Anxiety can skyrocket during a health crisis. It is unnerving to see the empty shelves in a grocery store or wonder about access to healthcare if needed. It is common to not know how exactly to feel or whether or not you are taking things “seriously enough.”
Stress obviously can wear down our immune systems. Ironically, we tend to abandon self-care rituals during stressful times when we need self-care the most. Re-frame your own self-care as something you can do during this intense time. Remember that there is a lot you can do to protect yourself but also to help others. The following are some ideas:
- Take advantage of the nice weather: Remember- you can go outside! Get fresh air, sit in the sunlight, play with your pets, look for wildlife and birds, listen to nature sounds, put your feet or hands directly into the earth, take a drive to a pretty place, go on a bike ride. Just make sure you are practicing social distancing.
- Get good body movement: Many gyms and yoga studios are offering free online classes during the times that studios are closed! There are also great free workout videos on YouTube. Check out.
- Handwashing as a mindfulness practice: I know we are hearing a lot about practicing good handwashing right now but re-framing handwashing as “a mindfulness break” versus “a chore” can be helpful. Use handwashing to build mindfulness practice into your daily routine. Practicing mindfulness is one of the best things you can do to help anxiety and depression. So, kill those germs and fight for better mental health all at the same time. Do this exercise by challenging yourself to think only about washing your hands for the 20 plus seconds you are washing your hands. If you find yourself getting distracted, simply re-focus on nothing but washing your hands. Let yourself get into your 5 senses; How does the soap smell? Notice when the water temperature feels most ideal on your hands and let the warmth be enjoyable. Really look at your hands and feel grateful for all they do for you. Notice the way the water looks as it is going down the drain, washing over your hands. Watch the soap bubbles and water interacting together.
- Eat healthfully: While of course food can bring up some anxiety with worries of supermarkets having empty shelves, try to focus on foods you know nourish you. Everybody is different but trust in what sounds nourishing. Again, reframe this as a way to keep healthy for you and others.
- Focus on good sleep hygiene: Having a good routine around sleep can help a lot even when worry tries to interrupt sleep. Getting enough body movement during the day will also be helpful. Try to go to sleep around the same time each night and have a set and predictable bedtime routine. Try to refrain from taking in news media and information at least 30 minutes before beginning your bedtime routine.
- Find ways to have safe social engagement: People are already feeling the effects of being isolated. Use streaming services, facetime, skype, etc. to stay connected! Have virtual happy hours, parents’ groups, or playdates! Have grandparents read books to children via these services. Have phone calls with loved ones who live apart from you and challenge yourself to discuss more than just Covid-19.
- Laughter is the best medicine: Try to connect to joy and get a giggle in at least once per day. Whether you need to scroll through “Baby Yoda” memes or watch reruns of your favorite comedy or play a silly board game, or call a friend to reminisce on a funny memory, laughter is really important and is excellent for our immune systems.
The virus itself can feel very scary, especially for individuals in more vulnerable categories. The majority of people will be safe even if contracting the virus. Practicing good social distancing is way more about not overwhelming our healthcare and emergency infrastructure. Just slowing down the spread of the disease over an extra month will drastically improve outcomes. Try to feel connected to what you can do and how you can practice good self-care during this time of restrictions and panic.