By Kevin Boudreaux
Self-care can be thought of as regularly giving the proper attention and care it takes to maintaining our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and wellness. For most people this involves engaging in activities that are enjoyable and rejuvenating, such as exercise, hobbies, prayer, or social gatherings. These things we do to keep us ‘sane’ help foster resiliency and enable us to withstand the daily stressors of life. Under normal circumstances, most of us can achieve a good balance between work and responsibility, play and self-care.
When chronic stress enters our lives, oftentimes the activities that we engage in to maintain our ‘sanity’ become less of a priority as we invest our energy into managing the sources of our stress. We stop doing the things we need to feel normal and healthy. Coincidentally, we end up feeling worse because we aren’t taking care of ourselves, which in turn, furthers our feelings of stress. Over time, this cycle leaves us feeling frazzled, crazy, and burnt-out.
There is no question that the restrictions placed on us due to COVID-19 have increased our overall levels of stress. Here are just a few common examples of what you may be struggling with during this time:
• lack of routine;
• separation and isolation from friends and family;
• worrying about the health of loved ones;
• uncertainty about the future;
• lay-offs, furloughs, reduced hours;
• family conflict;
• children being out of school;
• worsening of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
In order to effectively mange our stress, we have to make time to take care of ourselves. As stress increases, so should self-care. Here are just a few recommendations for maintaining our sanity during this pandemic:
Social interaction: stay connected. There are numerous ways to connect with friends and family for a digital face-to-face interaction. Use Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangouts.
Create a routine: Don’t underestimate the importance of a healthy routine for you and your family during difficult times. Routines help to ground us by giving us order and predictability.
Stay busy and active: Complete household projects, get outside, go for walks, ride bikes, explore different parks and trails, clean, declutter, enjoy your hobbies and interests, play board games, cards, make time to have fun as a family.
Exercise: Regular exercise reduces feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Be creative and find ways to maintain physical activity. Biking, walking, jogging, calisthenics, stretching. There are numerous resources online for ways to exercise without having to go to a gym.
Practice patience: Most of us aren’t used to being around each other as much as we are. It’s normal to experience irritation or aggravation. Practice patience and forgiveness.
Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out for help to speak with a professional if you are experiencing worsening mental health conditions or if you are having significant changes in sleep, appetite, mood, or energy levels. Most mental health therapists are offering Telehealth sessions at this time. You can find local counselors in your area by visiting www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists.
Kevin Boudreaux is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Private Practice at Life Solutions in Alexandria, LA.