This isn’t one of my typical blog posts where I lecture on the proper use of punctuation or grammar. (I don’t lecture, do I?)
With the holidays swiftly approaching, I feel it is a good time to talk about self-care in the age of Covid. We’ve been told time and time again that isolation is not good for our mental health, yet here we are again — months after lockdown, we are being told by our governors to limit our social interactions, and to forgo Thanksgiving dinner with extended family. Restaurants have banned indoor dining, movie theaters are closed once again, and salons and barber shops have also shut their doors. At least that’s what is happening here in Washington state and in neighboring states like Oregon and California.
Humans are social creatures. We crave community and belonging; we yearn for touch — hugs from family and friends. Since we may have cooties and not know it, and our loved ones may have cooties, we can’t do that. I’m just going to say it . . . This sucks!
Isolation is defined as: socially withdrawn or removed from society. We are social creatures, so it is not in our nature to withdraw from others.
Lucky for us, we are in a digital age where we can talk to our family and friends through Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, and by other means. No, it’s not the same as being in the same room with a person; however, if this pandemic had happened in the 1980s, it would have been more isolating than it is now in 2020. To give you some perspective, we had rotary dial phones in the ‘80s, folks. For even more perspective, dial-up internet wasn’t offered commercially until 1992. A pandemic in the 1980s would have sucked way more than it does now.
With that in mind, what are some ways we can take care of our mental wellbeing during this trying time in our lives?
Here are 10 great self-care tips we can put into effect right now:
1. Self-Care Buddy: Accountability is defined as: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. It is really hard for some of us to hold ourselves accountable. We set goals for ourselves, such as working out every morning, going for walks regularly, or eating healthier, and we often fail to meet those goals. Having a partner in crime, so to speak, is a great way to hold you both accountable for each of your intended goals.
2. Journaling: Writing down your thoughts in a journal — whether it’s a spiral notebook, a Microsoft Word document, or a legitimate leather-bound journal — is proven to lead to a better night’s sleep, a higher I.Q., more self-confidence, and even a stronger immune system. It boosts your health because you’re not holding back — you’re releasing all of the negative feelings you’re carrying. They are leaving your head and going somewhere else. Sure, those thoughts are in fact still with you, but they are not pressing in on you from all sides anymore. You will feel lighter and you will breathe easier once you’ve put pen to paper.
3. Take A Drive: If you own a car, take a drive. If you don’t but someone in your household does, ask them to take you for a drive. The walls can start to feel like they’re closing in, so getting out frequently is therapeutic. Keep your eyes on the scenery, even if it’s trash cans and mailboxes. It’s different from what you’ve been looking at for the past week or so. Try playing a game while you’re out driving/riding around: Try to make words out of the very few letters you see on each license plate | Name that tree | What’s that guy thinking? | What breed of dog is that boy walking? | Where is that woman going — the store perhaps? The trick is to focus on what is happening outside the walls of your home — to focus on the good happening around you, even if it’s mundane. It will ground you and help you to breathe easier once you get back home.
4. Take A Walk: In addition to or instead of taking a drive, taking a walk is just as therapeutic to the mind as to the body. It goes without saying that the air is different outside than inside your home, especially since it’s approaching Winter. It still needs to be said, though, as a lot of us are visual thinkers. Envision yourself walking out your front door with your keys in hand and then locking the deadbolt. You saunter down the stairs (I have stairs at home) and see a neighbor from afar so you wave. You continue out to the sidewalk where you see bright red leaves on the path ahead of you. Your foot crunches one as you continue on. You’ve walked a couple of blocks now and you’re not looking at your phone. You’ve been doing that too much lately; it’s time to keep your head up as you walk, taking it all in. Wait a minute! I didn’t know Mrs. Gardener had a fence put up! See what happens when you pay attention. Now, don’t forget to write about that in your journal tonight. 😉
5. Take A Bath: It’s not an original idea. I know. Think of it this way . . . If you normally take showers, taking a bath is a welcome change, right? Don’t just take a bath, though. Make sure you’re alone in the house, and if you’re not, make sure the kids are tucked in for the night and make sure your spouse is occupied, and then gather up some candles and a lighter and head to the bathroom. Fill up the bathtub with water as warm as you can handle it, and don’t forget the bubbles. While the bathtub is filling up, start lighting those candles and then turn the light off. Grab your phone and play some really relaxing music at a low volume. By then the tub should be just about full. When you’re in the tub relaxing, don’t forget to play with the bubbles. Study the colors dancing in them with the flickering of the candle light. Let that moment relax you further until your body is vibrating with sweet relief from the day or the week. Don’t think ahead; think only of the moment.
6. Hobbies: Do you already have a hobby? Great! Spend time doing what makes your light shine. If you don’t have a hobby, try one out. There are lots of them, such as crocheting, cross-stitching, needlepoint, gardening, baking, jewelry making, and scrapbooking. There are many more hobbies to choose from. Pick one that you’ve always wanted to try and see where it takes you. If it goes nowhere, pick another, and so on. I was lucky to have picked up a new hobby in January of 2020 — before the you-know-what hit the fan. My hobby is jewelry making. It’s something that I never saw myself doing, but as soon as I began, I kept going because it keeps my hands and my mind busy, and it feels purposeful.
7. Read A Book: It seems that’s what a lot of people are doing these days, right? That’s because there’s something to it. Reading a book — especially if it’s a fiction novel — takes you into another world, far, far away from the one we all live in. It’s a break from reality, which I’m sure we can all agree we could use. If you’re drawn more to the nonfiction section of the library, you can still enjoy living outside the confines of reality by diving headfirst into someone else’s life, especially if it’s a biography. What famous person in history have you always wanted to know more about? Order their biography from the library or from an online bookstore and start reading. If it’s fiction you prefer, your choices are endless.
8. Baking: Though this is not my forte, lots of people enjoy baking. Try your hand at it and see what happens. What’s the worst that can happen? Don’t answer that. Seriously, though, imagine baking your own pizza from scratch! My husband worked at a pizza shop when we met, and years later he taught me how to make a pizza from scratch. Oh, and calzones, which are pretty much inverted pizzas, and they are tasty! With merchandise flying off the shelves, it might be a good time to start learning how to bake your own bread. There are lots of baking groups on Facebook and other platforms, so while you’re exchanging recipes, maybe you’ll also make some friends.
9. Board Games: Break out the board games, folks! Winter is coming. (Please let me know if you catch the reference.) The snow will start falling soon, caking the streets, leaving some of us homebound — as if some of us weren’t already. It’s a perfect time to dust off Monopoly and sit around the table . . . without our phones. Put them on silent and throw them in a basket because it’s time to converse with your family/housemates. If you live alone, you likely have internet capabilities, so playing games does not exclude you. Find someone you know who has the same board game in common and start a video chat. Make the boards identical, moving their character on your board when they move theirs on their board, and visa versa. There are no limits to the imagination. This can be done with card games as well. Speaking of card games, who’s down for some virtual blackjack?
10. Meditation: Like journaling, meditation has been known to build stronger immune systems and to lead to a better night’s sleep. Depending on the books you read and/or the videos you watch, meditation can be done in a variety of ways, though, quieting the mind is the universal consensus. Having practiced meditation for many months, I’ve noticed a change in the way I perceive my surroundings. I am not in as much of a hurry as I once was. Taking the time to just be and to feel may sound a bit mystical to those who haven’t tried it yet, but I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be. Whether you have music playing in the background or you choose to sit in silence, your mind and your body will thank you after the first session.