3 Self-Care Tips for Social Distancing

We’ve all heard about how self-care is important for our health, but it’s particularly critical right now in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. This is a particularly stressful time for many of us and chronically high levels of stress can decrease our immune system function, increase inflammation in our bodies, disrupt our sleep, and more. Self-care is an essential step in mitigating the effects of chronic stress on our bodies.

First, it’s a misconception that self-care is just about relaxing and spa days. Yes, self-care can be about recharging and doing things you enjoy, but it’s also about protecting yourself and setting boundaries. In a time when a 1 minute scroll through your Facebook feed is enough to incite panic over toilet paper supplies, protective boundaries now are critical.

Self-Care Tip 1: Limit your news (and fake news) exposure

Now is a great time to either take a break from social media or limit how much time you spend on it. Likewise, limiting how much time you spend reading or watching the news is also a good idea. All of these headlines circulating and posts from your neighbors are draining, stressful, and depressing. While you need to stay informed, you also need to balance that with your mental and emotional health. Some options short of full-out cold turkey: Give yourself 30 minutes on social media a day, watch the morning or evening news and avoid reading news sites during the day, choose just one outlet to follow for news, or for every news article you read about coronavirus, read one fun thing (here are the Google Search results for funny kitten videos – you’re welcome).

Self-Care Tip 2: Re-focus on you

During this time of social distancing, we can become hyper-focused on the feelings of isolation…or on feelings of stress over having your children home from school for 2 weeks. Try to instead focus on finding ways to use this time to your benefit. Maybe it means sleeping in, taking advantage of the time to get outside and get some fresh air and Vitamin D, or working on a fun project you never have time for. This is a really stressful time and we can’t ignore the very real impacts that this is having on us, mentally, physically, financially. It’s important to carve out what turf we can for our well-being at this time.

Self-Care Tip 3: Energy flows where attention goes

Pay careful attention to how much energy you are giving to this pandemic situation. Is it the topic of all your conversations? Are your thoughts being taken over by worries? What is your motivation for the things you are doing daily – is it fear? We only have so much energy to go around and it has to come from somewhere, so ask yourself: where is it being drained from if you’re dedicating most of it to this stressful situation?

I suggest setting limits on how much you talk about this situation. Honestly, saying “I’d rather talk about something else” will probably be a relief to your conversation partner as well! If your thoughts are being overrun by worries, then taking a break or setting time limits on social media/the news will definitely be helpful. Practicing mindfulness activities will also help bring more awareness to those thought patterns and help you redirect.

 

We want to hear from you! How are you practicing self-care these days? Leave it in the comments! 

20 Self-Care Ideas that Aren’t Face Masks or Manis

Self-care has become a bit of a buzzword recently, evoking images of candles and spa settings. But there is very good reason for self-care to be becoming all the rage – it’s critical for your mental and physical health. It doesn’t have to be all sauna sessions, ayahuasca retreats, and overpriced merchandise from The Goop though. Self-care is much simpler and more practical than that. Self-care means giving yourself the space to recharge, the time to rest, the opportunity to break the monotony with something you truly enjoy. Most importantly, self-care is anything but selfish. Without it, it’s impossible to show up at your best for yourself and for those you care about.

What Self-Care is Not

One thing about self-care is that if it’s something you do because you have to as a responsible adult, then it’s not really self-care. Whenever I have a client say, “well I really like cleaning so that’s my self-care” or “I really enjoy cooking,” I ask them if it’s really enjoyable when they’re doing those things out of obligation even if they don’t feel like it. When you’re exhausted from a long week but you’re still cooking dinner for 3 other people when you’d prefer to order takeout, that’s not really caring for yourself and it sure as hell takes all the pleasure out of it. Self-care is not obligatory activities.

Some Ideas for Self-Care

If you are new to self-care (hello, rundown, busy, stretched-too-thin moms!), it can seem really difficult to come up with a self-care routine, especially if cleaning and cooking don’t cut it. But, as I said, self-care is much simpler than you think. Here are some ideas for self-care activities you can start engaging in right away.

    • Meditation – even just 5 minutes 
    • Read your favorite book
    • Journal
    • Art – whether it’s painting, knitting, drawing, coloring etc. (and, no, you don’t have to be good at it!)
    • Listen to your favorite song – especially helpful when you’re in a time crunch and need that pick-me-up
    • Listen to your favorite podcast – reserve some time away from your work to really enjoy it!
    • Watch your favorite show – I am the queen of horrible TV and it makes me so happy
    • Play an instrument/make music/sing
    • Bake – I see this as different from cooking because it’s rare that you HAVE to bake…unless you’re a baker
    • Go shopping
    • Call your best friend (yes, call, like on the phone)
    • Get some fresh air – go for a walk or sit outside and just enjoy the sunshine and air
    • Go for a drive (unless road rage is your thing)
    • Practice positive affirmations – another one that’s helpful when you’re in a pinch and only have a few moments. Check out these examples to get you started
    • Get your favorite workout in
    • Make time for some physical activity, like hiking, biking, etc. You can also share this with those you care about
    • Take an extra long, hot shower
    • Enjoy a cup of tea
    • Take a cat nap
    • Do a puzzle

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Gratitude

One of the major things that I work with my clients to prioritize is self-care. This goes well beyond just eating right and exercising. Self-care is about making yourself a priority and doing what you need to do to feel good. It means taking time for yourself, it means saying “no” to things, and it means doing something good for yourself.

My major self-care practice lately has been starting off every day by making a list of the things I’m grateful for. I’m going through a very stressful time right now and this has been really helpful to me in keeping my spirits up. I start my day off on a positive note thinking about all the things I have to be grateful for and I can revisit that list throughout the day when I am starting to struggle. I revisit my gratitude list at night before bed and I add anything else to it that came up during the day and I take a few moments to just meditate on those good things. When I do this, I sleep much better and, when I sleep better, I feel better.

Numerous scientific studies have shown the benefits of gratitude – it improves your emotional AND physical health, your self-esteem, your sleep, your relationships, and so much more. Here is an article from Forbes discussing some of the benefits of gratitude if you want to learn more.

The more you make it a point to focus on the things that you’re grateful for, the more your energy will shift. You will feel gratitude more often and you’ll begin to see more and more of those benefits from it. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude will also make it easier for you to reach your health goals because you will find yourself feeling more optimistic and empowered.

So, I really encourage you to start a gratitude practice. Just making a list of the things your grateful for every day will have an effect on you. That list can consist of anything at all – I’m grateful that my partner took out the trash today, I’m grateful for that stranger who returned my wallet, I’m grateful for fluffy blankets – anything that you are grateful for, that made you smile, that made life a little easier for you.

Here is my list so far for today:

I am grateful for slow, quiet mornings. I’m grateful to have a supportive partner. I’m grateful to have access to the right resources when I need help. I’m grateful for a warm, comfortable bed. I’m grateful to have access to all of the fresh produce I’ve been eating. I’m grateful to have friends who believe in me.

I’ll add to it before bed tonight, but those are the things that came to me first thing this morning. What are 5 things you’re grateful for today?

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Listen To Your Body

When most people think about living healthy, they think eating right and exercising. But there is so much more to being healthy than that. There is spiritual health, mental health, emotional health. It’s about what you put in your body just as much as what’s on and around your body. Nobody’s perfect and if someone tells you they have their act together in all of these areas, they’re lying. We’re human. Life gets busy and stressful, we get tired, and things fall by the wayside from time to time. It’s normal. What is key is doing what is right for you and picking back up as soon as you can.

I want to share a personal story to highlight the importance of something we don’t talk about enough when we talk healthy living in our culture: the importance of listening to your body and being gentle with yourself. Nobody’s perfect and this is a personal example of what not to do.

As for most of us, life was very busy for me leading up to and around the Christmas/New Year holiday stretch. I was taking health coaching classes, working full-time, getting a coaching practice started, working out, taking care of a household, Christmas shopping, cooking, traveling, and meeting my family and friend obligations. On top of that, I was taking on a lot of other people’s problems as my own and all that stress and activity was putting me in a place where all I could focus on was what was going wrong and how much more I had to do.You’ve been there, right?

The signs of burnout were there. Right in front of me. I was tired no matter how much I slept. I was cranky and overly emotional. Life felt foggy. I felt…yucky, like I was just off. But I kept pushing.

By the time the New Year rolled around, I was sleeping 10 hours on the weekends, I had developed a planter’s wart on the bottom of my foot, I had a tension headache that lasted for days, horrendous acid reflux so I couldn’t even take Advil for the headache, a horrible breakout on my face, and I just felt…mopey. I had burnt out and shut down. My body was pulling all the alarm bells telling me I needed to cut the crap and take care of myself.

It was the third day of the tension headache when I had missed out on the holiday weekend because I felt so awful that I saw what was happening. In that moment, I gave myself permission to take care of me. To say “no” to the things that I didn’t want to do. To take a break from working out so I could recharge. To ask for help getting things done.

Most importantly, I didn’t berate myself for doing these things. Listening to your body also means being gentle with yourself. Remember that you’re human and you’re going to need a break now and then and you’re going to have to settle for “good enough” once in a while.

There will be times on your wellness journey that you want to jump right in and take on every goal at once. And if you swing and miss, you’ll want to beat yourself up. Life is not a race; it’s a marathon. You have miles and miles ahead of you, so you need to slow down and check in with your body every once in a while. How do you feel? What do you need? What could you do without? Some miles will be slower than others and you may need people to help you along at some points. That is OK because you’re still moving forward and you will get there.
Connect with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Have faith in yourself.