No matter what is going on in our lives, self-care is vital to maintaining our own emotional reserves. Now more than ever, it’s important to be kind to yourself and be aware of your own needs. We’re all under stress, and during times like these, we need to learn to forgive ourselves, and give ourselves grace. This means remaining calm and letting go of the things that are out of your control.
The first step is to be aware of your anxiety and stress – one way to do this includes keeping a journal of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions to help you reflect on these areas while giving you a healthy outlet to do so. Once you’ve identified these, you can begin to decide what self-care will look like for you.
Self-care can take many forms, and everyone has different preferences. Here are a few tips to get you started!
- Establish healthy habits for yourself and your families – this means setting schedules, developing routines and sticking to them, checking in with loved ones, and getting outside when you can.
- Create a self-care toolkit for yourself or with your family. These are simple things that help you to find a sense of joy. You can include things like:
- Your favorite blanket
- Favorite snack
- A picture that brings you a pleasant memory
- A playlist of your favorite songs
- A candle or diffuser with a comforting scent
- Something that engages more than one sense: for example, your favorite scented lotion (touch/smell) or a coloring book (touch/visual)
- Practice gratitude each day.
- Reach out to those in need (but don’t forget to maintain a health balance and your own boundaries!).
- Adopt a practice of mindfulness.
What exactly is mindfulness? In the simplest form, it means maintaining a moment-to-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surroundings by viewing these things through a gentle, nurturing lens. When we’re practicing mindfulness, our thoughts focus on what’s happening in the present moment rather than revisiting the past or worrying about the future.
There are 5 specific ways in which mindfulness can help us during times of crisis:
- The “3-breath hug” – this is a beautiful way we can ground ourselves and reconnect with ourselves and those around us. It’s as simple as taking 3 slow deep breaths, and listening to those breaths. It’s also important to listen and pay attention to how your body feels before, during, and after this exercise. The Calm app has some great breathing exercises.
- Adopt a mindful mantra – what is a positive phrase that will bring you a sense of calm and peace? In your moments of heightened stress or anxiety, say this mantra to yourself.
- One connecting breath – in especially trying moments, practice taking one giant, slow, deep breath before acting or reacting to something. Close your eyes, and allow yourself to put one foot in front of the other.
- Use creativity to connect with yourself and/or your family. Whether it’s art, music, cooking, etc., dive into a creative activity to shift your focus onto something engaging and fun.
- Practice some area of mindfulness each day. Eliminate anything that might hinder your practice, or distract you. Allow yourself to feel and reconnect. And remember to give yourself grace.
Mindfulness also helps to increase your self-awareness, develop strong coping abilities, decrease loneliness, diminish negative feelings, improve your attention span, and prevent depression. There are many resources out there that provide mindfulness meditations, including YouTube, Headspace.com, and apps such as Aura and Calm.
In addition to mindfulness exercises, self-care includes finding some escapes from the reality of our current situation and making an effort to shift your focus and attention to things that positively impact your overall well-being.
Some ways to do this:
- Choose things that add value to your life.
- Read what’s happening in the tech world instead of regular news media.
- Dig into some positive and productive entertainment news – not gossip! It’s been extremely impressive to see the amount of goodwill that celebrities and artists are contributing back to their communities and to other initiatives related to COVID-19.
- Is there something within your work that you’ve been meaning to get better at? Is there a particular strength that you’re proud of that you’d like to zero in on? Use your strengths to continuously improve. Become an expert at what you do.
- If you’re asking yourself how you can give back during this time, make it easy on yourself. Volunteering can be as simple as checking in on your neighbor. This is a time for us to be mindful of those around us that are in need. There are tons of virtual opportunities for volunteering online, such as recording audiobooks for the blind and visually impaired. If you have the ability to, you can donate to your local food banks or assist in making masks for those in need. Take advantage of this moment to connect with others through giving back.
- Adopt an attitude of gratitude – there are many studies out there that support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being. There have also been many studies that have shown gratitude has a positive impact on relationships. There are numerous ways you can cultivate gratitude:
- Write thank-you notes
- Actively reflect on something someone did for you that you were grateful for
- Keep a gratitude journal – make it a habit to write experiences down, and share them with others
- Set time aside during your week to reflect on the things, people, and experiences you have that you’re grateful for
- Something I find we often say to ourselves is, “I just don’t have the time to work out as often as I want to.” Now is your time. Again, there are so many virtual opportunities right now to connect with professionals to help you to hop into a regular workout routine.
- This is also a great opportunity to try your hand at cooking – it’s incredibly gratifying to be able to cook healthy meals for yourself and/or your loved ones. Get creative with it, have fun, and try new things. Are there other cultural cuisines you’ve always wanted to explore? Make it a creative and educational experience for yourself and your family.
- Get back into those hobbies! Too often we treat our hobbies as a luxury in our everyday life. Our hobbies serve as a sense of stress release and an opportunity to exercise a different part of our brains. This is incredibly healthy for us. It’s energizing, it recharges us, and it brings us a sense of accomplishment and peace. We have to nurture this part of ourselves. If you’re alone, I hope you’re diving into it. If you’re juggling family responsibilities, try designating a schedule and establishing some time for it.
- If you’re at home with a family, you can also explore hobbies and activities to do together! Some ideas include:
- Board games
- Gardening or growing an indoor herb garden
- Storytelling (fact or fiction) – bonus tip: involve older family members to share stories about their own childhoods, and record them for later listening/sharing
- Backyard camping
- Make your own movie, TV comedy, drama, or game show
- Put on your own concert/play music
- Watch movies
- Try various types of art projects
If you’re struggling to find ways to practice self-care and mindfulness that work for you, or if you’re looking to speak with a counselor about more ways that you can connect with your family, please contact your EAP for some free and confidential counseling! We are here 24/7 and you can call us at 1-800-543-5080 or email us at [email protected].
By Andrea Angelucci, Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP Services