Posted By: Carol M. Pate, Ed.D.
It’s 2021 and even with some good news about the COVID-19 vaccines, we’ve already started with an attempted coup of our democratic processes and hiccups in the vaccine rollouts across the country. The images of January 6th are being replayed and reanalyzed… it’s enough anxiety to last for years. While most of us aren’t directly involved (thankfully) in what is happening at the Capital and White House, there are some things we CAN do to help us focus and stay true to what matters most. Especially for the next few weeks as we move through to January 20, 2021 and beyond, taking care of ourselves in addition to those we love is going to be extremely important.
Self-care is all about relationship, our relationship with ourselves. Sometimes we are our worst friend... we treat ourselves as if we are not worthy to be who we are. We wouldn't want to be friends with us... at times. That is NOT helpful, especailly now. We need us to be our best selves now.
The good news then is that there really isn’t a right or a wrong way to engage in self-care. Where do you begin? Much has been said about self-care with regards to needing more sleep. Yet, if you only concentrate on one area like sleep, you may be missing out on other areas of self-care that are equally important, especially now. As you begin checking in with the self-care needs you may have, these nine areas are a good place to start:
Taking care of our physical bodies is of course important. Sleep belongs here, as does eating, fitness (movement), and disease/condition management (as needed). While comfort foods might satisfy in the short run, take the long view and eat as nutritiously as possible. Move a bit more to keep your blood flowing and your mind more clear. Keep medical appointments and get help if you see and/or feel that something isn’t right.
This area is a hot spot for most of us now given the coronavirus and our national crisis. One self-care practice that can be put into place right away is to take a break every couple of hours and take a walk outside to get some fresh air. This breaks the mental cycle of continual worry and breathes new life into your projects. Reach out to loved ones and fore comfort and solace, your call might help them as well!
We have become so used to over-stimulating our senses with technology trying to keep up with the news as well as for our work needs that we are blind to how it affects our lives. Staring at screens all day and all night means eyes never get a proper rest, while listening to news stories about the latest issues keeps minds over-stimulated. We hurt ourselves when we indulge in constant sensory stimulation. Give your brain and senses a break by turning off the screens, radio and other noise and find quiet time. Pull back and give your senses a much-needed break. And, if your body says it needs touch, a hot bath or shower is a wonderful sensory experience that gives back peace and calm.
Experts say that emotional self-care is often simply the act of allowing yourself to feel your emotions for what they are with little to no judgement. This can be difficult especially when the outside world is giving judgments seemingly every second of the day and night. A few practices to begin increasing your emotional self-care is to find times and places to laugh, to compliment yourself for one thing every day and to smile more. In addition, if you need to cry, do so. Cryng often releases many pent-up emotions and allows them move to onwards. That is good.
There is no doubt that relationships have been strained during this past year with the primacy of zoom-connections to anyone outside your immediate family unit, as well as other stressors added by the coronavirus. Here is where kindness to yourself when you don’t act perfectly to family members or friends comes in. Find little ways to be your best advocate, your best cheerleader. When you are good to you, you’ll be better to others.
Spiritual self-care is about gaining some distance and perspective on current situations through one’s religious and/or spiritual affiliations that connects us to something larger than ourselves. That's sometimes not easy to maintain in the middle of the pandemic or political crisis. The good news is science shows simple interventions can give you a quick dose of awe that could lead to measurable increases in well-being. Being present for sunrises and/or sunsets is one way to experience this awe, looking into the eyes of your child or pet (and then smiling) is another.
This past year and continuing now, the pandemic has taken a toll on most family finances. Women have carried most of the economic burden with having to stay home and school their children, and being laid off when businesses lost income. The one most practical financial self-care activity to act on would be to pare down on everything you can, and where you can’t, strengthen your negotiating skills and work out better terms if possible. Many banks, businesses and other institutions are being more lenient now. Have them become your partner.
If the coronavirus has you laid off, now is a good time to take a good look at what you might do to strengthen skill sets, add certifications or begin that side project you’ve wanted to begin but just never had the time. If you haven’t been part of a professional network, now is the time to look at many options. This is NOT the time to be isolated as people in your network want to help. Be brave and ask for it.
During a crisis, we don’t often think about caring for our creative sides as the awe, art, inspiring people, and music seem to be way in the back, dark closet. Any difficult situation will demand more of us, not less. More as in bringing out the authentic parts of us that could be VERY helpful when the time arrives for us to decide the next steps. So find time, even as Victor Frankl did during his time in the concentration camp, to see something good, to pick up a piece of string and imagine the future. Listen to the music you love, even for 5 minutes. Any ideas that arise from this time, write them down so they don’t get pushed away.
Self-care in times like this helps ALL of us to stay centered and not get caught up in the maelstrom. It re-calibrates our senses to focus on what is important. All of us will be needed to help our family, communities and nation move forward. We can’t be a viable part of this movement if we jump into the whirlpool. Take stock, observe and stay true to you.
If you have more ideas for self-care during this time, we’d love to hear from you.
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