Self-Care During a Global Health Crisis
During the life-saving restrictions of lockdown, how can we adapt our usual self-care practices to work with this daunting challenge we all face, or invest time into looking after our mind and body when this is unfamiliar to us? It might seem selfish to focus on ourselves when so many people are vulnerable and facing illness and hardship, but this is when our wellbeing becomes crucial, as without energy reserves and resilience we cannot help our families and wider communities.
While we may be juggling a different mix of responsibilities than usual; key workers may be busier than ever (unassuming superheroes that they are) while others work from home or have lost their usual employment. Parents may find themselves burnt out from keeping their kids entertained and schooled at home, with the usual activities off-limits.
If we try to live and eat well as much as we can, this can also boost our immune system to fight off the coronavirus and other infections, which we will need for our essential errands and life after lockdown. So whether we have limited spare time or unstructured days based at home, we will see benefits from fitting in a self-care practice.
Making Health a Priority
For those of us with more time on our hands, it can feel overwhelming to keep up with overachievers that broadcast their success on social media. Remember that people mostly share their positive experiences so although you won’t see their low moments, we all have them. Maybe you’ve had days where you eat junk all day, binge watch TV and drink more than you meant to. Across the world, we are all facing the same frightening pandemic and its fallout, so be kind and forgive yourself when you have a bad day — no one’s perfect.
You will find that some routine and boundaries will improve your state of mind, especially if you have existing mental health conditions like anxiety, depression or OCD. Keeping sleeping patterns regular, getting washed and dressed each day, and eating meals at similar times of the day gives us a predictable structure to build on. But keep some flexibility in your schedule to allow for the unexpected — we are only human after all.
Ideas for Self-Care
Here are some more suggestions for you to try out, none of which require any new purchases unless you wish to:
- Optimize your diet. Many of us have more time than before to prepare meals and look up new recipes, which we can factor into our online or essential shopping trip. Do you have a local company which delivers fresh fruit and veggies? Try to eat bright, varied and unprocessed food whenever possible, you should feel better with all the right nutrients. Allow yourself occasional indulgences or treats too! Maybe jump on the banana bread bandwagon.
- Limit your online scrolling. We all find ourselves mindlessly staring at social media feeds and the troubling news stories at times, they are designed to hook our brains. You can download apps to monitor or manage your use of certain apps. Take days off from bad news and digital content which stresses you out.
- Connect with others. Having said that social media can be unhelpful when passively consumed, there are so many tools now to keep in touch with our loved ones. This is so important when we are physically separated. Check in with your circle, especially if you need help or think someone you know might. Remember that “no man is an island”.
- Discover everyday joy. What makes you feel happy? It might be a long scented bath with candles, watching a favorite old movie, listening to upbeat music, watching the local wildlife emerging for spring. Take a little time to do whatever makes you feel good (guilty pleasures included), especially hobbies you may neglect in the usual rat race. What are you grateful to have in your life?
- Express yourself. We are all missing our normal socializing and getting out of the house in the spring sunshine, and it may feel that we are more alone with our thoughts. It is natural to feel worried and upset about the unfolding crisis, but it is not healthy to bottle up and dwell on these worries too much. Try free-writing your thoughts to get them on paper, or writing a letter to someone even if you don’t send it. Channel your feelings in whatever format helps you, but don’t worry constantly, plan a fixed amount of time for it.
- Stay organized. We may have a family to feed, an endless to-do list and many tasks we cannot avoid, but it is much easier to function in a tidy environment which makes us feel at ease. This is more difficult in shared spaces, but only focus on what is within your control. Now might be a good time for spring cleaning and making your home as pleasant as possible since we have to spend most of our time there for now. Try looking up Marie Kondo’s methods.
- Set a time. Whether you live alone or in a busy household, with activities and social catch-ups it is easier to follow through if you commit to a time. This explains why online quizzes have become such a popular way for friends to stay in touch. Without the usual gym classes, appointments and events to attend, we have to create our own deadlines and timings for the lockdown equivalents.
- Find a coping method. When the situation feels overwhelming and you are awash with anxiety, do you have a technique to calm down? Our flight or fight response is a natural defense mechanism, but when it is triggered by abstract or longterm threats it becomes unhelpful and can be very unpleasant. Now is an ideal time to try out a breathing exercise, meditation or guided relaxation. There are many free apps and articles on the subject, such as focusing on your immediate surroundings and physical details that you can sense around you. Arm yourself with knowledge for when it gets too much.
Without belittling the very real suffering that COVID-19 is causing many, while we may feel helpless at times we can choose to stay hopeful, to tap into our inner strength and remember that while we are isolated we don’t have to go through it alone. Let’s try to handle this crisis with compassion and keep up our self-care practice, so we can weather this storm together and emerge from the other side with greater understanding for the struggles we all have to face.
Bagshaw, E. (2020). Self-Care During a Global Health Crisis. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/self-care-during-a-global-health-crisis/