As we approach the holidays and most of the world still grapples with the changes wrought by the current pandemic; it can be difficult to focus on our sense of self and wellbeing. Many of us are still inundated by the constant streams, updates and social media posts about the pandemic and challenges of quarantine. The worry of another lockdown in January is still looming, while many of us are actually looking forward to one - as now we have been stripped away of the joys of social life and left with the lows of college work (and part-time retail jobs for some...).
As we come towards the end of this difficult year, with 2021 on the horizon, now may be the best time to prioritise our self-care routines to fit with who we are and how we navigate life. Here are ten tips that may be incorporated into your daily life to help with self-care during this time. Please keep in mind that self-care is not about one individual act but rather creating a life that is focused on your wellbeing, and from which you do not need to constantly escape.
1. Enjoy the Little Things
Each day try to focus on the little things that bring you joy. Make it a habit to recognise and make a mental note of the first thing that brings you a sense of joy in the morning. It could be the view from your window, the sound of your coffee machine on a morning or the sight of Christmas lights around your neighbourhood. Notice the little things that fill you with positive energy as you go through your day. During this pandemic it is easy to become flooded with every difficult detail of the current situation and our collective unconscious may become contaminated with the anxiety and uncertainty facing the world. However, by making a conscious effort to notice more of those things that lift our sense of wellbeing, one can restore
some balance to the equation. If you’re feeling very down and nothing seems to help, check out our website to find out what other steps you can take: https://pivotpublication.ie/help/
2. Stay Connected
Social distancing and self-quarantine have made it incredibly challenging to have our need for interaction and connection with others met. Many of us, yes even us self-professed introverts, need some level of human connectedness and solidarity. Being separated from our loved ones can be difficult during this time and the uncertainty of when and how that reconnection will take place adds to the sense of despondency we can feel ( Hagerty & Williams, 2020). With the holidays coming up it can be a difficult time for many who may be unable to travel home to family or visit with relatives as they usually would. For those who can reach out virtually via online platforms or through social media or a telephone call, I encourage you to do so routinely. If these means are not available, then writing letters can be a lovely way to connect even though it is not instantaneous. By connecting with others, we can not only share the difficulty of this novel experience and feel supported, but we can also find solace in the realisation that we are all in this together.
3. Move Your Body
It undeniably does our emotional wellbeing good when we take care of our physical wellbeing. If your exercise routine (such as going to the gym or for a park run) has been disrupted, then now might be a good time to explore other options. There are a number of ways that you can incorporate exercise into your daily life while practising social distancing or self-isolating. Some of my personal favourites are joining a virtual dance class, using a skipping rope in your backyard, clearing a small space to practise Pilates in your home and going for hikes or runs outdoors where permitted. For those who simply are too busy with the demands of the day, be mindful of the fact that running around doing chores is still a form of exercise! Running around the house making dinner or walking to the library can be exhausting, so be gentle on yourself! The important thing is to try as much as possible to be disciplined with your self-care efforts and to be patient with yourself as you adjust.
4. Cook Yourself a Meal
For the first two weeks of quarantine, I was unable to order any form of takeaway to my house. With stay-at-home orders in effect, it meant all meals were cooked from scratch at home. I quickly rediscovered the satisfaction that a home-cooked meal brings. It can be a great way to practice self-care by engaging in the simple act of nourishing yourself with something you created in the kitchen. You can get creative and learn new dishes or learn how to make your favourite dish. If you live with others, perhaps create a challenge out of it, with each person making a new dish every week. Our bodies are working overtime to keep up with the increased levels of stress hormones that most of us are producing during this time. It can be a lovely step in self-care to simply nourish our bodies with a home-cooked meal.
5. Get Fresh Air (Safely) and Cover-Up for Winter!
With social distancing still in place, it's safe to say that much of the world is spending the majority of life indoors. While this is certainly the safe and wise thing, it is still important to get some fresh air each day. Please remember to be safe and always follow the guidelines in your area regarding social distancing and the wearing of masks. Keep this in mind while meeting your family and friends over the holidays!
Reading can boost our emotional wellbeing and provide us with an escape from the difficulties of reality. While it is important to sit with difficult situations, it is more than acceptable to switch off from time to time. If you are not someone who reads often and you are unsure where to start, think about the movies or television shows that you like to watch and pick a genre that matches those shows. If you are worried about the safety of libraries and bookstores, you can access eBooks through your library or through online retailers. Reading is cognitively beneficial as well as emotionally fulfilling and is a great way to practice self-care ( Brewster, 2011). It is also a great way to unwind before going to bed and disconnect yourself from social media. (Bonus tip: try and avoid reading on your phone as this may emit harmful blue light).
7. Have a Routine
Knowing what you are doing when can provide a sense of security and calm throughout the uncertainty and anxiety of the current global environment. Having a routine can provide us with more flexibility rather than feeling restricted. Due to the novelty of the situation, it can be hard to know what to do when and how to structure our days so that those things that are priority get done. Having a routine can help bring a sense of structure and normalcy to life as well as help us be more productive during the day. Due to the disruptions of life as we know it, it can be helpful to have a routine that makes us feel grounded and safe. To set yourself a good routine, try and schedule things for yourself: wake up and go to bed at an established time each day, take a shower go for a walk in the evening! It doesn’t have to be complicated.
8. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
There has been a disturbing trend taking place in the social media landscape of what I call, “quarantine comparison”. Coupled with the “level up during quarantine” attitude, many of us can be left feeling inadequate or as though we are not doing enough during these difficult times. Stop comparing yourself to others. There is no right way to get through this crisis and though we are all in this together, the way we respond or are affected are numerous and varied. Therefore, please know that you do not have to learn a new skill or get in the best shape of your life or teach your child a new language because you are “at home” during this period. Research by Coyne et. al, (2020) highlight the importance of taking time to process what is happening and how you can best respond to it in a healthy manner that fits with your lifestyle. As we say, “mind yourself”. You can learn a new skill if you want to but do not feel guilty or shamed into giving your energy to anything that does not fit with where you are during this pandemic.
9. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be described as paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgemental and intentional way. It is the hot topic on everyone’s lips at this point and for good reason. Research has shown that practising mindfulness can improve chronic pain, boost our mood and help us to be more focused and attentive to detail ( Creswell, 2017). So how can we bring
mindfulness into our daily lives? The good news is you do not have to figure it out on your own. There is a multitude of apps such as Calm and Headspace which provide mindfulness-based activities, including mediation and breathing exercises. The TCD student counselling website (https://www.tcd.ie/Student_Counselling/) also has pre-recorded mindfulness activities for you to enjoy for free. You can decide how much time to dedicate to any of these activities during the day, whether it be a five-minute breathing exercise or a ten-minute visualisation. Remember however that mindfulness can be done at any moment and without the use of fancy technology. When was the last time you went for a walk in the
park or to the grocery and not have your earphones stuck in your ear? We have gotten into the habit of distracting ourselves as we go about our day, but mindfulness is about bringing our attention to the present moment. The next time you go for a walk, try doing so without the distraction of music or your favourite podcast. Instead, pay attention to the sound of your feet, the colour of the leaves or the cold wind against your cheeks, that is mindfulness.
10.Switch Off - Especially During Exam Time
Learn how to switch off by focusing on good things such as spending time with friends and family. There is so much happening right now and while news and accurate information are important during this time, your own wellbeing needs to be a priority. Our nervous system can become overwhelmed when it is inundated with too much stressful information (Wormwood, et. al., 2018). Focus on what is good and enjoy the holidays, you can only study and perform well in exams if your brain is working optimally!
To conclude, no matter how you practice self-care during this time, please be mindful of your own emotional wellbeing in addition to your physical wellbeing. If you are having difficulties coping during this time please do reach out to others, this includes your loved ones and mental health professionals. My hope is that wherever you are, you are safe and healthy. May you enjoy the holidays and may the new year be a little gentler on us all.