April 17, 2020
Self-care and well-being during COVID-19
Three strategies to stay well and healthy
Self-care is a necessity, not a luxury. If ever there was need for self-care, it is now. As you actively look after your own mental health and well-being, you can more effectively support others.
Self-care is good for you! It enhances your well-being, emotional and physical health, builds resilience, manages your stress and paves the way for kind, compassionate engagement with the world around you. Yes, I agree that practicing self-care isn’t always easy. We are busy, we are stressed with the fallout from COVID-19, such as loss of jobs, anxiety and many other challenges. This makes self-care exactly what we need. Showing a little kindness, empathy and self-compassion to yourself may rejuvenate and refocus you.
Self-care starts with acknowledging that you are important! Then accept that it is okay to take care of you! Practice self-care from the perspective of what works for you. There is no formula, though. You’ll have to find what works for you. What types of activities do you enjoy doing? Start small if you are not used to practicing self-care, but be intentional:
- Create a self-care plan filled with your favorite self-care activities, and important reminders. My self-care plan includes reading a good novel, doing my nails and learning new dance steps.
- Create opportunities to express gratitude and thankfulness at the end of the day. Write three things that you are thankful for at the end of the day to create some positivity around you.
- Be open to new possibilities and keep moving forward. Try a new recipe, mediation or yoga.
- Make time to do the things you love.
- Social distancing does not mean emotional distancing! Stay connected to your friends and family through video chats and social media apps. Strong caring relationships are a predictor of well-being. Have virtual dinners, drinks, play games, or host conversations online.
Be intentional about your news intake:
There is so much news about the impact of COVID-19 all over the world, and it is mostly difficult news. The level of information we receive can be overwhelming, cause anxiety, and have long-term consequences for your physical health. Hone and Quinlan (2020) encourage us to take a good look at our media intake over a 24-hour period and ask ourselves, “Is reading these articles, watching these videos, or reviewing these headlines, helping or harming the way I’m feeling and functioning?” If your answer is harming, then it is time to rethink and be intentional about what you consume from the media. Stay informed without being overwhelmed:
- Balance the negative news intake with stories that are inspiring, uplifting and give hope.
- Claim back some level of control and be selective about what you listen to. Listen to a few reliable news outlets for a limited time each day, then turn off notifications to avoid being inundated all day. Give your brain some downtime from the news, focus on family, friends and other positive activities.
- If the weather allows, open your windows for a bit of fresh air or go out for some sunshine to boost your mood. While physical distancing, go for walks, runs, bike rides, or get creative in your backyard. Commit to exercising and moving for at least an hour each day.
Avoid Zoom fatigue
Due to COVID-19, teaching, learning and meetings have moved online. Communication is happening in different ways. Videoconferencing is seen as the alternative to face-to face meetings. However, we are having to process content in different ways and experiencing heightened visual cues. Yes, Zoom fatigue is real. Steve Hickman, executive director of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion explains that “there is a different quality to our attention when we are online. If we are with several people online at the same time, we are simultaneously processing visual cues from all of those people (and perhaps a handful of their pets and children too!) in a way we never have to do around a conference table. It is a stimulus-rich environment, but just like rich desserts, sometimes too rich is just too much.” Dr. Amanda Fialk, a licensed independent clinical social worker who works at a treatment community known as The Dorm in her interview with Washington Examiner says, “Sitting at a computer screen day in and day out and having all of your interactions happening with a screen in between you and the person that you're interacting with is exhausting.” Fialk explains further that “it is mentally and emotionally draining, and it can be physically draining — just the strain on your eyes, on your neck and on your back.” What can you do to reduce the strain?
- Limit your overall screen time, schedule periodic breaks and take a 10-minute walk around your home office. Get a coffee, tea, drink of water, etc.
- Create personal boundaries. To the best of your ability, stick to a work schedule and spread out your Zoom meetings. Change things up by calling in with your phone.
- Use speaker view rather than looking at everyone on the screen at once.
- Remember the world is not perfect, so we won’t be able to do everything perfectly. Relax and take it one day at a time. This is a marathon not a sprint.
Fialk, A. (2020, April 9). Coronavirus-spurred social connections online leading to 'Zoom fatigue'/Interviewer: K. Picket [transcript] Washington Examiner. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/coronavirus-spurred-social-connections-online-leading-to-zoom-fatigue
Hickman, S. (2020, April 6). Zoom Exhaustion is Real. Here Are Six Ways to Find Balance and Stay Connected. Mindful. https://www.mindful.org/zoom-exhaustion-is-real-here-are-six-ways-to-find-balance-and-stay-connected/
Hone, L. & Quinlan, D. (2020) Real-time Resilience Strategies for Coping with Coronavirus. New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing and Resilience. https://nziwr.co.nz/wpcontent/uploads/2020/03/NZIWR_Realtime_Resilience_Coping_with_Coronavirus.pdf