Updated: Jun 14, 2021
With a global health crisis, political and civil unrest, and the biggest blow to the economy for decades, the last year+ of unexpected obstacles and layers upon layers of unknowns. And it’s not over yet.
Meanwhile, many of us are scrambling to find things that ground and comfort us and that relieve the looming sense of anxiety and exhaustion. Normal routines and habits have been challenged or knocked off track completely and it can feel sometimes like our foundation is crumbling.
What does pandemic self care look like in the midst of turmoil?
We would do well to reassess how we define self care and where it fits into our lives right now. If you can still do the things you once did that make you feel rested, clear and connected (like hiking in nature, getting a massage, taking a yoga or movement class), keep doing them! Even if they’re not in the same setting, with the same people, or even they’re virtual only for the time being, keeping some familiar activities can give you a sense of routine that is essential to a healthy mindset.
But we can’t ignore the fact that people’s lives have been uprooted in ways we never could have imagined. Many are working from home (WFH) while learning to manage their children attending school from home, have become recently unemployed or are learning a new career skill— all the while processing grief, uncertainty, and higher levels of anxiety and depression across the board.
The word that keeps coming up with clients is ‘Overwhelm’.
What does self care look like when you’re dealing with long-term overwhelm?
Remembering to honor our own feelings and energy levels is important right now. Getting to know how we feel, and how we react to different situations and stimuli is essential in knowing when to flip the switch and REST. Sometimes during chronic periods of stress may notice our physical energy and/or mental focus suddenly drop. Insomnia is often on the rise and anxiety can seem to negatively affect entire days or weeks. We may feel foggy and unclear, or have more emotionally reactive responses to normal everyday things. Sometimes we must let ourselves rest and do nothing.
Below are 3 beginner self care practices that can help you gain sharper self-awareness and the insight to know when to say ‘enough’, and how to best nourish yourself.
1-Mindfulness Meditation for Sustainable Wellbeing
Begin to explore mindfulness meditation by practicing a basic version of the Body Scan exercise each day for two weeks. Try this guided scan (13min)
Our attention is more split than ever and our bodies are awash in extra stress hormones. Research has shown that a consistent mindfulness meditation practice contributes to the strengthening of brain networks that govern self-control and emotional regulation, helping with the virtues of patience and insight, and ultimately having a positive effect on decision-making, all while increasing productivity, goal satisfaction, and improving relationships of all kinds. Our stress response is also altered so that meditation actually fortifies the immune system- a much needed benefit right now as we head into the Fall and Winter.
2- Free Writing for Deeper Awareness
Deepening awareness of our mental patterns and our innermost belief systems by writing out thoughts and feelings can create fast and potent transformation. This practice can also be brief- try 5-10 min each day or 30 min once a week.
Journaling is a way of clarifying your own thoughts- by having a conversation with yourself. The power of the written word can be incredibly insightful and journaling is an under-used tool by those in pursuit of self-healing and self-improvement.
There are many ways to journal for awareness and self-discovery. One method is called ‘free-writing’. Everyday at the same time sit down to write, and with no particular topic in mind continue to free-write for a set period of time (Pro tip: Set a timer). Don’t stop writing during the time period, even if you feel you don’t have anything to say. Just keep the words flowing onto the paper (even if you are writing ‘I have nothing to say to this journal!’). Free-writing is a way of clearing and releasing the power of repetitive thoughts, whether mundane or seemingly important. With time it allows space for desires and intuitions about your life to come to the surface, and many find that some issues and obstacles that have been hanging around even seem to resolve themselves spontaneously- all through the act of bringing our thoughts to paper.
3- Deep Relaxation and Stress Relief
Find things that deeply relax you and allow your tension to slip away on both a mind and body level. Try this guided meditation (9 min) right before bed to help improve the regenerative quality of your sleep.
Chronic states of stress and anxiety are now the norm as the sympathetic nervous system (‘Fight or Flight’) stays more activated than parasympathetic (‘Rest and Digest’). When sustained for months or years, this imbalance can lead to all kinds of mental and physical disease by increasing inflammation, making vital organs work even harder, activating anxiety syndromes and depression, and much more. Find ways to carve out time and create boundaries so that you can relax often and relax completely. Whether it’s going for a run and then taking a hot bath, having a glass of wine and watching stand-up comedy, or just laying down and listening to a guided mediation in your headset (40-min deep healing meditations are available here), make sure to schedule your self care time into your calendar. Make it important because you are important.