15 Ways To Increase Your Self-Care During Covid-19
Even one year later, COVID-19 has radically changed everyone’s lives. Who would have thought that for many people, our 'world' would be confined to our homes!
If there is a silver lining in all of this, it’s that Covid has been a powerful reminder of how important human connection is for all of us!
You must remember that in this situation you’re not alone. Everyone in the world has been impacted in one way or another. There’s a quote by Clint Smith that speaks to our interconnectedness.
"This idea of shared humanity and the connections that we make with one another - that's what, in fact, makes life worth living." - Clint Smith
The challenge that each of us must rise to is making the best of a challenging situation. If we're going to be stuck at home, we may as well make the most of it. So in this post, I’ll talk about things that you can do to help improve your mood while at home, because after all, you have to manage your stress before your stress manages you.
Here Are 15 Things You Can do to Make Your Life Better while Physically Isolated:
Power of a Morning Routine
When you have feelings of helplessness or being powerless (as many do at this time), one EXTREMELY easy thing to do is to create a regular routine.
Making sure that you have a routine is one way of controlling your environment or life during a time like this when you may not have a lot of control and that can be comforting.
The other reason why creating a regular routine can be helpful is that many people are still stuck in the home and it's easy to lose your sense of time. Days begin to blend into each other, so a routine can give you an anchor for your day and give you a sense of normality.
Your routine doesn’t have to be anything super complicated it can be as simple as:
7am - Wake-up
8am - Breakfast
10am - Exercise
11am - Talk to friends
12.00pm - Lunch
1-4pm - Learning or a home project
5pm - Make & Eat Dinner
7pm - Talk to close family members
8pm - Reading, Journaling or hobby
10pm - Bed
Whatever schedule you decide to create, make sure to include food preparation, social time, exercise and/or outdoor time and some learning or creativity so you get some self-care benefit from this challenging time. Because that’s an important part of your stress management process.
I think that it’s really important to recognize weekends in a special way because it's so easy for days and weeks to blur together. So, consider making a looser, less structured schedule for your weekends. For example, you could include:
Sleeping in/later bedtime (or as I like to call it: “I’ll get up whenever I get up!” 😊 )
Movie night with popcorn
A virtual happy hour with friends or colleagues
A larger project that taps into your creativity such as scrapbooking, painting, baking or photography.
In creating a structured routine during times of chaos, you reclaim power over your life.
Level Up Your Fitness
You know the phase move it or lose it. Exercise not only helps you to build your physical strength, stamina and flexibility, but it’s also powerful and health-boosting. Having your physical strength is life-affirming and feeling more physically powerful actually helps you feel more empowered and less helpless in life too.
Add some physical activity into your schedule – if it’s been a while start small with as little as 15 or 20 minutes each day. Turn it into a challenge for yourself. Set a goal to be able to do something such as 10 burpees in a row, 5 minutes of jumping jacks at a time, 20 crunches in a row or holding the plank position for 5 minutes. Once you’ve decided on your challenge, use a habit tracker to keep track of your progress and how many days in a row you’ve acted on your challenge.
There are a ton of things that you can do to boost your physical strength and health. Here are some ideas:
Start up a yoga practice which is excellent for strength-building, flexibility - and calm! There are lots of online options. YouTube is a great place to start.
Learn do a push-up. Then see if you can get to 10 (or more - depending on where you start)!
Another option is Tai Chi – it’s great for stress management and balance.
One of my favorite websites is Darebee. They’ve got a ton of exercises in all different categories that you can access for free.
REMEMBER: BEING stronger = FEELING stronger and more in control! And building your PHYSICAL strength or fitness = REDUCED feelings of helplessness!
One of the things that I see as something good that has come out of a terrible situation is having more time for personal development. One way to do this is by educating yourself with non-fiction books. You have everything to gain – just pick a topic - self-confidence, negotiation skills, health (sleep, nutrition), how to have difficult conversations and much more.
Is there something keeping you up at night? There's probably a book for that! Something that you wish you were better at? There's probably a book for that too!
Here are some book ideas:
Be more productive or creative with "The Now Habit" by Neil Fiore or "A Whack on the Side of the Head (How You Can Be More Creative)" by Roger Von Oech and "A Whole New Mind" by Daniel Pink.
Think (or rethink?) how you live with books like "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan (also available in a young reader's version), "Slow Food: Collected Thoughts on Taste, Tradition, and the Honest Pleasures" by Carlo Petrini, "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" by Barbara Ehrenreich, "Doughnut Economics" by Kate Raworth.
Get personally inspired with "Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts" and "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown, or "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor E. Frankl.
Up-skill yourself with "Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most" by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen.
Learn about the human mind with "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell or "The Whole Brain Child" by Daniel J. Siegel MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD.
Get healthier with "Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams" by Matthew Walker PhD.
Be more confident and discover your strengths with "The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance - What Women Should Know" by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman" or "Now, Discover Your Strengths (How to Develop Your Talents and Those of the People You Manage)" by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton.
Help yourself create positive habits with Atomic Habits by James Clear and Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg.
Finally, read memoir! Choose someone you admire, get inspired and learn how other people think - and live their lives.
Reading one of these books will expand your mind, reading several of these books will make you more interesting, help you learn new skills and will level up your personal development too!
Skillup With Online Learning
There are so many opportunities online to gain a new skill and they're growing by the day!
Grow your personal or creative skills or choose a new skill to learn and take back to work with online training providers like Coursera or Udemy. Skillshare is another online provider that yours truly has created a few crafting classes on.
There are many other providers.
If there's a skill you always wanted to learn, to an online search for it. Make sure you read the course descriptions thoroughly, check reviews if there are any - and check money-back guarantees as you need to!
And with so many learning options ranging from FREE to tens of dollars to the low hundreds of dollars, there absolutely should be something out there just perfect for you.
What's The Vision For Your Life?
Now is a time when many people have extra time on their hands. It’s the perfect time for self-reflection and life review. You can look to your past and then visualize your future. Visualization is a powerful technique that can help you obtain the things that you want. Ask yourself:
What do you want from the rest of your life?
What would you be disappointed you did NOT do?
Where do you envision yourself in 10 years?
Having a clear vision of how you want your life to be is a powerful motivator to achieving your dreams. A vision helps you work towards your goals, take action and make necessary changes. Soon, we'll all be super-busy again - and a vision might be just what you need stay focused!
Here are 5 questions to think about or journal around to go deeper:
What do you desire or yearn for in your life?
How do you want to feel?
What do you really, really want to be different in your life?
What's your dream for this lifetime? Imagine you're 90 years old and looking back over your life; what did you do that made you proud and happy?
TIP: Remember to think possibility not probability! Don't limit yourself and your ideas because you don't believe something is likely. Or because you don’t know how it can possibly happen. Instead believe it's possible - and even if you don't get all the way there, you may get close - or even find something better along the way! Your wildest dreams are possible.
In THIS moment you are OK. You are safe. Take one day at a time. One hour or even one breath at a time if you need to.
This is what mindfulness is. It’s about being super-present, not thinking ahead or remembering the past, but practicing BEING. Right here and right now.
Don’t get discouraged if you find it hard to be mindful. This is a PRACTICE - meaning you will have to do it over and over again - bringing yourself back to the NOW. Over time it gets easier, and it's a great skill to have to take back to "normal" life to help you maintain a sense of peace and calm.
So when those times come when you notice you're worrying, feeling twitchy and want to pick up your device and find out what the "latest" is about the COVID situation, instead, say to yourself, "It's OK. In this moment, I am safe. In this moment I am OK." You can also add or say, "In this moment, my children/husband/family are safe."
EXTRA TIP: Reduce or minimize how often you watch and read the news! And DON'T read or watch the news (or articles about COVID-19 or similar topics) just before bed! Instead consider developing a relaxing bedtime routine.
You may have heard the phrase that ‘laughter is good for the soul.’ This is absolutely true.
Laughter releases helpful chemicals in our bloodstream - Endorphins (our natural happiness remedy drug) and Dopamine (part of our bodily "reward" system). Here are some ideas to get the laughter flowing:
Watch your favorite comedy show or comedian
Read a funny book
Listen to a funny podcast
Have more conversations with family or friends who regularly make you laugh
Try laughter yoga
Learn some new jokes
Read your favorite comic strip
IMPORTANT: Laughter should not be used to completely deny or distract yourself from ongoing and persistent fears in regular life. But for a situation like this, where this isn't much that any of us can do other than sit and wait - distraction can be a temporary coping mechanism.
If you've always wanted to journal, now is a good time to start. Besides just helping you keep a record of your day and thoughts a journal can help you explore and sift through your feelings and experiences and learn from them. It's a great way to get to know yourself.
One of the things that I’ve always loved about journaling is being able to go back and look at my past entries. Journaling is a great way of being able see your own personal development over time, especially if there’s a specific problem you’re working through.
Part of the fun in journaling is choosing a beautiful notebook, but the most important thing is to just get started. You can journal in a regular notebook or even in the notes section of your phone. Just start. Here are some prompts to get started with:
Today I am feeling _________. I think this is because __________.
One big thing I have learned during this crisis is _________.
I remember the last time I was stuck in the house _________.
One thing that's surprised me recently is _________.
What matters most to me in life is _________.
Describe your ideal day _________.
"A journal is expressive by nature and it contains feelings, emotions, problems, ponderings and it is more reflective on the meaning of life being lived." Lynda Monk
You may find this How to Journal article from the IAJW (International Association for Journal Writing) helpful to get you started.
Kindness and compassion are one of the most powerful tools we have in our toolbox right now. Many of us are largely housebound, never mind the fear that you or a loved on might actually catch the COVID virus! So, of course we're going to have feelings that are unpleasant.
Use kindness to comfort yourself when afraid or feeling anxious or fidgety. Be gentle and talk that positive self-talk. Imagine you're soothing a friend, small child or animal who is afraid - what would you say to them? Then say that to yourself! It’s important to cut yourself some slack.
Use kindness to give yourself - and others - the benefit or the doubt. Instead of getting upset when you see other people behaving badly, remember that we all do silly things when we're scared.
Visualize your kind, wise inner self. This is the part of you that is unflappable, intelligent and unconditionally loves ALL of you no matter what. Whenever you’re having a difficult time, imagine that kind, wise self is with you, supporting you, giving you a hug - and saying exactly what you need to hear (not just the sugary stuff, but also the tough love and common sense).
We so often are our own worst critics, speaking to ourselves in a negative manner, so it’s important to really be intentional about treating yourself as well as you treat others.
Helping others is empowering and makes you feel better about difficult situations. Here are a few ways you could help others.
Check in on a neighbor or friend and see if they need anything. You can do this by phone, or in person, remembering to maintain a 6 feet distance.
Offer to get someone groceries if you're going to the store.
Help someone less technically savvy learn how to use Zoom or WhatsApp or whatever they need to get online.
Host a virtual get-together with your friends.
Reconnect more deeply with friends or relatives who have moved away.
Live Your Values
When you know your values, you understand what motivates and drives you. When you build your life around your values, you create a life that is meaningful. Finally, when you align your actions with your values – you’re truly authentic. It's a very satisfying and fulfilling way to live.
Living your values could be the single most important thing any of us can do right now.
Here's an exercise you can do:
List your values on a piece of paper or in your journal.
Give each value a score ___ / 10 as to how well you are living that value in your life now (where 0 is not at all and 10 is full-out).
For the scores that are 8 or more - great!
For the scores that are 7 or less out of 10, ask yourself, "How could I express this value ore in my life right now?" "What could I do differently or approach differently, so that I feel good about how I live this value in my life?"
For example: You have a value of creativity, but you're only managing to 'go through the motions' right now and your score is 4/10. Ask yourself how you could be more creative during this time - whether it's cooking, gardening, art or writing or helping your kids do something creative, or even watching a documentary about someone creative you admire.
This time that you have in the home is the perfect time to take on taming the clutter monster. I’m guessing that you have some organizational things on your to-do list (like going through winter clothes, sorting out toys to donate or tidying the linen closet, cleaning out the junk drawer, etc.) that have been sitting on there for a while. This is the time to get them done!
Getting organized and de-cluttering allows us to exert some control over our lives - and therefore feel less helpless! Plus it'll feel amazing just to have it done, which will ultimately mean that you’ll stress less.
Organize your closets, your garage, your books, your photos, office, kitchen equipment. Whatever needs organizing. Or perhaps you need to go through your receipts or tax paperwork.
If you need some inspiration (and great clothes-folding tips) you could watch the Marie Kondo series (Tidying Up) on Netflix. She's also the author of the "Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up."
There’s also another lady called the FlyLady who has tons of great tips on cleaning and organizing every room of your home.
Use The 3-D Method Of Sorting Your Stuff
If you're keeping it, be sure to DECIDE where it will "live" from now on.
If you're not keeping it, create two piles:
Things to DUMP
Things to DONATE (or give to specific people).
3. When you're done, put the last two piles into bags or boxes, and then once this crisis is over you can get rid of what you no longer need.
Just know that you don't have to do any of this in one sitting, instead do an hour a day (no multitasking) and you'll be surprised how much you get done if you keep it up for at least a week!
Nothing But Green Thumbs
There is nothing quite like growing something - whether it's flowers, fruits or vegetables that can make you feel so good! Even if you live in an apartment there’s no reason why you couldn’t grow fresh herbs on your windowsill or balcony to cook with.
Get some seeds, a beautiful pot that makes you happy and some soil and get started.
Many plant nurseries are still open, or you could order seeds or plants online.
Follow the instructions - and remember to water it! I use my calendar and reminders on my phone to help me. 😊
If growing something is too much, get some succulents or you could get an indoor plant like a snake plant or other plants like Peace Lilies which are good at cleaning the air of pollutants and easy to take care of.
If you have pets however, make sure that you check up on the type of plant that you’re interested in as some plants are poisonous to pets.
Send Snail Mail Letters Or Cards
Zoom fatigue is a real thing. But it’s important to stay in contact with family and friends Try going old-fashioned. Rediscover the lost art of letter-writing and make someone's day. Who wouldn’t love to receive a card or letter in their mailbox (anything that’s not a bill 😊).
Yes, you could send an email appreciating someone, and that's great. But imagine your recipient's face as they pick up that hand-written card in the mailbox.
Wondering what to say? Write from the heart! Here are some ideas to get started:
I really appreciate having you in my life because ________.
I love hanging out with you when we ________.
I've realized that you bring ________ to my life.
Writing a letter to someone is a great way to show your gratitude to those in your life. Tell them how much you appreciate them.
Start A Meditation Practice
Meditation is something that helps you increase your feelings of calm and can help you be more creative and be happier (for starters).
Even if you’ve been meditating for a while, there’s still probably a lot that you can learn. After all, it's called a Meditation Practice for a reason. But it's also not as hard as it sounds. You can start with as little as 5 minutes a day. Earlier in this post, I spoke about developing a routine, and meditation is a great thing to have in your routine. To do this, meditate at the same time every day. Get a book on "Meditation for Beginners" or go to Youtube or Google and search for "How to Meditate". Another good place to start is "Metta" or "Loving Kindness" meditation. Again, search online and you'll have lots of options to choose from.
It helps to have a quiet space without interruptions - which many of us don't have at the moment. And for some people, trying to meditate when anxious can be stressful. If this is the case, listen to a relaxing guided meditation instead.
Another idea is to listen to a sleep meditation or "Body Scan Meditation" before going to sleep.
So there you have it, 15 ways for you to increase your self-care during Covid. There are so many things that you can do to manage your stress by increasing that self-care. I myself am focusing on leaning in to my meditation practice and although I don’t have a green thumb, am thinking about getting a plant 😉! It's all about Making Time.
Let’s talk, what are or have you been doing during COVID to make decrease your stress? Let me know in the comments section.
Sunshine Photo by James Day on Unsplash
Clutter Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash
Cassandra Martin-Himmons is a trainer, wellness coach and consultant who believes in empowering her clients and providing the tools that they need to make positive changes in their lives to manage their stress and increase their self-care. In her spare time, she enjoys papercrafting, volunteering and travel. Connect with her on Instagram or LinkedIn