I cried this week for the first time since COVID-19 started.
I watched the pandemic hit internationally, then come to the United States. I led an organization through a convention while watching New York City turn apocalyptically quiet. I came home Sunday to find my college freshman home until fall, to learn that I won’t see my own students again this semester and to try to lead student journalists through the coverage of changes at their own university.
I was doing pretty well until Wednesday morning. I knew as soon as I woke up that this would be the day I cried. It happened that evening. The dam broke for just a minute, then I continued preparing dinner.
I wanted to write this post yesterday. I thought that, if I needed the self care, you likely did too. But I chose self care other than writing. I cleaned. I deep cleaned our house all day because, if we’re going to be stuck here, my emotional health requires order.
Now that I’m in a better place, I am ready to share with you what I know about self care. Note that I practiced what I teach and took care of myself first.
Self care is anything you do to take care of yourself.
This means self care looks different for everyone. My self care may be reading a book in a bubble bath surrounded by candles, while my husband’s self care is relaxing in front of the television.
Self care also may look different for you at various times. Sometimes I just need to sit and cuddle with my dog. I needed to take some control of my situation yesterday and clean my house.
What self care consists of really depends on the person and the time. There’s no wrong way to do it (aside from self medicating, which is not self care, even if you try to call it that). Here are some methods you may consider for taking care of yourself:
TALK IT OUT
The professional term for this is “debriefing.” It helps. Talk to a trusted family member, a friend, a significant other or a coworker. This is why I love that people are having virtual meet ups right now. Just putting your concerns, fears and sadness into words helps you feel better.
There is a substantial amount of research showing that writing about your experiences and feelings, specifically journaling, helps you make sense of the happenings. Since writing is something you already know and love as a journalist, it makes sense that writing could be cathartic for you. I’ve seen a lot of people encouraging journaling right now because we’re experiencing something we never have before and hopefully never will again.
I’m struggling with this one myself. I’m home so I want to just snack all day. But I’ll feel even worse if I gain weight. Eating well and drinking plenty of water will help your physical and emotional health.
Try to maintain a regular sleep pattern as well as you can, even though you’re likely working from home. Tiredness can compound emotions and make you feel even more overwhelmed.
We know exercise releases endorphins that result in positive mood. My son is struggling with his gym being closed. He decided yesterday that he’ll take daily runs outside with the dogs. I’m focusing on exercising outside every time the weather is nice because sunshine refills my soul. Otherwise, I’m walking inside or using our elliptical machine. Stick to as regular an exercise routine as you can, even if you have to force it.
What helps you relax? Whether it is lighting a scented candle, taking a bath, playing with your puppy, or watching a good movie, spend time doing the things that help you relax. This is especially important when working from home. You have to set limitations around your work time or it will consumer all of your time.
ENGAGE IN A HOBBY
Hobbies like listening to music, dancing, painting, and gaming help you become a more well-rounded person and give you time to think about something except all of the negative happening in the world right now. I have a lot of friends who are working puzzles with their families since they’re stuck at home.
PRACTICE YOUR FAITH
People with strong religious beliefs are more resilient than those without. If you are a person of faith, times of uncertainty are a natural time for you to cling to and actively practice that faith.
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
When the sheer amount of negativity is getting to you, focus radically on the positive aspects of your life and the world around you. Science shows that focusing on the positive actually increases happiness and makes us view the world in a more positive light. Consider making a list (or a daily list?) of things that make you feel happy. If you’re healthy right now, you certainly want to put that on your list.
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
Know yourself well enough to understand when you’re at your limit. Take a break and step away from things like television news or social media that constantly remind you of what’s happening right now. Yes, it’s important to stay informed, but you don’t need real-time, non-stop detail.
It is a difficult and unprecedented time. We all have to make self care a priority so we can help others. I hope this post gives you some ideas on how to care for yourself or at least reminds you that you need to do so. Take care of yourself.