you are using to feed your body and your family, ensure that you are choosing healthy options. Read food labels and eliminate unhealthy fats, high fructose corn syrup, and processed foods. Enjoy meals that are rich in vegetables, grains, legumes, and omegas. Stay hydrated and reduce the amount of sugary drinks and caffeine that you consume. Eat breakfast free of sugars, and rich in protein and vegetables e.g. spinach omelet. This is a wonderful time to give your body a complete nutritional overall by experimenting with new healthier foods and recipes. When the quarantine is over, you want to be fit to tackle anything that comes your way.
Nurture Relationship: Strengthen existing relationships with friends and family now that we have more time on our hands. Instead of being anxious about the future, reach out to family and friends with the available technology- Zoom, Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, etc. Having healthy social interactions can lead to longer, happier, and healthier lives.
Develop skills in the downtime: Several free courses are available online that can be intellectually stimulating and can help to enhance your professional journey. Doing a study program online can be a great way to tap into your desire to fulfill a life long dream. There are courses, and Youtube videos, that teach you to dance, play the piano, paint a picture, etc., and doing research or a course on the topic is a step in the right direction.
Self-care strategies aren’t the same for everyone, as everyone’s needs are different. By asking yourself questions about what is working in your life and what is not, you are starting to make the change. Once you have identifies the areas that you like or don’t like, make a plan to improve or change those areas. The change will not happen overnight, and you may recognize that you may need help. Seek the help that you need. Engaging in self-care activities allows you to function healthy, productively, and harmoniously at home, work, and at play.
Be safe. Yours in good health.
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