I’ve been digging large holes in my backyard, 3 feet deep and 3 feet wide. The soil is a rich brown, earthworms pop through as the shovel awakens their winter slumber. I dig until I hit the sandy layer, an indication that I’ve dug deep enough. I battle with the many roots, old, gnarly and some sustaining the large oak tree nearby. A row of deep green arborvitae trees await a spot in their new home where their roots can settle in and grow.
The “stay home” order allows me the time for this home project, sooner than planned. When feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I go outside, take a walk, dig in the garden, take photos of the emerging blossoms or sit, take deep breaths of fresh air and listen to the orchestra of sounds around me. This is what “self-care” looks like to me as a middle-aged adult and parent.
There are many suggestions out there for self-care these days. I challenge us to take this time to appreciate the variety of ways people are coping; the small moments, the simple and the undiscovered. Below is a list of collected “self-care” recommendations and links to exercises and resources.
- ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) :: Change out of your PJs, bathe regularly, brush your teeth, make your bed, perform daily grooming.
- Nutrition:: When possible, eat healthy well-balanced meals
- Sleep :: Stick to a regular sleep schedule if you can. Now is a time to catch up on sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, try a mediation app (e.g. Calm, Headspace, Insight) Call your PCP if you have significant sleep problems.
- Move your body :: Whether you are able to access the outdoors or quarantined. Try to get daily movement or stretching into your routine. [e.g. walk the stairs in your building/house, turn up the music and dance, use free online resources for workouts, yoga, etc.]
- Get fresh air when possible :: If you can’t access outdoor space, open a window and breath in.
- Monitor self-medicating behavior. Limit alcohol and drug consumption.
- Tune into your body: Where are you feeling the stress? Try these: Body Scan Meditation and Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Safety :: For those facing challenges of physical or emotional safety, contact a trusted adult or friend. 24/7 Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Mental Health Care:
- Validate your feelings. It’s ok to have all different feelings right now. This makes us human!
- Create a daily routine and insert gratitude for the day.
- Limit news intake that may exacerbate an already anxious thought pattern. [e.g. 30 minutes of news in the morning and night]
- Practice breathe regulation such as Box breathing or Coherent Breath
- Mindfulness and meditation exercises to help keep us in the present and ground us. [e.g. Five senses meditation]
- Self-compassion and kindness to others. Sometimes we can be our worse self when we are afraid-- practice being brave and remember that we are all navigating this scary time without a script to go by.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Play games, write a letter, video chat, phone calls, text, host a virtual gathering or movie watch, etc.
- Learn something new: Explore your creativity (art, music, dance, comedy, write, make a short movie, sing etc.).
- Brain dump: When you have a lot of thoughts or feelings swirling around, take a piece of paper and write out all the thoughts. Just write it out, you can even rip it up later, no one needs to see it.
- Helpful Resources:
All this is to say these are stressful, unpredictable times and you need to take care of yourself. Remember there is no correct way to be feeling right now, what you feel is what you feel. It’s helpful to recognize that your feelings aren’t who you are. (“I feel angry” vs. “I am angry”) Within your control are some of the choices you can make to care for yourself in this challenging time. In the meantime, while there is a break in the rain, I’ll take some deep breaths, go back outside with my shovel and continue digging in the dirt.
Stay safe out there.