What were some of your concerns when the lockdown was first announced? Or when you heard about the WHO declaring Covid-19 a pandemic? Perhaps it was about the health of your loved ones or being able to source sufficient grains and vegetables for the entire month? Possibly, there were also concerns about finances and job security. But, did you think about how much sleep you should get every night? Were you concerned about whether you were eating right or giving yourself enough time to deal with your emotions surrounding the ongoing crisis? Perhaps NOT!
Very often, we ignore the most important aspect which contributes to our ability to deal with difficult situations sufficiently; and that is, ‘Self – Care’. A good old example that I give clients in my therapy settings is the, “oxygen mask in the flight” example. It is common knowledge that flyers world over are advised to wear their own masks, should the air pressure in the cabin go down, before helping their fellow travelers, even if that includes loved ones, elderly or children. And therefore, it would suffice to say that engaging in self-care mechanisms during a pandemic would also go a long way in taking care of others, and in fact includes looking after the loved ones.
So, irrespective of your professional and personal roles, it’s important to acknowledge that regular self-care is essential for emotional well-being; but it’s even more important to prioritize, during crisis situations such as the one we have been in the midst of since March 2020. Here are a few practical suggestions to practice self-care right now:
- Take on only as much as you can do: When everybody around us seems to be struggling in one way or the other, there may be a tendency to keep saying “Yes” all the time, even at the expense of one’s own physical and mental capacities. But remember what they say in a race? Don’t exhaust all your potential right at the beginning, because then there won’t be much left to give at a later stage. In order to be able to assist others consistently, it’s important to acknowledge your own boundaries, and respect your capacities. Saying ‘No’, doesn’t make you incapable.
- Always remember your basics: It’s important to eat right, sleep adequately, engage in recreational activities, be active, and help others close to you also acknowledge the same. There may be a pandemic, but we as humans have found multiple ways of dealing with it. Take assistance of professionals, if you need to. But get your basics in place, which will go a long way in ensuring that you are able to deal with the pandemic for a longer time.
- Stay connected: We may be physically distancing from loved ones, but it’s important to stay socially connected. There has been no better time than right now, to bring people from across the world closer to each other. Staying connected promotes a sense of belongingness, and gives people strength to deal with adversities. So use technology and stay connected with friends and family.
- Make a routine and prioritize: Life may have been thrown out of gear but you can take back control by sticking to a routine. It’s important to bring in a structure to your days and also segregate, delegate and prioritize tasks, to get the most out of your, at-home weeks. Having something to look forward to, will also give purpose and meaning to your daily lives.
- Practice relaxation strategies: When all the things around us, seem to be going haywire, and there is a lot of chaos or uncertainty around; the only place where we can find stillness is within. And what better way to do that, than practice various relaxation exercises. My go-to exercise would be mindfulness, not just as a way of meditation but also as a way of life.
- Pick up a new skill: Look at the current time period, as a phase of life that is (hopefully) never going to come back. So if there was ever something that you wanted to do in life, but couldn’t do it, because of a lack of time; now, is the time to do it. Not having enough time, is no more an excuse to avoid learning something new. Enroll for a course related to your area of work or pick up a totally new skill; the choice is yours.
To conclude, I would like to point out an important aspect of self-care, which is, “go easy on yourself”. You don’t have to be everywhere and do everything, even if that seems to be the case. It’s okay if you are having days when all you want to do is lie in and pray for this to get over. It’s also okay if you feel like being productive every single day. As I mentioned earlier, the choice is yours to make. Whatever it may be, embrace it.