First of all, if you are practicing social distancing right now, I want to thank you. This is the simplest step you can take to protect others during the outbreak of COVID-19, and your actions right now may very well save the lives of our elders or people who, like me, are made more vulnerable to the virus because of autoimmune conditions. However, knowing you're doing the right thing doesn't always make it easy.
Humans are social creatures. We crave interactions, stimulation, fresh air, and balance. Add a sudden change in all of our routines to the stresses of avoiding sickness and trying to stay stocked on the necessities, and it can paint a dark picture. We are in survival mode now, literally. In times of great stress the idea of self care can seem frivolous or low priority. There are just too many things to take care of, we think, and wellness isn't one of them. I would argue that it's times like these that self care is the most essential. As we face daily stressors, constraints, and isolation, it's more important than ever that we treat ourselves with compassion, empathy and care.
A lot of people, myself included, tend to forget our physical bodies when we're busy dealing with a stressful day-to-day. Never forget that your body is as much a part of you as your mind, and it only takes a few moments a day of intentionality to keep it healthy and happy. As many of us are using makeshift workspaces while we work from home, we may find ourselves hunching over a bit more during the day. In my latest Instagram live I did a few stretches that are perfect for opening up the shoulders and releasing some of the tension buildup— I'd encourage you to try it out if you missed it.
As we spend more time in our own homes, don't forget that for many a walk around the neighborhood is still a fantastic resource. Get out of the house, enjoy some fresh air, and burn off some of the stressful energy your body's been accumulating. This is doubly helpful if you're experiencing symptoms of anxiety or panic. If you can't get outside, even walking in place or doing a few jumping jacks can allow your body to burn off the stress-produced cortisol in your system, which will stop your body's fight-or-flight responses and allow you a bit more peace.
Because we're spending so much more time in our living spaces now, try making them as soothing to inhabit as possible. It can seem like a waste of time in the grand scheme of things, but keeping your space clean can give you such an advantage in feeling comfortable at home. Try burning candles or incense, letting as much light in as possible, or having music on: all of these are ways to create an environment of comfort and peace.
It can be easy to hear about others' productivity in this time and feel shame about our needs or lack of output, but I would encourage each of us to see this as a time to seriously consider our own needs. Do you need to move until you sweat? Do you need to eat something sweet, take a nap, read something new or watch your favorite movie? In this time of great stress, one of the things to hold tightest to is a great respect, love, and tenderness for ourselves and others.
If you found any of these pointers useful, please consider sharing with a friend, and let me know how you're practicing self care by leaving a comment for me on the Carrie Ann Conversations Instagram.
As a final note, this is a stressful time for everyone, and with so many unknowns it can be hard to feel anything close to peace. The definition of despair is the inability to believe anything will get better, and a lot of us are in danger of being overwhelmed by that despair in this uncertain moment. As it's impossible to know what the future holds, I want to challenge each of us to focus on each day on its own, and prioritize using each of our waking hours to take care of ourselves and each other.