It is not until a crisis hits that we finally remember to take care of ourselves, both mentally and physically. Many people neglect daily self-care because they consider it “selfish” to focus on themselves while so many others are struggling. In reality, however, taking care of your mental and physical health is a prerequisite for being able to show up for those who need you.
Flight safety instructions illustrate this the best: if the plane is going down, put on an oxygen mask first, before turning to help those around you. It’s absolutely logical: if you neglect yourself, you won’t be able to help others. Still, many of us forget about this fact, especially in times of crisis.
Now is the perfect time to work on your mental and physical health and take care of yourself. It’s simple and achievable and you won’t have to go out of your way to do it, even during this global crisis:
1. Make a List of Activities that You Love
In times of panic, confusion and pessimism, one of the best cures is to re-connect to what we love doing. It can be walking, playing with your pet, meditating, cooking, drawing or painting, cleaning, reading or watching TV. It’s basically anything that helps relieve your stress.
As Brian Tracy said,
“Set peace of mind as your highest goal and organize your life around it.”
2. Practice Gratitude
There are so many things in the world that are making you upset, furious or afraid. During these dark times, and especially now, it’s important to find things that we are grateful for.
Zig Zaglar said,
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”
3. Set Work-Life Boundaries
For many of us who started working from home as a result of the crisis, living spaces have now become offices. This makes it especially hard to know the difference and draw the line between work and play. You might find yourself answering emails from bed or responding to your boss’ messages while you’re eating dinner.
You have to create an order if you don’t want to experience burnout and dissatisfaction. For starters, try sticking to the same schedule of working and relaxing as you would during a normal workday.
If you didn’t respond to emails before you get into the office, don’t start doing so now. Also, stop working at the same time and in the same way as if you were working from the office.
When you’re off the clock, store your laptop or other work devices somewhere where you can’t see them (until you need to use them again). Out of sight, out of mind!
Jane Park said,
“When I think about work-life balance, I don’t imagine it as a perfect day where I got to spend the exact right amount of time having an impact at work and snuggling with my kids at home. I never achieve that. But over the course of a month, or a quarter, or a year, I try to make time for the people and experiences I value.”
4. Create an Easy-to-do List and Check Things Off
All over the Internet, you can find productivity hacks and tips for people who are struggling with getting stuff done during the quarantines. The majority of us are simply not as productive as we normally are, which is completely understandable.
However, when a huge to-do list is staring right at us, we are likely to feel even worse. So, instead of going for grandiose plans and ambitious tasks, create a super-easy to-do list that will give you that self-confidence and motivation boost you need.
When you get the ball rolling with a sense of productivity and achievement, it’s much easier to imagine yourself tackling more complicated tasks. For example, I started the isolation with a plan to finally re-organize my closet. After a couple of days of procrastination and finding excuses for not doing so, I realized the task was too daunting because it would take me several hours to do so. So, I just put “organize 1 drawer” on my to-do list. Guess what? I actually did end up reorganizing my entire closet that day, just because I had the motivation to start and end an easy step.
5. Limit Your News Intake
Now, this is a crucial bit of advice when it comes to taking care of your mental and physical health during a crisis. Are you familiar with that feeling of anxiety and stress after you watch the news or read a grim article? Well, imagine compounding that feeling over weeks and months; that’s definitely not something you want to do for your psyche.
Meera Lee Patel said,
“Staying informed and up-to-date with the most recent events is important, but it’s not worth losing your mind over… When news starts becoming a strong source of anxiety and fear, it’s time to take a step back. Stick to the media limits you set for yourself. If you notice that even a small dose of news has a negative impact on your mental health, acknowledge that and retreat”.
6. Read a Book (or Listen to an Audiobook)
Now is the perfect time to dedicate yourself to reading all those books you never had the time to. After a couple of weeks and months, you’ll see that your have-to-read list is finally getting smaller and your inner world is getting richer. Aim for at least 15 minutes of reading every day.
7. Allow Yourself to Grieve
Just like we have mentioned before, people don’t like engaging in thoughts or activities that make them feel selfish. Wrongfully so, many of us assume that we don’t have the right to grieve and be sad because “others have it worse”. That may be true, but that’s definitely not a reason why you’re not allowed to feel how you feel. Grief is a feeling that’s resolved best when confronted, and it’s no shame feeling grief for whichever reason you may have: losing your loved one, losing work, changing life plans, switches in your usual routines…
The secret to tackling this very powerful and sometimes very uncomfortable feeling is to face it head-on and then change the narrative. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling, name those emotions and let them exist freely. Then, breathe out, grab a pen and paper and write down all things in your life that give you grounding and stability.
This differs from one person to the next: for some, it’s the strength of friends who support you no matter what, for others, it may be things they own. It might be something entirely different for you.
8. Don’t be Afraid to Rest
These times can be compared to a sensation of vertigo. We are losing the feeling of the ground below our feet and it’s not certain when it’s going to stop or change. How do you get rid of the physical sensation of vertigo? You sit down, lie down, rest. It’s no different with this situation.
During these times, it’s great to introduce the practice of productive rest, which will eliminate the feeling of guilt when you take time to relax. Instead of shutting down and isolating, take some time for mindfulness and focus. Ask yourself:
- What are the feelings you’re feeling right now?
- How are you physically feeling? Where do you feel any tension/pain/sensations in your body?
- What do you want to get from today?
9. Do Breathing Exercises
People who have never done breathing exercises are usually skeptical of them, but they work real wonders for your mental and physical health! Keep an open mind if you have never tried it.
One of the most popular breathing exercises is called box breathing. It only takes a couple of minutes and it’s famous for being used by US Navy SEALs. Here’s how to do it:
1) Breathe in for 4 seconds.
2) Hold your breath for 4 seconds.
3) Exhale for 4 seconds and empty your lungs completely.
4) Keep your lungs empty and don’t inhale for 4 seconds.
5) Repeat the cycle for the next 5 minutes.
A sedentary lifestyle, isolation and chronic stress are triggers for lower mood and worsening of depression and anxiety symptoms. At the same time, exercise really can do wonders for your mood levels and physical health. Use some of the resources available online to get those workouts in, even if you’re at home all the time.
As you can see, there are many things that you can do to boost your mental and physical health during a global crisis. Even though it seems negative and it’s very easy to start feeling hopeless and depressed, there are plenty of resources that your body has to tackle these feelings, even in the environment of isolation and complete solitude.