How to self care during the coronavirus pandemic
With the current coronavirus pandemic, we have been asked to make a lot of changes in our life. With that being said we are all in need of time to care of ourselves. This article will look at what self-care is and ways in which we can use self-care to manage what is coming up for us. At the moment, due to COVID-19, we may find ourselves with more free time which can sometimes create fragmentation in our routines. Therefore, it is important that we take control of our own self-care and daily routine to keep ourselves well.
The big question is what is self-care? Over the past few years, I have developed a working definition due to the people I have worked with and my own experience. Self-care is split into two components. These are:
This component is about working through our in-tray issues. Over a period of time, we process and deal with a lot of issues but sometimes we can leave some in our in-tray. These are usually because we have not had the time to process them or we don't want to process them because it is tough stuff or it may bring up unpleasant feelings and thoughts. As a result of this, some of these issues can start to fester, become something more and start to ripple out into our lives. We all need to take time out to process the incoming issues and the leftover in-tray issues, so we are able to have more capacity and resources to deal with what we are faced with. There are two main ways that I recommend that you can do this:
Writing is a way to download, release and understand your feelings. There are three main techniques that I recommend for writing. I usually recommend that you don't write for any longer than ten minutes, and not an hour before you go to sleep.
- The first technique is random writing; when we randomly go with what is in our minds at that time and write it down on paper. The focus is to go with our intuition and gut rather than our thinking about what it is that we are about to write. This usually leads to us being connected to our unconscious where issues can come to the forefront that we may not have thought of before. Usually, this is one of the easier writing techniques to use.
- The second technique for writing is 'writing with intent'. Writing with intent is when we look at some of our in-tray issues. Where we decide to pick one of those issues and then spend up to ten minutes writing about whatever we feel comfortable with writing about, with regards to that particular issue.
For example, it might be some issues around a loss or relationship issues. Furthermore, things like experiencing difficulty in being alone and the lack of social interaction can be something we write with intent about.
- The third writing technique is ‘writing for self-focus’. This is when we are focusing on ourselves. We can ask ourselves what is coming up for us or if there is any prominent thought or feelings that have been on our mind? You can also look at other things like what is it that we are doing good in terms of coping, and what is it that we are not doing so well. We can then see what it is that we can work on. This is a space where you can talk about your goals and aspirations in terms of things you can do. Sometimes a little bit more of self-care time enables you to look at what it is that you want. ‘Writing for self-focus’ can mean that we can write about the things we have achieved and the things we are grateful for, to remind ourselves that the current lockdown situation is enabling us to keep safe and well, even though it can sometimes feel a bit frustrating, difficult, and challenging on our patience.
- The second technique is spending time and reaching out to other people. Sometimes we need to tell our support networks what we need. Often when there is something on our minds all we need is for someone to just listen to us, understand us and maybe provide another perspective if we ask them to. In essence, we don't want people to tell us what to do and how to fix it all. You can adapt the three writing techniques in the support that you access, so you can have a random talk and see what comes up. You can also do, and speak with intent, so if there is a particular issue you want to spend time discussing with someone to working through what comes up for you. Finally, you can speak with regards to self-focus by connecting with what's coming up for you and letting the talking flow in whichever direction it needs to at that time.
Both of these techniques can provide you with ways in which you can channel some of the things which are coming up for you at this time. You can also seek out talking therapy with a counsellor if you feel that you would like some professional support.
The second component is to do with giving ourselves permission to take care of ourselves. Often we will spend a lot of time doing what we need to do such as working, so we can keep a roof over our heads, keep ourselves fed and clothed. We often don't look at what it is that we want and we don't realise just how important this is for us. Working on our wants enables us to recharge our batteries. This form of self-care is split it into four areas which are the following:
- When I look at mind self-care, I look at it as three components. The first two components are to do with the hemispheres in our brain. Our dominant side is more to do with our problem solving, logical and reasoning side and the other side is more to do with our creative, practical, hands-on side. Just like we exercise our bodies we need to exercise our minds. There are different ways in which we can do this such as reading, writing, picking up a hobby, learning a new skill, playing various games like crosswords, word searches, sudoku etc. The different types of games you can get on your phone nowadays. You can also be creative such as doing arts and crafts, gardening, DIY.
- The third component of mind self-care is checking in with yourself and making sure your thinking is healthy. We can do this by asking ourselves where we are on the barometer, between healthy thinking and unhealthy thinking. There tend to be two ways we can deal with our thoughts. Unhealthy thinking is when we go into react mode with our thoughts and we end up going into think; overthink. Healthy thinking is when we go into a 'respond' mode with our thoughts and we connect, reflect and digest in the moment. Hence, we are not holding on to those thoughts.
There are all sorts of different tools to manage your thinking and to create a start and end to your thoughts. There are many self-help websites, videos and apps available to provide ways to connect, reflect and digest your thoughts. Mindfulness and meditation can be a good place to start. With the current situation with COVID-19, it’s leading to us overthinking and we can go into this 'react' mode when we are reading all these headlines and seeing the news about various things that are happening in the world. So, try searching for some self-help techniques and see which ones suit you and by all means, amend or adapt them to what works for you.
Body self-care is split into five sections.
- The first area is eating, so noticing what we put into our bodies and ensuring we are eating the right types of food to give us the energy we need.
- The second area is exercising which releases the happy chemical in our brains. Look at ways you can make this fun and perhaps involve others if you can.
- The third area is sleep, so checking in with regards to our sleep to see whether it's disturbed or restless or if we are over-sleeping. Taking note of this and just dealing with different ways in which you can deal with that. Often it's useful to have a regular sleep time, waking up time and sometimes it can be useful to have a wind-down routine because some of the days we might find it quite hard to wind down and feel unable to switch off.
- The fourth component of body self-care is pampering the body. Taking time out and taking care of it and we can do this by having a nice relaxing bath, pampering our body in different sorts of ways such as putting a face mask on, having a massage, a foot soak and so on.
- The final component on body self-care is the 'look good and feel good’ factor. Even though, we are not going out of our houses it does not mean we cannot take time out to get ourselves dressed up a little bit and take care of our appearance. When we look in the mirror and we look good it automatically uplifts our mood and our confidence. So don't break that routine, keep on doing that.
This is split into two areas.
- The first area looks at achieving a sense of peace. You can do this in all sorts of different ways, for example: yoga, mindfulness, meditation, just being with nature, listening to music and praying. An opportunity to completely focus on where we are, at that time, and not be focused on what is happening in the wider world, can give ourselves and our minds a break.
- The second area is feeling connected to our life purpose. When we are connected to our life purpose we feel happy because we are achieving and heading in the direction we want to. Sometimes, we can get to a point where we have not reviewed this and not checked in with ourselves so we can lose that focus. There are lots of different tools that you can use to do this and they are the following: You can ask yourself three questions; who am I?, why am I here?, what do I want?
You can also find something called 'life wheels' online that allows you to look at different aspects of your life. What you would do here is to rate yourself from one to ten. Zero is on the centre of the circle and the ten is on the outer rim of the circle, so rate yourself from zero to ten for each aspect. You find different types of life wheels and you pick one that feels relevant to you and these can be some of the tools that you can use just to feel connected to your life purpose.
Wants and desires:
- These are really important as I have mentioned earlier because this is the stuff that recharges our batteries. What are our wants and desires? Sometimes there isn't a straightforward answer to this question, so we need to take time out to connect with what it is that we want or what desires we have. This can be all types of things for example: our holidays would be here, going to the theatre, cinema, going to the circus etc. Doing something adventurous, such as quad biking, archery, hot air balloon ride, bungie jumping, etc. Sometimes you need to do a bit of trial and error to know what your desires are. This will change over a period of time and they will never remain the same. Take a bit of time out, know and note down ten things that you want to do or have a desire to try. Within the realms of being in a lockdown at the moment, what is it that you can do and how you can adapt some of that stuff to doing it at home.
This is the second component of self-care. Both the components give you different tools in which you can deal with the current situation. This is slightly amended to coronavirus and the impact it has had on our lives. In the long run, you can look at this in a way to take care of yourself because you are important too. If you are not alright then nothing else will be alright so we need to take time out to work on our issues and process them. Self-care gives us permission to take care of ourselves so we can keep going. With the current COVID-19 situation it may be giving us time to do this. So, why not create yourself a self-care list, to plan out things on a day to day basis, for yourself and for your family, so you can start to create a different sort of routine whilst we are retreating from the world and being asked to work in a different way.