Before the COVID-19 pandemic swept into our lives and trampled down onto all of our expectations, routines, and plans, most of us probably had a self-care routine without even realizing it. Maybe you went out to movie theaters or saw live music. Maybe you loved going out to dinner with friends or made plans to travel. Whatever these escapes were for you, it is likely that COVID-19 either wiped these plans right off the table or at least made them harder and riskier to obtain.
The need for self-care, however, has definitely not been wiped away. In fact, faced with the often crippling anxiety that the coronavirus is causing many of us, making a plan for self-care has never been more important.
What is Self-Care and Am I Doing it Right?
If you’re anything like me, you might hear the term “self-care” and secretly cringe. Great, that annoying buzzword again. But what does self-care really mean?
According to the World Health Organization,
“Self-Care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.) socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.) and self-medication.”
While whose definition of self-care may be more focused on maintaining physical health, today both mental health professionals and Instagram influencers alike use the term to refer to both physical and mental health. Self-Care looks different for everyone. It’s not about checking boxes off of a to-do-list, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. It is about checking in with yourself and taking the time to prioritize your own well-being.
The Importance of Self-Care During COVID
As far as stressful life events go, living through a global pandemic is high on the list. Quarantine and social distancing can make us feel isolated and lonely, which can lead to an increase in stress and anxiety. We are worried about our own health and the health of our loved ones, and may be less able to rely on our normal outlets for stress relief like going to the gym or seeing friends. And, on top of all of that, we see no definitive end in sight.
According to the Center for Disease Control, COVID-related stress can cause difficulty concentrating, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances, and worsening physical and mental health.
Some groups have at increased risk of developing anxiety related to COVID-19:
- Frontline workers and essential workers
- People with existing mental health conditions
- People with underlying medical conditions
- People with disabilities
- People who are socially isolated (live alone or in rural areas)
- People experiencing homelessness
- People in some racial and ethnic minority groups
If you are part of one or more of these risk groups, it is especially important that you practice self-care in this difficult time. Seek out mental health counseling resources for yourself or your loved ones if needed.[Related: What to Know About Seeing a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner]
To put it simply, self-care is just that: taking care of yourself. While it’s up to each one of us to reflect on our own needs related to self-care, here are some ideas of activities you can add to your self-care routine:
- Spend time in nature: go on a hike, swim in the ocean, or just take a walk around the block
- Clear your mind: try meditating or taking an online yoga class
- Take time away from technology
- Take care of your body: eat well-balanced meals and exercise regularly
- Call your loved ones
- Connect with community groups online, through social media, or by phone or mail
- Get enough sleep
- Spend time with your pets
- Make time for leisure: read a good book or watch a good movie
Whatever you choose to do as part of your self-care routine, make sure you intentionally set aside time for these activities! Self care only happens when we make our own well-being a priority.