“We live in strange times. We also live in strange places: each in a universe of our own.” – Douglas Adams
Can you remember another time in your life when this quote has rung so true? Just a few months ago it would have been virtually unthinkable to imagine we’d be practicing social distancing, staying inside, and essentially quarantining ourselves for weeks on end.
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly upturned our lives in new and previously unimaginable ways. Unfortunately, the strangeness (and often isolation) of sheltering in place adds another level of stress to worry over the virus itself. As schools and parks close, as restaurants and shops shut their doors, as people worry about their employment status and their livelihoods, self-care becomes more important than ever.
As women, it’s all too easy to respond by exclusively focusing outward. We’re socialized to place others — including our families and our work — first while ignoring our own needs.
But during times of uncertainty, treating yourself with kindness and compassion is key. It’s a lot like when you board a plane; during the pre-liftoff presentation, flight attendants stress the need to put your own oxygen mask on first… because only then will you be able to assist others who may need help with their masks.
That’s why taking the time to protect your own health and well-being is a must-do, not a should-do. Read on to explore these simple ways to practice self-care while sheltering in place.
Being stuck at home doesn’t sound so bad, right? You’re surrounded by creature comforts, you don’t have to dress up or do your hair, and you can skip the daily commute to the office… but sheltering in place can leave you feeling absolutely exhausted.
Why? Because you’re spending your days working remotely, trying to keep the kids busy or focused on schoolwork, attempting to maintain an at-least-somewhat tidy house, trying to keep everyone in that house fed and happy, all while not allowing yourself to feel overwhelmed by the news… whew! That’s a lot.
It’s no wonder you’re feeling a bit meh. The good news is that there’s a simple way to boost both your energy levels and your mood: Exercise.
According to the experts at the Mayo Clinic (and countless research studies), exercise improves mood, increases energy, combats disease, helps you sleep better, and more. Carve at least 20 minutes out of each day to get up and get moving.
It’s OK to start slow; even a walk around the neighborhood offers benefits. Free and low-cost exercise videos and apps abound, so find a routine that works for you.
Mindfulness (a.k.a. practicing present moment awareness) helps you reset and rejuvenate, reduces stress, and increases inner clarity. Even when the outside world seems to be in chaos, you can use mindfulness and meditation to create a calm inner space for yourself.
Meditating for just five minutes a day has been shown to produce health benefits, from your immune system to your mental health. If you’re a beginner at this increasingly popular practice, The New York Times offers an accessible guide that’s a great place to start.
But mindfulness isn’t just about meditating, or sitting on a mat saying “ohm.” You can practice anytime, anywhere, simply by focusing on your breath and allowing yourself to be in the present. Ideas include:
- Breathing exercises
- Taking a warm bath
- Reading a book
- Savoring a healthy meal
- Taking a walk outdoors
Focus on a Hobby
Love to bake? Wish you spoke another language? Always wanted to learn to throw pottery? Regretting not picking up your violin since high school?
Wherever your interests lie, now is the perfect time to delve deeper into an existing hobby or jump into a new one. It’s so easy to push fun and creative activities to the bottom of our schedules, but putting effort into something you love does wonders for your mental state. Working with your hands — potting, gardening, sewing, cooking, woodworking — and creating art boosts your positivity.
Not sure how to get started? Just hop onto YouTube or one of the many DIY websites out there and find a project that intrigues you. Online tutorials and classes abound these days, so learning a new hobby or improving on an existing interest is easier than ever.
Take a Beauty Break
Now may not be the ideal time to head to the salon or spa. But you can still treat yourself at home.
After all, your hands may be feeling a bit dry and neglected given the extra hand washing and sanitizing you’ve been doing lately! Spending half an hour taking care of your nails with an at-home manicure will help you feel polished and put together.
Soaking in a warm bubble bath — complete with scented candles and calming music — can replace stress with relaxation. For extra pampering, add a face mask into the mix. If you’ve run out of your favorite brand, you can even make your own from common household ingredients.
Most of all, remember that you don’t need to feel obligated to do anything. If what you really need is to simply sit down with a bag of chips and watch some bad TV, then that’s what you should do without guilt.
Self-care means different things for everyone. Use this time to explore which types of self-care offer relaxation, stress reduction, and a mood boost… and can do wonders for your state of mind.