August 5, 2020

The overarching theme of 2020 seems to be pattern disruption, which has both benefits and challenges. While the pause of quarantine may have presented a unique opportunity to reflect on changes we want to make in our lives, there were also some major drawbacks. Many of our normal self-care rhythms have been thrown off, and we may find ourselves in a state of surviving rather than thriving. Perhaps your favorite gym is now closed, or the coffee shop you used to frequent no longer allows for lingering as you peacefully sip your handcrafted beverage. Whatever self-care patterns may have been disrupted as a result of COVID, you owe it to yourself in this season to establish new practices that keep your mind, body, and spirit nourished. Here’s a list of ideas and tips for reclaiming self-care during this pandemic:

  1. Set a positive tone for your day

Allow time for yourself in the morning before you jump into your busy work day. Sip coffee in your favorite spot of the house. Listen to some music that puts you in a good mood. Go on a walk around the block. Do some stretches. Read an encouraging word or affirmation for the day. Find a routine that works for you.

  1. Find a new way to be active

Your normal exercise routine may be more difficult to accomplish nowadays, but there are still creative ways to incorporate physical activity into your day. Find a virtual exercise class that fits your style and fitness level. Create a workout space in your home. Download an app that tracks your progress and reminds you to exercise. Run around your neighborhood or on a local trail. Blast your music and dance like no one is watching. Connect with a fitness group who meets outside to maintain social distancing (or start one yourself)!

  1. Mute negative people on social media

Social media is not always a positive place. If you continually find yourself in a negative space taking in certain people’s content, don’t be afraid to mute them. Or even take a break from social media altogether. It will still be there when you come back.

  1. Breathe

It’s amazing how often we forget about this simple but powerful practice: taking deep breaths. When we elongate our exhale, it communicates to the brain that we’re in “rest and reset” mode. After five deep breaths, our blood pressure decreases and our body produces increased levels of serotonin and oxytocin.

  1. Be present

This is such a crucial part of self-care. Allowing ourselves to be in the present moment; not reliving something or worrying about the future…just being. Give yourself the gift of being present.

  1. Bake

Baking may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of self-care, but it’s actually great for our mental health. The very nature of baking is usually centered around celebration or nourishing our bodies. Baking stimulates our senses and also serves as a calming, meditative activity because it’s fairly simple and repetitive; weighing out ingredients, whisking, and kneading all have this quality.

  1. Treat yourself to a good laugh

Laughing has so many health benefits. It boosts the immune system, releases endorphins, improves blood flow, relieves stress, and relaxes the whole body. So go watch a funny movie, play a silly game, or hang out with that friend who never fails to make you laugh. Your body will thank you! 

  1. Reach out to friends

Now, more than ever, it’s so important to reach out to our friends. Being isolated from our community can be detrimental to our mental health, so we need to be intentional about staying connected. Whether it’s a phone call, a zoom session, or a socially-distanced visit, make time for your favorite humans.

  1. Surround yourself with good smells

The sense of smell can be underutilized as a way to relax, but it’s a great way to influence our mood. Light your favorite candle, incense, or use your favorite perfume. Of course, using essential oils is another great way to cultivate calmness. Don’t forget cooking and baking; you get the meditative benefits of the activity along with the wonderful aromas.

  1. Declutter your environment

We may not realize how much a cluttered environment can affect our stress level, especially in this season of working from home. Decluttering your environment will not only alleviate some anxiety but also produce a sense of accomplishment. You could even take it a step further and redecorate a space that feels cramped or stagnant.

  1. Declutter your mind

Whether it’s journaling or simply jotting down a to-do list, writing can be incredibly helpful when it comes to decluttering our minds. Some people actually feel physical relief after writing out whatever may be swirling around in their head.

  1. Get outside

Spending time in nature has an overwhelmingly positive effect on our psychological and physical well-being. Being surrounded by trees or simply breathing in the fresh air is a great antidote to stress. Nature reminds us to slow down, to take in all of life’s little moments and details.

  1. Go to the farmer’s market

Not only do you reap the benefits of being in a more pleasant outside environment, but there’s extra health benefits to shopping at the local farmer’s market. You’re treating your body to more naturally grown produce and giving your brain a break from the endless options presented at a traditional supermarket. There’s also more social interaction because you’re purchasing items from each individual vendor instead of one cashier.

  1. Get creative

Between news, social media, and work, our brains are constantly taking in information; imputing and processing other people’s content. What about creating your own content? Whether it’s painting, sculpting, writing, acting, singing, playing an instrument…the list goes on. Find a creative activity that you enjoy; something that allows you to express your perspective. Even if another soul never sees it, there is so much fulfillment in creating.

  1. Do your hair and/or makeup; dress in something that makes your feel confident

Everyone has been spending more time at home, which means there’s less motivation to change out of our comfy clothes and spend more than a few minutes in front of the mirror. But the practice of “getting ready” can be an important part of self-care. Even if it’s not every day, take some time to make yourself look like you’re ready to take on the world – it can have a surprisingly positive impact on your day!

  1. Read a good book or watch one of your favorite movies

There’s something about transporting ourselves to another space and time…it’s incredibly relaxing. When you need a mini escape, movies and books are a great way to accomplish this.

  1. Make a cup of tea

Warmth is always soothing to our bodies. Simply holding a hot cup of tea and breathing in the herbal steam puts us in a calming state. Lavender and chamomile teas are especially helpful for winding down.

  1. Take a bath

Treat yourself to a soak in the tub complete with candles, relaxing music, and maybe even a glass of wine.

  1. Volunteer

In a season when depression can so easily creep in, volunteering is an effective way to combat feelings of loneliness or lack of purpose. It can also help provide structure to your schedule if you’re struggling in that area. Volunteermatch.org is a great resource to find volunteer opportunities in your community.

  1. Listen to classical music

Music in general can have powerful effects on our psychological state. With classical music in particular, we know there are incredible health benefits to listening: lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, sharper memory, less pain, and increased emotional availability. 

  1. Nourish your body with healthy, delicious food 

When we can enjoy a meal that satisfies both our taste buds’ desire for flavor and our body’s need for rich nutrients, that’s a win-win. Treat yourself to food that meets both criteria and allow yourself to savor it undistracted by tasks, social media, or TV.

  1. Be patient with yourself

While you might read this list and immediately start creating a plan for a self-care routine, it’s important to remember that new patterns take time. Give yourself lots of grace- you’re a work in progress. And give yourself permission to celebrate the little victories.