Quarantine. Isolation. Social distancing. Routines are changing fast as the world scrambles to flatten the curve. We’re not here to talk to you more about the coronavirus and its implications for our society as a whole, instead, we’re here to talk to you about self-care during your time inside, however long it may be.
Self-care is important on a normal day, but with all of the fear and panic surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, it has become essential to look after yourself, emotionally and mentally as well as physically. The things we used to take for granted like day to day interactions with others and paying attention to our own needs suddenly matter more now than ever
So how do we take care of ourselves during this health crisis?
Make a schedule
Whether you’re working from home during these trying times or just trying to figure out what to do with all of your sudden free time, schedules can be hugely helpful. Keep it simple, keep it accessible. For some people, keeping a timetable can be hard. If you’re one of those people, a handy tip can be to create a cascading schedule, rather than abiding by time slots, abide by an order of events.
As an example, I start my day with breakfast, then I work on project A, then I can have a break before starting project B. After project B I do some light stretching, followed by lunch. By planning your day in this manner, you can reduce the stress you may feel by not getting project A done in the time slot you allotted yourself or taking too long of a lunch break.
Or, if you are a person that works better with specific time requirements but you struggle with putting those time restrictions on yourself, a great tool you can use is Skedpal. Skedpal is a scheduling software that will take all of the tasks you have to accomplish (along with your estimated times it will take to complete those tasks) and will create a schedule for your day. If you sent it up correctly, it will tell you what you are doing, when you are doing it, and if you finish a task early, it will look at what else you have coming up and shuffle things around so that you are not wasting any time. They offer a 14-day trial, so give it a try and see if it helps!
Make space for dedicated downtime
So you are now probably spending all day every day at home, and feel that this means you should be even more productive than ever before. After all, you have so much free time to be home and tackle all of those tasks you just haven’t had the time to do yet. Spoilers: this is a recipe for burn out.
You are not superhuman. Even though you’re at home all day does not mean that every moment needs to be accounted for, or productive. You’re allowed to indulge in downtime or mindless activities. Sometimes binging YouTube for an hour, or scrolling social media mindlessly is exactly what you should do to take a break. If you’ve been sitting all day, get up and stretch or walk in a few circles. Bake a cake, make some art, read a frivolous book, write a few words in a journal, or stare blankly at the wall. Just make sure that you give yourself space in which you are not expected to be productive.
Many have been discussing that being on lockdown at home is making them eat more food than they usually would, or conversely, that quarantine is the perfect time to focus on a new wellness campaign to shed a few pounds. Food is sustenance and comfort. Food is essential but can cause a lot of anxiety. While self-moderating is an important skill in a lot of aspects of life, it can quickly become problematic when in relation to food.
Eat when you are hungry, be mindful when you’re not. Build food and snack breaks into your schedule. Even if you’ve been a couch potato for days, it’s no excuse to skip lunch. Your brain requires an immense number of calories to function properly, and existing in states of anxiety can have a marked effect on your metabolism. You’re allowed to eat when you’re bored and you’re allowed to eat even when you haven’t “earned” it. Now is the time to prioritize your mental, emotional, and physical health over externalized concepts of beauty and “fitness”. Eat.
Life is inherently uncertain and unpredictable, but we feel these truths so much more intensely during times of upheaval and turmoil. Practicing mindfulness can help alleviate the symptoms of unrest and anxiety. When you watch the news, what are you feeling? What thoughts cross your mind most frequently? Observe these things within yourself without judgment. See where you can adjust your thought patterns, where you can put down boundaries on reading the news and giving yourself space away from the fear. Find inclusive mindfulness practices to engage with and build into your schedule.
For a crash-course in mindfulness, you can check out our articles on mindfulness here:
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Get dressed (up)
While it may be tempting and even fun to wear your pajamas all day, it may be hard to get yourself in a helpful headspace if you haven’t showered in days and you’ve been wearing the same smelly t-shirt for who knows how long. Make a definitive effort to change your clothes when you wake up and before you go to bed. Practice good self-hygiene dress for the day you want to have.
If you actually have work you need to be doing from home, sometimes getting dressed up as you would for work is a way to trick your brain into getting into the “time to work” headspace. Wearing nice clothes or wearing things that you look good in is great for your self-esteem, especially when it’s really easy to roll out of bed and wear what you slept in all day.
Take your meds and supplements on time
Many of us are on chronic medication or have a supplement routine. Now, more than ever is the time to ensure you’re taking your doctor prescribed medications. This is especially important for psychiatric medications. Just because you’re staying at home, doesn’t mean you don’t need your medication!
You’re not alone. We’re all stuck at home until this all blows over. Reach out. Join social media groups in your interest areas. Find new hobbies or friends to engage with. Join an online dance party or host a movie night on Netflix with Netflix Party where you and your friends watch the same movie and can chat in an attached chat room. Find meditation groups. There are a lot of professionals offering free or reduce priced services during these troubled times. There’s no reason that self-isolating needs to mean being cut off from the rest of the world. Make time for people in your life and new people looking to connect. We’re all in this together, after all.