How to take care of yourself during a pandemic
Quarantine is no joke. Not only are we worried and anxious about the Coronavirus pandemic, but we’re also stuck at home. Our routines have gone off the rails. We’re inundated with scary numbers in the news. Many of us are struggling to get our work done while also homeschooling our kids.
And because we’re quarantined, it can feel like there is no escape from the chaos. We’re exhausted, bored, stressed, and starting to go a wee bit crazy.
There has never been a more crucial time to take care of ourselves. Here are self-care tips to get you through quarantine.
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Essential Self-Care Tips for Quarantine
1. Take a daily shower.
Maybe you already are, but I know some of us aren’t! We’ve been in the house all day and have nowhere to go, so what’s the point, right? We’re feeling down and we can’t get the motivation to get our butts in the shower everyday. As you can probably tell, I totally get it.
Shower anyway. Everyday. It doesn’t matter what time you do it, so long as you do it.
When you’re in the shower, focus on how the water feels running on your body and the scent of your soap to help yourself become more mindful. Take some deep breaths and let it relax you.
When you get out of the shower, put on your favorite moisturizer and change into clean, comfortable clothes. You’ll feel refreshed and in a better mood.
Journal as often as you need to. If this is something you’ve never gotten into before, try it now. You don’t need a fancy journal or pen. Any notebook or piece of paper will do. You can even open up a Word document on your computer. The point is to get your thoughts and emotions out so that they are not weighing your mind down.
Writing out your thoughts and feelings will help you process them and figure out what to do next. Find 10 minutes in a quiet space to write. If you’re having trouble getting started, here are some prompts to help:
- What emotion am I feeling right now? Why?
- What thoughts are running through my mind and how are they making me feel?
- What am I afraid of or worried about?
- What is the one thing I am struggling with the most right now? Why?
- What activities, things, or people have brought you joy recently? How can I incorporate more of that in my day?
- What am I looking forward to?
- What am I grateful for today?
3. Spend time outside.
If you are able to, get outside, rain or shine. Go for a walk or sit on your porch. It’s unusually quiet right now, so listen for sounds you normally don’t hear. I read a post by a woman in Wuhan who said she heard birds singing outside of her window during quarantine – something she was never really able to hear before.
The fresh air and the sun (or the rain) will lift your spirits. The sun is known to increase your serotonin levels, the hormone in your brain that boosts your mood.
4. Video Chat with Friends & Family.
It’s really difficult being away from our friends and family. If you live alone, it’s extremely isolating. Even if you live with other people, it’s tough seeing the same people over and over again without getting on each other’s nerves!
Take time everyday to video call someone you care about. Set up virtual happy hours with your friends. Start a virtual book club. Set up game nights with family. It’s not quite the same as being with our loved ones in person, but it keeps us feeling connected.
5. Make time for the things you enjoy.
We all enjoy binge watching shows on Netflix – and it’s become really easy to spend an entire day in front of the TV. We don’t have anywhere to be!
But don’t forget all of the other things you like to do that you can still do at home, like reading, listening to podcasts, playing cards, knitting, or giving yourself a manicure.
If you haven’t developed any hobbies just yet, what better time than now? There are a lot of craft blogs that you can peruse for ideas, apps for learning another language, and Pinterest is great for all sorts of hobby ideas.
6. Get moving.
Make a goal of moving your body everyday. If you’ve been pretty sedentary lately, start small with just 10-15 minutes a day and work your way up to 30 minutes.
It doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise either. It can be some of your favorite yoga moves, dancing to your favorite music, taking your dog for a walk, or chasing your kids around in the backyard. As long as your body is moving!
7. Get enough sleep… but not too much!
Lately I’m finding that I either can’t sleep at all or all I want to do is sleep! For those of you who are having trouble getting your 7-8 hours, here a few tips to help you get to sleep:
- Set up a relaxing bedtime routine. It doesn’t have to be extensive – it could be as simple as putting on pajamas, washing your face, brushing your teeth, and reading for 10 minutes. Just try to do it every night so your body starts to associate these things with sleep.
- Don’t look at your phone for at least an hour before you go to bed. This can be tough because we often reach for our phones without even realizing it. Try putting your phone in another room with the ringer loud enough so that you’ll hear it ring in case of an emergency.
- Listen to a guided sleep meditation app. I use the free app called InsightTimer. It’s amazing. I usually pick a 60 minute guided sleep meditation and I’m always out cold within 15 minutes of turning it on!
- Clean and organize your room. Make it a calm, serene space.
- Don’t nap during the day.
- Stay away from caffeine.
And for those of you who can’t seem to stay awake, here are some tips to energize you:
- Go outside. If you find yourself really sleepy during the day, getting fresh air will help wake you up.
- Iced coffee!! I don’t know what it is about iced coffee, but it gives me endless energy (well, at least for a couple of hours).
- Exercise. It’s the last thing you’ll want to do when you’re tired, but if you can push yourself to do it, you’ll find that you have a lot more energy throughout the day. It’ll also promote more restful sleep so that you’re less tired the next day.
- Take a power nap. This is a nap that is no more than 20 minutes so that you don’t fall into a really deep sleep that is hard to wake up from. I like to take power naps on the couch in our family room where this is lots of natural light. This keeps me from falling into a deep sleep.
- Reduce your sugar intake so you’re not have sugar crashes.
- Eat meals regularly. If you’re skipping meals you’re bound to feel fatigued.
Meditation is incredibly helpful during really stressful times, like you know, pandemics and stuff. We’re feeling a lot of mental stress right now which is increasing our stress hormone (cortisol). Cortisol makes it hard for us to sleep, intensifies anxiety and depression, and makes us feel like we’re in a daze.
Meditation relaxes you and helps you control negative thoughts, thereby decreasing your cortisol levels. If you’re new to meditation, Headspace is a great app to get you started.
9. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is along the same line of meditation and has similar benefits, but unlike meditation it’s available for us to use at any moment. Mindfulness being fully present in the moment. But this can be much easier said than done.
Some ways to practice mindfulness throughout your day are to avoid multitasking and focus solely on what you’re doing (like eating or drinking), noticing the sights, sounds, and smells around you, and focusing on your breath.
Practicing mindfulness temporarily gets your mind off of the thousands of thoughts you have bouncing around in your head.
10. Make your environment peaceful.
Keep your surroundings neat and tidy. If you have kids, this can be tough to do (it is for me!), so focus on keeping one room in the house orderly so that it can serve as a respite. For me, this is our bedroom.
It’s the norm right now to feel like the world is chaotic, and having space that is calm and free from clutter will give you some sense of peace.
11. Take a break from the news and social media.
During the first two weeks of quarantine, I was glued to my phone, constantly checking for updates on my news feed and social media accounts. I finally realized that it was just bringing me down, and I had to make a conscious effort to stop consuming so much of this content.
It’s good to keep informed, but we don’t need to know every detail and opinion, like speculations on how the future is going to play out, because no one knows how the future is going to play out. Period. Give yourself a set amount of time to get your news (10-15 minutes) and to be on social media, and then occupy yourself with the other things on this list for the rest of the day.
12. Watch your favorite show or movie.
It’s always comforting to watch your favorite shows and movies. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having time where you’re unproductive, plopped on your couch, watching your favorite movie or show. You just want to be careful that you don’t spend all day, everyday doing it!
13. Watch the sunrise or the sunset.
Get up early one morning to watch the sunrise. If you’re not an early bird, take time to sit outside and watch the sunset. Not only is it a beautiful thing to see but it’s a much needed experience of normalcy – that everyday the sun rises and the sun sets.
A Final Thought
Take what you need from this list and forget the rest. There’s no wrong or right way to deal with quarantine. Some people want to be super productive, and others want to rest. Some days you might want to journal, some days you might want to just watch your favorite show.
It doesn’t matter – do what feels right for you. And remember – this is temporary. Although it sometimes feels like this might never end, it will.
Be kind, compassionate, and gentle with yourself during these unprecedented times. It’s ok to feel like you’re struggling – this is HARD.
Take care of yourself, friend.