Self-Care for Resilience
This is a tremendously stressful time for everyone. While bubble baths and aromatherapy are great, we might all need to reflect on how we practice self-care, especially now. What does it mean to genuinely care for ourselves and attend to our needs, especially considering the social limitations due to quarantine efforts. What gives us a sense of peace? Of purpose? Of motivation to keep going despite not necessarily being able to see the light at the end of this tunnel (yet!)?
As a therapist, I feel so grateful for the ability to remain connected with so many people during this time. Sure, we are not meeting in person – I want everyone to be as safe as possible, but thanks to technology (and the brave willingness of my clients), I get the honor of sitting down, virtually, with anywhere from one to seven people per day for therapy sessions. We meet in a secure room online, where we are behind a screen, but otherwise comfortable. We are at home, with our dogs in the background, our electronics charging and draining, and draining and charging. We are laughing at the awkwardness of meeting in this way, and we are also sharing awe about the capacity to be able to do so. What an interesting time to be alive, we say.
My clients and I talk about current events, and how those events affect them. They are all different kinds of people, so what is happening affects them in all kinds of ways. I put my own beliefs, judgments and assumptions to the side and try to put myself in their shoes, so I can understand how it might be to see things from their perspective. This is one of the greatest parts of my job, because it is tremendously eye opening and I am continuously amazed at the insight and resilience my clients demonstrate. It is what keeps me going. That, and self-care. Plenty of it. On that note, here are some things to consider putting into practice, if they feel of value to you. (If you aren’t sure, maybe consider giving them a good old social experiment and give it a try? If nothing else, you learn more about yourself and what works/doesn’t work for you.)
• Get a schedule together, and actually use it. It can be on the wall, your phone, on your hand in ink, whatever. Make a list of things you want to include for yourself daily, and put them on that schedule. Don’t incorporate too many things at once, because then your schedule because mes impossible to live up to, and that can feel like a failed attempt. Set yourself up for success, and build in rewards.
• On that note, include pleasurable activities every single day. This can be a walk outside to get some fresh air, doing some dancing around the house while listening to Salt N Pepa (I know nothing about this personally…), calling your grandma, or joining an online makeup class. This is actually a great time to come back to the bubble bath and candles that I dismissed above. Whatever feels good on your spirit, let yourself enjoy it by making it as important as those other to-do items on your schedule.
• Attend to your basic needs, and if you are struggling, please reach out in any way you feel comfortable. There are many places that can help provide food, financial resources, housing assistance, clothing, therapy, social support, education, healthcare, and much more. If you are under-resourced and feeling stuck, please connect with us if we can help point you in the right direction. Every human needs and deserves to have these things in place before it is possible for them to thrive.
• When your most basic needs are attended to, look toward hygiene needs next. I am not just talking about bathing regularly, although that is critically important for not getting sucked into the “depression vortex.” Rather, sleep hygiene, nutrition, body movement, drinking enough water, and even getting dressed in such a way that feels good to you.
• Find creative, new ways to socialize. There are tons of options now all over the country, largely for free. Consider joining a group that meets online, or a book club by phone, a Netflix Party with friends, or having a Google Hangout for your favorite cousins and you (party hat stickers for the win). If you live with others, maybe play a board game or invite them on your walk with you. Make sure to find ways to connect every day with others, and not just through email or Facebook.
• Reset expectations. For yourself, for others, for what “should” be. We are devoting a great deal of executive functioning to just making sense of this new way of existing, and none of us are functioning at our best. Try and be patient and kind, not just with others, but also with yourself.
• Set the boundaries that you need to for your mental health. Some things that people might find helpful include: limiting their news consumption, turning off social media notifications, carving out alone time (especially if quarantining with others), and setting a limited quantity of work time. This last one is important if you are working from home. A healthy work-life balance is even more difficult to maintain when they are so blended together logistically.
• Look for the light. It is always there somewhere. Sometimes we have blinders on metaphorically, and cannot see it. At this time, it is critical to get connected to a therapist, friend, family member, pastor, or anyone else that can help guide us back to where it is “visible.” Find a way to spend some time each day looking for moments of good, to remind yourself that even though incoming information might be negative a lot of the time these days, there are also some very positive things out there. Letting yourself find, recognize and celebrating them with gratitude can do wonders for mental health.
• If you are in a position to do so, jump in to offer help. It feels good and makes a difference.
• Remember that this will not last forever. It can feel like it will, but that does not make it true. Things will return to a sense of normalcy. When that happens, what meaning can we take away from having gone through this period of difficulty? How can we take what we are learning now and apply it to a time like before, when it was a bit easier to take certain things for granted? When (not “if”) we return to a feeling of connectedness, safety, and whatever other aspects make up the idea of “normal,” let us remember to cherish it. For now, let us hold close the parts of our lives that remind us of that feeling. Take time each day to feel it, followed by a moment of mindful gratitude, followed by a breath. Repeat as often as you are able.