Coronavirus and Self-Care
It’s hard to find the right words to articulate the experience that coronavirus has triggered in us as individuals and as a society. I have held back in writing this as I wondered what I could add that someone else hasn’t already said and I’m not convinced that I, or we, have the language for this strange experience.
As someone who likes to learn, to explore, and to know, it is a very humbling experience to not know. To openly admit to myself and those close to me that I’m scared, that I haven’t got the answers, and that I don’t know what things will look like moving forwards has been incredibly important for me in managing this experience in a healthy and meaningful way.
With the extra time to reflect I recalled my experience of skydiving, which for me draws some parallels. I remember the absolute terror leading up to the ‘fall’ followed by the most liberating experience of my life. The first part consisted of the shock of falling through the air and attempting to adjust, followed by a sudden sense of calm as the parachute opened and I was able to enjoy the stunning view. I was due to do this with a friend who chose not to show up at the last minute. I mention this because I walked away from that experience with more self-respect than I’d ever experienced before, while I watched her experience the opposite. The relevance here is that we always have a choice about how we approach things. Human beings are incredibly resilient and I think we often underestimate what we are capable of individually, and collectively. What I believe enabled me to show up with courage that day was the ability to be vulnerable, to acknowledge my fear and then do it anyway.
That experience has set the back drop for how I now approach many things in my life. Life is incredibly short and none of us know how much time we have so for me, approaching the lockdown period with anything other than a productive mind set would be a precious waste of the gift of my life. I have read lots on social media about ‘toxic positivity’ and I’m not a fan of the term. For me, it isn’t the positivity that’s toxic, it’s the way that we avoid our humanness and our pain that is toxic. That manifests in different ways, with different people. I am watching this play out in many ways, overconsumption of alcohol and food, internet shopping, obsessively focusing on the behaviour of others and the news, anything other than staying with and embracing what is. We each have a personal relationship with pain, discomfort and letting go and in my experience humans often create more pain by trying to avoid it as a necessary part of growth and being human.
This isn’t an easy experience and despite approaching it in a proactive manner by asking myself daily what I need to do to take care of myself and then how might I be able to help those closest to me and wider society, I am feeling the pain of being separated from some of those that I love most in the world. That said, it’s a short term sacrifice with a long term aim. Nothing lasts forever.
Here are some self-care tips:
Be mindful of your thoughts, everything starts there. While you can affect change from any level i.e. thoughts, feelings and behaviour, your mind is the easiest and most fruitful tool you have.
Meditate. Start small, this is difficult for many as society has wired us to distract and to ‘fix’. This might look like pulling up a 5 minute guided meditation on YouTube. Apply the same principles to meditation you apply to physical exercise, start small and build on it.
Eat well. Sugar is well known to negatively impact your immune system for hours after consumption. Fresh fruit and vegetables are absolutely key.
Watch what you consume, this isn’t limited to food. What you feed your mind and your soul also matters, this might look like unfollowing on social media or limiting news updates.
Get enough sleep. This is hard when we aren’t as active as usual but again is essential in keeping your immune system as strong as possible and giving your mind and body chance to regenerate.
Exercise. Be creative with it. Have some fun or use it to burn off anxious emotions. Make it work for you, it might look different on different days.
Stay connected. Friends and family are obvious, maybe email that friend you’ve lost contact with, check in on people you wouldn’t normally.
Keep a Journal. This is helpful in assisting mindfulness and self -awareness, writing is incredibly cathartic.
Gratitude. Make it a part of you routine to do a gratitude check each day, stay open minded as gratitude isn’t limited to what we ‘have’, we can be grateful for many things if we think creatively.
Learn to laugh at yourself, don’t take yourself too seriously.
Embrace your whole experience, welcome it all, the beauty and the ugliness. It’s all ok.
Appreciate the natural world and its beauty, flowers are in bloom, the air is fresh, the skies are clear.
Be patient with your children, this can be hard if you are working from home, being upfront with people helps in terms of managing expectations. We are all in the same boat.
Be kind to yourself and others, we are all doing the best we can. Forgive yourself and others as often as is necessary, it’s good for your health.
Set boundaries. Setting boundaries helps everyone to function optimally and creates a sense of safety. Use them as you need to.
Talk it out, it helps. Coronavirus and the implications are difficult to process psychologically, our minds have no map it even closely resonates with. Ask for help if you need it. There are many voluntary organisations offering free mental health support right now and several low cost therapy initiatives. Finances are often a block to accessing talking therapy so take advantage of the current opportunities available.
The Help Hub offers free 20 min appointments https://www.thehelphub.co.uk/
Heather Wellbeing offers free support for NHS staff https://www.heatherwellbeing.com/
We Like to Help is a new low cost initiative https://weliketohelp.uk/therapists/?fbclid=IwAR1ScyKEoODhUrTMZQ2PWIo-ukpUuKFfY9_mRlMfbL9SN32xZEvSWL8Ow9s