One of the hardest things about the COVID-19 pandemic is the emotional strain it can put on us: whether we are a front-line healthcare worker, an older adult living on their own, or parents with children who can’t seem to catch a break while simultaneously working from home.
Taking time to tend to your mental health now is more important than ever. Here we offer some simple self-care suggestions that don’t cost a dime.
Be gentle with yourself
It can be easy to slip into self-judgement about all the things you “should” be doing (i.e. exercising, starting a new project, providing a perfect homeschooling experience for your kids). Putting a lot of pressure on yourself right now will only add to your stress, even if your intention is to pursue healthy activities.
Try thinking of doing “restorative” activities rather than “healthy” ones. Of course, healthy is the goal—but focus on restoring your emotional wellbeing first and foremost. Sometimes, taking a walk might be restorative. At other times, watching a funny TV show might do the trick.
Limit your daily news intake
If you’ve been staying safe at home and practicing health habits (like frequent hand-washing), it’s plain and simple: you already know you aren’t putting yourself or others at risk by staying in. Watching too much of the news or reading about it repeatedly online or on social media can cause extra unnecessary stress.
Limit your news time to only 15-20 minutes per day if you feel the need to stay updated on current events.
Comfort yourself with nostalgia
Surrounding ourselves with familiar things and feelings can provide comfort in a time of uncertainty. Keep in mind that what is comforting is different for everyone, and try to find the activities that relieve stress for YOU. Some suggestions include: watching an old movie, baking a family recipe, or listening to a favorite album.
Address your feelings
Being at home in quarantine can make you feel safe, but that doesn’t mean your mind will be 100% at ease. It is extremely beneficial to express your stress and worries, otherwise the stress will build up and up until it comes crumbling down.
To avoid extra amounts of stress, be open and honest with yourself and your emotions. You are not alone during this traumatic time.
- Make time to talk at least once every few days with a friend, family member, or loved one about how you are feeling and your current concerns. Odds are, they are probably feeling the same.
- Try to journal once a day to express your feelings. Getting thoughts out of your head and onto paper will make you feel more at ease.
When things feel out of hand around the house, it can contribute more to your stress. Organizing the home can help you feel accomplished and take your mind off of things.
Take a half hour or so each day to focus on one spot of your home that may need attention.
- Kitchen: Sort through an old stack of recipe cards and put them into a recipe binder for easy access.
- Bookshelf: Take a look at the old books, newspapers, and magazines you no longer read. Recycle the paper and put the old books into a box or bag to eventually be donated.
- Closet: Go through your clothes and start a donation box of things you haven’t worn in the past couple years.
- Home office: Who knows what kinds of papers can be lurking around your cabinets, drawers, and files. It will feel great to remove some of the old clutter.
- Try some free yoga on YouTube. Yoga with Adriene is a great introductory channel.
- Go for a daily walk for about 30 minutes to get some fresh air.
- Try a new workout routine. Websites like Fitness Blender host dozens of free workout videos, while YouTube channels like POPSUGAR Fitness have all kinds of playlists depending on what kind of workout you want.
Take time to relax
- Try meditating. The Insight Timer meditation app is an easy way to familiarize yourself with the practice.
- Take a nice long bath.
- Read a favorite book you haven’t read in a while.
- Get a good night’s sleep – avoid screen time 30-60 minutes before bed to help ensure a restful night.
- Have a “spa day” with your family. Look up DIY face masks and spa treatments with items you can find in your kitchen, like avocado, honey, cucumber, and oats.
Find new ways to entertain yourself
- Love live music? Check out NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series.
- Play a favorite board game or card game with your family.
- Have a trivia night with family and friends via FaceTime or Zoom.
- Love wildlife? View the Monterey Bay Aquarium Live Cam.
- Love opera? You can watch nightly live streamed performances from the Metropolitan Opera.
- Hunt for videos on topics you like on YouTube, like cooking, DIY crafts, or even roller coaster videos if you’re in the mood for some adventure.
- Download a new game or app on your phone or tablet.
Above all, remember that this situation isn’t forever and it will pass eventually. The most valuable way to practice self-care is to remain optimistic and reassure yourself and your loved ones that better days are on their way!
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