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Taking Compassionate Care of Yourself During Difficult Times

The self-care rituals and rhythms you regularly rely on to boost your energy and focus and alleviate your anxiety and depression have basically evaporated.

The trail you used to bike with your best friend is now closed—and your best friend, like you, is staying home for the foreseeable future. The yoga studio you attended most mornings has shut down, and so have your favorite coffee shop, pizza place, and bookstore. You no longer look forward to reading on your commute because you’re currently working from your spare bedroom.

And you’re beyond disappointed and frustrated. You’re devastated.

Thankfully, there is some good news: “[A]ll the time we now have in one space may lend to trying new forms of self-care that may be surprisingly satisfying and rewarding,” said Stacey Sherrell, a marriage and family therapist who specializes in helping individuals with grief and loss, life transitions, and trauma in Los Angeles, Calif.

Where can you start?

Here’s a variety of ideas for taking compassionate care of yourself during this difficult time.

Focus on what you can control. “While we are not in control over the world, we can still be in control over our world,” said Rosy Saenz-Sierzega, Ph.D, a counseling psychologist who specializes in treating depression, anxiety, grief, and relationships issues in Chandler, Ariz. She suggested planning out your day based on your unique needs and values.

Similarly, New York City psychotherapist and mindset coach Kate Crocco, MSW, LCSW, has started telling herself: “I have no control over what happens to our small businesses, but what I do have control over is being present for my children and creating special memories with them.” For example, recently, she went on a scavenger hunt with her young daughters. “[H]earing their giggles nourished my soul.”

Take mindful breaks. “When life feels particularly overwhelming, such as in our current international health climate, it is vital that we create simple, quick habits…to bolster our mental health and overall wellbeing,” said Shonda Moralis, MSW, LCSW, a psychotherapist, coach, and author of the book Breathe, Empower, Achieve: 5-Minute Mindfulness for Women Who Do It All. After a while, these mindful breaks become part of our daily routine, requiring little thought or effort to maintain, she said.

Mindful breaks can include practicing a 1-minute guided meditation; dancing to your favorite music; and drawing. Moralis also suggested this practice, which you can do at any time: “Name five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.”

Let yourself feel your feelings. “You are allowed to have an emotionally charged reaction,” said Saenz-Sierzega. “Your routine was disrupted, your goals might’ve been placed on hold, travel plans and celebrations [were] cancelled, [and] you can’t meet with friends.”

It’s understandable to feel sad when you’re experiencing significant loss, she said. So, let yourself sob—or laugh, or feel angry or anxious. You also might journal, draw, or paint your feelings. The key is to not judge whatever comes up.

Empower yourself. “Allowing yourself to feel competent right now is a great way to combat the chaos,” said Sherrell. You can learn a new hobby, try a new recipe, read a book, or clean or organize your space, she said. What helps you feel empowered and like you’re making progress? Start there.

Stay connected. While you can’t connect with your friends and family in person, you can still connect face to face. Sherrell suggested using FaceTime, Duo, Google Hangouts, and other social platforms to have coffee dates, dinner dates, and venting sessions.

“We all need connection to feel whole and to get through this uncertainty, so initiating this contact is huge.”

Another option is to mail letters (or email them) to people you love, telling them how special they are to you, said Crocco, also author of the new book Thinking Like a Boss: Uncover and Overcome the Lies Holding You Back from Success. This is exactly what Crocco is doing with her daughters. When they run out of stamps, they’ll text pictures of their letters and drawings to their loved ones.

Move your body. “This can be a really great time to connect to our physical selves, which tend to take on a lot of the stress and chaos of the outside world,” Sherrell said. Moving our bodies—by stretching, practicing yoga, taking a walk—helps to release both physical and emotional tension, she said.

If you’d like to try something new, Crocco noted that many companies are offering free online fitness classes. “Even my 17-month-old is picking up yoga and enjoying it,” she said.

Plan for a fun activity. “Find a physical reminder of your fun plan, and have it be a visible reminder that your future is around the corner,” said Saenz-Sierzega, who shared these examples: picking out a dress for date night, highlighting a dish on a restaurant menu, or printing out a picture of a national park you’ll be visiting.

And remember that if you spend an entire day watching TV and scrolling Instagram, that’s OK, said Sherrell. And if you’re feeling really motivated and end up cleaning your entire closet, that’s great, too, she said.

“Being kind to yourself through the highs and lows of adjusting to this temporary lifestyle will make the process easier.”

Taking Compassionate Care of Yourself During Difficult Times


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Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.


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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2020). Taking Compassionate Care of Yourself During Difficult Times. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/taking-compassionate-care-of-yourself-during-difficult-times/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 3 Apr 2020 (Originally: 6 Apr 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 3 Apr 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.