“An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” This old adage refers to tending to one’s physical health as an effective way to avoid the need for medical intervention. Our body has clear ways for letting us know that we are not prioritizing our health. High blood pressure, headaches, and racing heart are just a handful of symptoms that will likely lead to a doctor’s appointment to investigate how to manage, and hopefully eliminate them in the spirit of improving our overall health.
Arguably, our mental and emotional health are equally important as our physical health, however, symptoms that we are struggling with these areas are often ignored or minimized. Additionally, when left untreated, these mental health symptoms often lead to physical health problems.
All of us struggle
Leave it to a public health crisis like COVID-19 to kick up some mental health struggles for all of us. This becomes even more of a potential problem when our previous forms of self-care and coping are now inaccessible because of stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements. During this time of quarantine, we all seem to be experiencing heightened levels of anxiety, increased depression, trauma reactions (new or resurgence from a prior time in life), relationship struggles, parenting stress, family turmoil, and/or feelings of isolation.
Self-care routines have needed to be re-imagined, just like most parts of lives. We miss what was, but overall, most have pivoted our way to thriving in our new surroundings. We are resilient creatures and we deserve to be proud of the quick thinking and acting we have done to stay home and stay safe. Meeting friends for coffee or a beer has been taken away. Gyms and yoga studios are closed until further notice. Libraries, bowling allies and art studios all off-limits. Whatever used to be our self-care normal when it came to activities aimed at connection or creativity or activity, now need to be modified.
We have to get creative with our self-care
So, what can a self-care routine look like today that prioritizes mental health and wellness, emotional expression, and genuine connection in relationships? Here are some ideas to incorporate into your daily life.
- Intentional connection with your favorite humans – text messages, phone calls, Zoom meetings
- Nourish yourself with food; cook, experiment with new recipes, bake and enjoy delicious cookies, order carry-out and support local restaurants (have a carpet or backyard picnic)
- Be playful – board games, puzzles, blanket forts, make-believe with your kids, video games
- On-line yoga and exercise classes
- Maintain a daily schedule – wake up early(ish), shower regularly, get dressed, apply make-up and do your hair (from time to time)
- Watch some TedTalks or listen to podcasts to learn something new or get inspired
- Move! It is easy to be slip into a sedentary slump – go up and down your stairs or walk to the mailbox
- Get outside and soak up some nature – walk, jog, skip, play basketball, toss a frisbee, garden, fish
- Read an interesting book, seek out a virtual book club or start your own
- Repeat a customized mantra such as “I’m doing my best, and it is enough”, “I’m allowed not to be perfect”, “I am worthy of love”, “I can do hard things”, “I am perfectly imperfect”
- Practice slow and meaningful breaths with the intention to sync thoughts and breaths
- Music – every single day (I highly recommend Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’); sing it, listen to it, play it
- Eliminate “should” language from your self-talk
- Unplug by zoning out on the television
- Explore art – paint, sculpt, draw
- Write – journal, blog, poetry, short stories, memoir, love letters
- Clean a closet, declutter, and purge material things that don’t bring you joy (thank you, Marie Kondo for this simple, yet powerful tip for living minimally)
- Set ‘stretch goals’ for yourself
- Regularly check-in with yourself about your feelings and honor their validity by acknowledging their existence
- Offer yourself grace; rough moments don’t deserve permanent labels (i.e. losing your temper and snapping verbally at your teen doesn’t make you a bad parent, it means you had a bad moment)
- Put clean sheets on your bed
- Make yourself a cup of tea or tall glass of ice water (try holding it with both hands, as this simple action has a powerful way of directing energy and soothing you)
- Reach out to a mental health professional and engage in teletherapy (a.k.a. virtual therapy, online therapy, video conferencing counseling, chat therapy, web-based therapy, etc.)
To each their own
Please know that I don’t presume to know what self-care elements will work for you. I respect that each of us needs a unique set of actions, thoughts, and decisions to achieve balance and be at our best psychologically. You may not relate to any of the ideas listed above, and that’s okay. My intent here is not to lay out a prescription that is certain to lead to psychological bliss. Rather, my hope is to get you thinking about your own self-care routine, and perhaps offer some suggestions to try.
What would you add to this list that I have missed? Some of my favorite self-care activities I have observed others doing, and then quietly experimented with them and eventually, they took root as important parts of my own self-care routine. Let’s be humble. Let’s be curious. Let’s not judge, and rather be open-minded to things we have never tried before. We can all learn from one another when it comes to how to surviving and thriving during a pandemic.
Perspectives Therapy Services is now offering telemental health services. Connect with us now to get creative on your self-care strategies.
Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland and Fenton, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Additionally, we offer psychiatric care in the form of evaluations and medication management. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.