Creating Silver Linings: Four Self-Care Practices to Nurture You Through These Dark Days
Coronavirus has brought much more than sickness to 120 countries around our green planet. With it’s shortness of breath and fever come fear, uncertainty and anxiety of the unknown. The last article here was written about families and the balance between working and existing in our spaces with our children. But what about our own well being? As we care for our partners, children and even our employers, where is the space for taking care of our emotional and physical well being?
The word self-care is overused and at times even, used flippantly. I had a previous partner who saw it as “selfish.” Which of course, it is! In the best way. Getting through this extremely difficult times requires a very conscious effort to rediscover our equilibrium in a world that looks so different than the one we all know. What does self-care look like? Surprisingly, it’s very different for each person. Here are three ways to get your self-care needs met:
- Rest: When our nervous system is on high alert, we need to make more space for rest-whatever that looks like for you.
- Nature: Green space immediately helps our parasympathetic nervous system and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Movement: Moving our bodies have shown to have similar and sometimes even better effects on our well being than some antidepressants.
- Connection: I know it’s called self care, but making an intention to connect with those you love each day can help you get through this deeply disheartening isolation.
If left to our own devices, or at least my own devices, I see binging media in the form of news, endless episodes of anything and empty foods as my primary coping strategies. What about your go-tos? If this truly led me to filling my cup and feeling held in this hard time, I’d say go for it. But more often than not, I’m left feeling scared, tired and sad.
I have a good friend with an autoimmune disorder who has been stuck at home far more than anyone should have to and even getting a little tummy bug has and will send her to the hospital. A few months ago, she started bullet journaling and each day, especially when she was stuck at home not feeling amazing, she picked three self care items to focus on. She did this to look back on at the end of those days or week and see that she was there, she did accomplish so many beautiful things. Right now, that is exactly what we all need as a society.
“The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”Tim Kreider, New York Times
Rest is simply anything that helps you feel held, nourished and nurtured. My version of rest is creating a sense of warmth and coziness or “hygge” as the Danes say. Most Sunday evenings, I will often take a bath with lavender essential oil, a candle and epsom salts. Turns out bathing or “hydrotherapy” is actually really good for you! Another way I support myself is by ordering something delicious- sometimes just dessert! (That literally just happened. it is raining and necessary!) Not having to cook at all or clean anything up feels luxurious and I savor that meal/delectable dessert even more because of it. I regularly find my way back to my bed to read, write or talk on the phone. My bed is my happy place-for sleep of course, but also just for comfort. Lastly, I try to find time to wrap myself up in all the blankets on the couch and a book in one hand and tea/coffee or wine in the other. Rest is paramount for a healthy, clear head and makes room for innovation and new ideas. Who knows, maybe while daydreaming on the sofa, you’ll come up with your next million dollar idea. Ferris Jabr writes in a Scientific American article, “Epiphanies may seem to come out of nowhere, but they are often the product of unconscious mental activity during downtime.”
“Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It may even reduce mortality, according to scientists such as public health researchers Stamatakis and Mitchell.”University of Minnesota Research Lab
Finding ways to explore the flora and fauna of our neighborhood is not always the first thing that comes to mind when the world is imploding. But I will tell you, going for a walk and saying hello to a neighbor (safely from 6 feet or further away) can be a gentle reminder that we are not in fact alone and that we will get through this together. And if you want to explore the natural world from the comfort of your couch, Netflix has a ton of phenomenal documentaries, houseplants boost your immunity and or even pictures of nature can do wonders for your well-being. Right now, I’m staring out my window from desk at our little balcony garden and enjoying watching the rain fall on the petals of the African daisies.
If you are feeling really adventurous, you can explore the parks and hiking trails around your city or explore your closest national park!
“Walking is man’s best medicine.”Hippocrates
This week my daughters and I have been LOVING Yoga with Adriene. She is the sweetest teacher from Austin who has simple classes. She won over the girls with her Rainbow yoga class 🙂 We also have been taking a daily walk and having dance parties- especially on Fancy Friday where we all dress up in whatever fancy attire feels good. Yoga, dancing and walking all have phenomenal impact on mental well being and are low impact so almost anyone can do it. My oldest daughter Charlotte is thinking about starting gymnastics workouts online next week too. That should be fun for her. Even a 1 minute intentional stretch with your hands way up and then touching your toes or stretching in between each episode of Stranger Things will release endorphins to help get a little pep in your emotional step.
In a time of isolation, making a call to someone on your computer might seems downright ridiculous, but let me tell you don’t knock it till you try it. Last night 5 of my closest girlfriends and some of their partners joined in on zoom a happy hour that lasted multiple hours. It was really fun to see their sweet faces and laugh until we cried. Does it replace actually seeing friends? Of course not. But it was so helpful in this time of isolation. A lot of us are not used to video chat in the least, myself 100% included, but I am adapting to the times and finding it so much more fun than I ever imagined. We’ve all heard the advice- call your mother, call a friend you haven’t heard from in a while. But why do we need connection anyway? According to an article on Good Therapy states, “Human connection brings complex values to our lives: relationships give us a sense of belonging in the group, a sense of identity in contrast to others in that group, an almost therapeutic-support system, and reason not to feel lonely.” Sometimes stepping outside of one’s comfort zone to find your tribe in new digital ways can pay off more than you’d think.
Take a breath, and then another…
The world that felt so solid and certain now is filled with waiting and hoping for all of this to end so we can find our way back to each other and life as we have come to know it. I am wishing you a deep soak and a cozy blanket and all the comfort you can find on this rainy day.
All my best,