Self-Care, Especially During Times of Self-Isolation
These are unusual times. All the top news stories of a couple months ago have been completely forgotten, erased from the media as if they never occurred, because of the pandemic we are all dealing with. Covid-19, a virus which may cause symptoms so insignificant that we aren’t even aware we are sick but which is a serious threat to health and life for those whose health is compromised by existing conditions or advanced age, and is proving to be very difficult to contain.
Governments of all levels, and medical experts, are urging us to stay home! New phrases such as social-distancing are becoming part of every conversation. Hoarding and price gouging have occurred. Borders, professional and amateur sports, businesses, schools, playgrounds, restaurants, and churches are shut down. Seniors’ homes and hospitals are denying visitors. Weddings, conventions, and social events of all types are cancelled. Gatherings of more than 10 people are banned. Never have we experienced such a thing!
How do we cope? Although relatively few have been stricken with the virus in our province, the strain is already taking its toll financially, emotionally, and socially! How we emerge on the other side of this crisis will depend, in large part, on how we react and connect with each other now. Our physical health is tied very closely to our emotional and mental health. Those of us who are extremely anxious right now because of financial strain, fear of disease, feelings of disconnect, or depression from the helplessness of the situation, are all adding the stress and sleeplessness to our lives that will only further compromise our immune systems.
As a semi-retired, empty-nester, introvert, most of my impressions about our present coping skills are the result of observation rather than experience but a few tactics stand out as positive actions to bring us through as undamaged as possible. Those who keep themselves on a regular schedule, or at least a loosely-organized routine, seem to remain more positive – perhaps because they are physically and mentally occupied. I have heard and experienced for years that children crave structure and stability but I believe it applies to all of us. A few days of “vacation” might be fun but long-term we all feel better when our days hold purpose and accomplishment! Social connection is still available to those with technology so reach out to your friends, neighbours, and senior relatives. A phone call may be the only contact some of them have to the outside world, so your call could be just what they need to lift their spirits! On the flip side, if you are part of a family, you may want to make time for everyone to have a few minutes of solitude each day. An hour of silence watching a movie, reading a book or working on a personal project may help maintain sanity if all this unaccustomed “family time” is getting to be a little much. 😊
Pandemic or not, our physical health is measured by the strength of our immune system so once we have done what we can for our emotional and mental health through social connection and structure, the old rules for health still stand:
1. Proper nutrition. Fewer trips to the grocery store and empty shelves when you get there may make this a bit of a challenge but really there is no reason we can’t still meet our nutritional needs. Stock up on dry goods – rice, pasta, beans, seeds – they take longer to prepare than processed but they are much better for us, and most of us have more time now. (Make meal preparation a family event/life skills lesson.) If you aren’t fortunate enough to have stored garden produce, frozen fruits and vegetables are still available as well. Canned goods are not as nutritious but we should be filling the gaps with vitamin supplements anyway.
2. Sunshine and fresh air are two often overlooked ingredients for optimum health – Vitamins “S” and “FA”! Sunshine is Mother Nature’s disinfectant as well as the origin of our Vitamin D. Outdoor air contains a lower concentration of toxic chemicals and germs so it is actually a healthier environment than our homes. BONUS: our mental mood almost always lifts when we lift our faces to the sun and breathe in outdoor air.
3. Exercise is vital to health, even if it’s just a walk around the block. We also have access to online workouts and most households have a workout CD or light weights in the back of a closet. Whatever activity chosen, it will help strengthen the body and immune system and help us sleep better.
4. Which leads us to SLEEP! This is probably the number one neglected item on the list. Most of us either don’t think we have the time, or simply don’t make sleep a priority because there are so many other things we can do at night besides sleep. One of the worst side-effects of technology is the time robbed for late-night TV, YouTube, social media, or gaming. Take advantage of all this home time to relax with the family in the evenings and get to bed at a reasonable hour – 7 hours sleep should be the minimum for adults, much more for our kids. When we sleep our bodies are finally able to take advantage of the great things (see above three steps) we have done during the day to repair and rebuild our cells and immunity.
5. Self-care can still happen when the spas, hair-dressers, and gyms are closed. Take a warm bath. Curl up with a book. Listen to your favourite music. Spend time meditating, or journaling. Give each other back-rubs. Take advantage of the slower pace to relax. With the right attitude you can change your perception of this time from isolation to self-care. Remember, your attitude changes everything!
6. Hygiene. We have been so flooded with information on it that it was almost too obvious to include this item because we should always be doing our part to avoid germ transmission. Use common sense - wash frequently especially before food preparation, cough and sneeze into your elbow (sleeved), and keep your hands away from your mouth and eyes.
In a perfect world, we would be looking after these things already but hopefully we can all use this time of crisis to open our eyes to self-awareness and really start taking care of ourselves.
Stay safe, healthy, and happy on your journey,