Self Care During a Pandemic

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Let Super Productivity Fly out the Window and Follow These Self-Care Tips During the Pandemic

Have you felt an overwhelming pull to be super productive while in self-isolation?  It could be because you are being inundated with social media suggestions about baking bread, organising ages old photos or at home exercise routines.  But what if you are feeling the exact opposite of super productive?

Ironically, we currently have an unprecedented opportunity to do things we have been putting off at home, but we may find that we have little motivation to accomplish those things. I’m here to tell you that it is perfectly normal and perfectly okay to avoid the pull to super productivity. 

Pandemic Stress Is Our New Reality

Think about it this way – no matter how much you avoid being pulled into the constant negative news stream about the pandemic – it is always there.  The stress of our new reality. Even if you shut everything off, you still feel it: the quiet of the streets, the knowledge that you can’t just “pop in and out” to get a chocolate bar…all those changes to our regular routines are still telling you that things have not returned to normal yet. You may even hear more birds chirping outside your home. As pleasant of a sound as that is, it’s another reminder that we’re still living in a pandemic.

Which means this: To feel the push to increase your productivity at this time may actually be adding to your stress levels.

Productivity Can Create a Trap

Life right now is full of energy-sapping activities. What used to be work, homework, complaining about the boss, and shopping has become working from home, homeschooling, dealing with job loss, and grocery shopping followed by sanitising the items you bring into your home.

While productivity can be therapeutic for some, it can also help you avoid acknowledging feelings of loss or anxiety due to self-isolation.  Recognizing your feelings of sadness or distress may actually boost your ability to function, because it tells your brain that yes, you are paying attention. Your brain may then say, “Excellent. Thank you. Please continue.”  Repressing feelings of sadness can actually result in more stress and burnout.  

If  Acknowledging Your Feelings Is Not Enough – Try Self-Care 

Productive days may be followed by days where you don’t get out of your pyjamas. Go easy on yourself and redefine those down days. Remember when we used to call them “me days”? That may sound selfish in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but those days are essential. 

Would you tell healthcare workers they can’t have me days? No? Then why say that to yourself?

(If the answer in your mind is, “They’re saving lives and I’m not,” remember that you, too, are saving lives. By working hard to not get sick you’re making healthcare workers’ jobs much easer.)

Nurture yourself, whatever you choose to call this time. If you feel guilty thinking of time for you as “me time,” think of it as “functional self-care.”  Replenish your emotional inventory by including joy, gratefulness, happiness and other positive feelings on these down days.  

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If self-care feels indulgent or a waste of your time think of it this way – you wouldn’t run your car without regular maintenance and oil changes would you?  Well self-care does for your mind and body, what regular oil changes and maintenance do for your car.  It’s really very simple – if your phone battery runs out of juice it won’t work. If your personal battery is running on empty you won’t perform at your best no matter what you do. Self-care helps you perform at a more optimal level of productivity.  

What Is Self-Care Really?

We’ve all had those days when we eat a gallon of ice cream while streaming endless episodes of mind numbing sitcoms.  It may feel like it is working to take you away from the stress of your life but ironically, it also leaves you feeling less than energetic.  

Good, healthy self-care requires acts that make you feel alive, connected, calm, excited and appreciative.  It is not about numbing yourself.  It is not about feeling nothing.  Self-care that numbs does not recharge. It is about feeling better and more energised and feeling enabled to take on your obligations again with a refreshed outlook and mindset.  

What interests you at this time?  What makes you feel happy and at peace?  The answers can be different every time you take a self-care break.  If it feels like more like an obligation than refreshing –  it is not self-care.  If it fails to refresh and energise you – it is not self-care.  

Self-Care During the Pandemic

So how do you come up with healthy self-care activities? Ask yourself this: In this moment, what is something that makes you melt a little just thinking about it?

Do you want to watch a favourite movie? Read an entertaining book? Knit a sweater? Chop wood? The key is that it feels indulgent but not to the point that you become numb and unerergised.  It should leave you feeling more energised and refreshed.  

Remember: Self-care is any intentional action taken to meet your needs for physical, mental, spiritual and/or emotional regeneration.  It is all the little ways you can take care of yourself to avoid a breakdown.  So don’t forget to include self-care times or days in your to do list or calendar.  You will feel more energised and happier and more productive if you take the time to take care of your needs for replenishment.  

Ideas for Self-Care

  • Walks in nature
  • Listening to your favourite music
  • Watching your favourite TV show or movie
  • Cooking a healthy meal
  • Going to the gym (or do a home exercise routine)
  • Visiting a museum (virtually right now due to COVID restrictions)
  • Reading
  • Hobbies
  • Getting creative in some way
  • Gardening
  • Learn something new
  • Meet up with friends (virtually right now/ check latest government guidelines)
  • Meditating
  • Spiritual/religious connection
  • Short naps (according to http://sleep.org– 20 minutes will revive you)
  • Longer naps – 90 minutes is perfect for long naps if you have the time – it allows you to go through one full sleep cycle (sleep.org)
  • Daydream over a cup of your favourite beverage
  • Get up from your desk regularly and move your body in some way
  • Dance like no one is watching
  • Sing like no one is listening
  • Have a bubble bath or a long soak in the tub
  • Put on makeup/do your hair even if you aren’t going anywhere
  • Do a crossword puzzle or a jigsaw puzzle
  • Practice gratitude
  • Volunteer your time to a cause that interests you

For me at this time of year (early summer),  my favourite self care activity is a cup of iced tea on my deck any time of the day.  Listening to the birds, watching mother nature’s creatures go about their day. 

Whatever you choose – big or small – do it for yourself.  

What is your favourite self-care act?  Share it in the comments section.  

If you are struggling to accept the necessity of self-care, feel free to contact me to discuss ways that coaching can help.

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