Self-Care During Stressful Times

by Tracy Fromm, Mental Health Counselor at Caring Communities

The ultra-stressful outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been a reality shock and upended life for all of us. No one in the world can say their lives have not been affected in various ways. It is an event unlike any other we have experienced.

After several weeks of being informed about the virus, and the mandate of social distancing and limited travel, many people are experiencing “cabin fever”. Individuals are not used to being isolated from others. We need and want companionship. We hope that this will all be soon behind us.

So how can we continue to maintain our equilibrium, our mental health, and live without having residual feelings of anxiety or uncertainty once this virus has ended?

It is very important that you take steps to care for yourself and your close family members during this time. Most importantly, stay in touch with others, via calling, Facetime or other video chat services, texting, etc., daily or several times a week. It will help you to feel more connected.

Whether you live alone or with others, look to your neighbors to the right and left of you. Call them. Do they need anything? If you go to the store you could help another person by picking up an item or two and leaving it on their porch or steps. We never know when our actions, no matter how insignificant they may appear to us, may be a “lifeline” to others. That simple call to a neighbor may literally save a life of someone who is highly depressed and despondent during this crisis. And in turn, you may have acquired a friend.

Here are some recommendations to practice self-care during this time:

1) Most importantly, take care of your body. Eat regular, balanced meals. Prepare a “comfort food” periodically.

The weather is warming, so go out on your porch, patio, balcony, or yard with your cup of coffee in the morning. Try to avoid alcohol and drugs. This might be the time to take up yoga or meditation. You can find instructors on YouTube for this. Make certain you get a full night’s sleep. If you generally shower daily, take the time for a hot bath.

2) Partialize your activities. Don’t try to accomplish too much. Set a goal of 1-2 activities/goals per day and review what you have accomplished at the end of the day. 1-2 activities/day results in 7-14 goals accomplished each week.

3) Take a break from the news. We are inundated with negativity about Covid-19. Watch fictional shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Check out free movies on YouTube!

4) Continue to connect with others. If you feel alone, check out the various groups and chats on Facebook. There is a trial on Babel.com to learn a new language. Have you wanted to paint in oils or watercolors? There are tutorials on YouTube and Instagram.

5) Catch up on reading. Is there a book you have been wanting to read, but could not find the time? Check out your local library’s website for e-books and audiobooks you can borrow from home. You can also browse Kindle or Audible for titles, some of which are free. If you have children, there are free audiobooks for kids. This is also a good time to start journaling. Grab a notebook, date each entry and describe how you are feeling and what you have done each day.

6) Some people will use this time to start “spring cleaning”. If you have the motivation to do so, cleaning provides us with a sense of control over our environment, which we so desperately need at this time. Another benefit of cleaning is the “sense of satisfaction” of another goal accomplished.

Please recognize, we WILL get through this difficult period. As bothersome and annoying as this time is, understand you are not alone. Nearly everyone in the world is going through this isolation or dealing with illness. Being separated from others can also provide a time for self-awareness and reflection. Life is on a “vacation”, so let us take advantage of this time to find out about us, to care for us and those we love.

For more resources and information on good mental health practices during the time of COVID-19, please visit https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml