A Self-Care Guide For Stressful Times
In a matter of a few short weeks, we find ourselves in a different world.
Uncertainty, ever-changing recommendations on how to live, what we can and should do, and shifting schedules mean that we are navigating a boatload of change.
“How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change.”
- Elizabeth Lesser
And there lies our challenge: we are in a sea of change. Without normal routines to ground us, it can be easy to let go of the habits that can help us handle this new reality: exercise, good nutrition, sleep, finding meaning, connecting to others and quiet. While we don’t have control over how this all plays out, we do have some degree of control in how we choose to handle the situation and take care of ourselves in the process.
Consider This Your Self-Care Guide For Stressful Times.
1. Create A Schedule For Yourself.
If you’re working from home (or not), homeschooling kids (or not), create a routine for each day. It’s human to want to escape into something to distract us from what’s going on. Things to consider on your schedule include consistent wake and sleep times, regular work hours (if applicable), exercise, meals, time to connect with friends and family online, structured times to check into the news or social media, meditation, and a little downtime if needed.
2. Move Your Body Every Day.
With so much flexibility in any given day, it’s easy to keep pushing that workout off. Keep it simple with the goal to move every day. Commit to 15 minutes first thing in the morning and go for a walk or run outside (if you’re able), follow an online workout (companies like Grokker and many others are offering free memberships through April 30th), or do a simple bodyweight circuit with a deck of cards. Pick 4 exercises and assign one exercise to each suit. Flip a card. The suit tells you the exercise, the number tells you the reps. Repeat for 5 minutes then pick 4 new exercises. Continue as time permits. In fact, we used this for “PE Class” with our kids and they had just as much fun as we did, while we all move our bodies.
3. Fuel Your Body With The Most Nutrition You Can.
Whether your pantry is stocked from that last trip to the store or you are relying on delivery and take out – think about fueling your body well with good nutrition. What does that look like? Lots of lean protein, veggies and fruit and complex carbohydrates. During times of stress, our bodies crave simple carbohydrates and sugar – it’s an easy quick hit of comfort but ultimately creates inflammation and induces more stress. Having a diet that is filled with the nutrition your body needs not only boosts your immune system, it also makes it less likely you are to grab those Girl Scout Cookies and eat them by the box.
4. Pay Attention To What You Need.
If you’re social isolating and by yourself, you may find you need company. If so, spend a chunk of your day connecting virtually with others. Group FaceTime has been a fun way for us to connect with many others. The Marco Polo App is also garnering lots of attention as a way to see other humans, outside of those within your four walls.
If you’re in your home with a partner/spouse and kids, you may need quiet. Talk to each other so you can schedule time for everyone to have time alone. Listen to what you need in any given situation and as much as you can, give that to yourself.
5. Get 7-9 Hours Of Sleep A Night.
With social activities and nightlife off the table, now is the time to take advantage of nothing competing with a scheduled bedtime. Keep a consistent bedtime and wake time and if you’re able, make your bedroom a place that you only associate with sleep. That means take the computers and the TV out of the room so when you walk in that space your brain is cued to get ready for bed and nothing else.
6. Limit Fake Feel-Goods.
Why it may be easy to glue yourself to the TV to stay up to date on the latest stats and findings, a constant news feed of predictions and warnings will only fuel anxiety. Limit how much you watch TV and check in – maybe once in the morning and once in the evening - knowing that if something were to change drastically, you won’t go too long without knowing. For us, it used to be morning and night and that turned into just a quick dose of news in the evening and not even every evening. The constant changing landscape only fuels feelings of anxiety rather than comfort. Watch enough to be aware, but not enough that it’s paralyzing and all-consuming.
Along these lines, create some structure around when and how you’ll drink alcohol if you drink. My brother and his friends meet for a FaceTime happy hour a few nights a week. To keep it fun, they’ve dressed in costume and also had a pub crawl where they had a different drink in different rooms of their homes. As someone who is socially isolating alone, this keeps the drinks to a social occasion versus a crutch to numb the nerves and the news of the day.
7. Find The Good.
These times are hard, but there is still so much good. Make a list of things you notice that are good, despite the challenges you face. This little trick of practicing gratitude is like a crack of sunlight for your mind…and is an important way to remind yourself that no matter what, there is always something to appreciate.
These challenging times will end, eventually, and knowing that makes it all that much more important to consider how we want to be when that happens.