Mindfulness

Self-Care During Difficult Times

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, chances are that you’re adjusting to a new reality. Many of us are experiencing a shake-up in our daily routines while quarantining. You may find yourself going into a tailspin as your schedule changes, anxiety levels increase with each news update, and your normal routine is turned on its head.

I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t experienced overwhelm and feelings of despair. My husband and sons are essential workers, who are at risk of being exposed to the virus every day they report to work. I have autoimmune illnesses, which makes me vulnerable to contracting the virus if my husband brings it home. I have an elderly father who’s all alone, halfway across the country, who I worry about quite a bit. And then there’s the fact that I am an empath and tend to be very sensitive to the feelings of those around me.

Thankfully, my mindfulness practice has allowed me to acknowledge difficult moments and realize that I have tools at my disposal to not only help myself but others as well. With mindfulness, I’m reminded that on the other side of these challenges is hope. It may take some time to come to this realization. But eventually, I get there.

One of the essential tools to put into use right now is a Self-Care Plan. This is not about being selfish and closing ourselves off to the suffering of others. Rather, think of this as the metaphor of putting the oxygen mask on ourselves first so that we can help others.

What is a Self-Care Plan?

A Self-Care Plan is an interventional tool, created by you, and filled with your favorite self-care activities. These activities are meant to be nurturing and restorative. If you don’t have a plan in place for yourself, consider using the list below as a starting place and add whatever self-care activities or reminders you feel will help.

Here are six ways you can take care of your mind, body, and spirit:

Move Your Body/ Get Outdoors

If you’re blessed to live in a place where there are parks that are still open and you can access them with walks, runs, and bikes, take advantage of the opportunity. Commit to getting outdoors and moving your body. If weather or public access doesn’t allow for going outside, then try doing your normal exercise routine next to a window.

Establish or Maintain A Meditation Practice

Since many of us have nothing but time right now, this is a great time to start a consistent meditation practice or be vigilant about maintaining your already-existing practice. Now more than ever, a meditation practice is key to help us be resilient in the face of challenging times. I’m doing everything in my power to maintain my twice-daily practice.

If you’re new to meditation, I suggest starting with a short one-to-five minute meditation and increasing from there. The key is consistency, so stick with a practice that works for you and that you’ll be able to adhere to fairly easily.

Get Creative

Now is a great time to embrace arts and crafts projects. I find when I’m in a creative flow I am in a very mindful state. As I allow myself to focus on what I’m creating, my to-do lists and worries melt away and I’m more likely to experience other creative thoughts and ideas.

So the next time you find yourself stressing out or becoming overwhelmed, try one of these creative outlets to bring you back to the present moment:

  • Coloring – There’s a reason adult coloring books have become a big trend – they can have a similar calming effect as a meditation practice. If you don’t have your own adult coloring book, you should check out Amazon’s selection of adult coloring books. Or, if you have kids, grab one of their coloring books!
  • Painting – if you have the supplies and don’t mind the clean-up, find a photo or look out your window and paint what you see. There’s no right or wrong – just have fun with it!
  • Mindful Doodling – It may seem childlike, but drawing something that makes you happy or gives you hope can actually be a form of therapy, helping you relax and de-stress. For example, draw yourself as a flower or an animal.
  • Make a Photo Collage – Printing and cutting out pictures that are meaningful to you can reveal a lot about your personality and values.
  • Journaling – Research suggests that old fashioned pen and paper is more effective than an online journal in terms of filtering out distractions and enhancing focus. Write about anything you want. You’re only writing for yourself, so there’s no need to edit yourself or sweat the details. As with meditation, start small (15 to 20 minutes max) and try to write for four consecutive days. Journal first thing in the morning or right before bed. Starting the day with a few minutes of journaling can help clear the mental clutter so you can greet the day with a fresh perspective. Or, if you don’t want to take your worries to bed, writing about your worries for a few minutes before bedtime can improve sleep. (1)

Maintain Connectedness Virtually

Social distancing is a compassionate response in times like these, but physically distancing ourselves from one another doesn’t mean we can’t be connected. Now is a great time to make sure that we check on the ones who matter to us, and those who are far away from us. Having set times each week to check in with those we care about, hang out virtually and even have a meal together can help restore some social structure and help us feel more connected.

Limit How Often You Access News and Information

More now than ever, we’re being bombarded by constant news updates. I know how this has affected me personally, so I have been limiting how often and when I tune in. Evaluate how much news you’re taking in and be mindful of how it affects you physically and emotionally. Since limiting my intake to one hour per day, my anxiety levels have noticeably decreased. I also make sure not to take in any news before bed, which can be counterproductive for a good night’s sleep.

Be of Service To Others

Giving back and showing others that there is still goodness in the world can be a great source of hope and resilience. In a time when there are so many people who are unsure whether their basic needs will be met, there’s an opportunity for the rest of us to step up and offer them the hope they so desperately need. Since I’m unable to volunteer in person, I partnered with my yoga teacher friend, Ann, to offer our social media followers a twice-weekly Relax and Renew session, where we briefly discuss a topic for the day, she leads a short yoga sequence, and I guide a mindfulness meditation.

What skills could you bring to this moment in order to be of service?  Offering help to others can give you meaning during this time of uncertainty. Of course, it’s also important to recognize and maintain boundaries to keep yourself safe.

This Too Shall Pass

Although things seem to be all doom and gloom the past month or so, one thing is certain – this too shall pass. In the meantime, acknowledge the sadness or hopelessness you may be feeling right now without allowing it to spiral into the abyss of hopelessness. We can rejoice in the fact that the situation isn’t permanent and eventually we will return to a new normal.

Through a consistent self-care practice, we’ll be able to comfort ourselves, have a sense of control and the ability to reflect on what we truly need in our most challenging moments.

Sending love and light. Stay safe and be well.

Paula

 

Sources

  1. The Mindfulness Journal; Centennial Health August 2019

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