How the Pandemic Has Changed What Self-Care Looks LikeJul 05, 2021
Self-care has always been a popular a buzz word.
When we think of self-care, we tend to think about getting a massage, or spending the afternoon with a friend to get a manicure, or taking a bubble bath, or going to a yoga class.
Pre-covid we incorporated self-care into our busy lives when we could. We knew it was important and felt proud of ourselves when we actually followed through with making it a priority.
At the very beginning of the pandemic and into the summer of 2020, my husband and I were focused on exercising, eating healthy, meditating, and doing whatever we could to take care of our health and well-being.
Our stress levels were incredibly high so keeping our health in check was important. I was trying to keep my businesses alive, we were worried and unsure about our daughter’s school situation, at one point during the summer we were dealing with evening curfews in New York (which was crazy!). Then we were pretty sure my husband got Covid… and the list goes on.
The exercising and the healthy eating definitely helped us get through the first part of Covid, but then when fall and winter circled back around we unfortunately fell off the health wagon.
The comfort food came out in droves!
I think the main reason for that was because we weren’t aware of how much the pandemic was impacting our mental health. We were in such a chronic state of stress, and depression, and anxiousness that our brains were driving us directly to some form of instant gratification in order to numb ourselves from all the pain and the uncertainty.
Initially the workouts and the healthy eating were helpful in managing the anxiety and the stress, but in retrospect we had no idea HOW elevated our stress levels were and how deeply we were engulfed in survival mode. We were managing somewhat – but we weren’t properly processing our emotions, and fears, and the deeper feelings around what was happening.
During the pandemic the reports of domestic violence increased, depression and psychological distress skyrocketed, and the amount of people reporting sleep disorders rose as well. And when we are sleep deprived, that cascades into a magnitude of other issues that significantly impact our health and well-being.
I personally feel that we won’t truly understand the impact this pandemic has had on our mental health as a society for a very long time.
Look, I’m not a doctor. I went to school and studied psychology but never became a psychologist. I’m a coach, a business owner, a wife, mother, friend and daughter, and it’s very clear to me that the conversation around self-care is one that we have to take very seriously – and I’m not just talking about a spa day (although book one if you can), but in this article I want to talk about some unconventional self-care practices that have more of a lasting effect.
Now that things are starting to open up around the world, I’ve heard many of my friends and clients say “People aren’t nice anymore!” “Everyone seems to be irritated, angry and rude”.
Isn’t that interesting? You would think it would be the opposite, that everyone would be so grateful, loving, excited and relieved to start seeing the other side of all this… but that’s not what I’m hearing.
Something important to remember, is that we don’t have any control over those people, and as we’ve learned over the past year and a half, we don’t have control over many things in our lives, so ask yourself what DO you have control over?
In terms of taking care of your mental health and overall wellness – what CAN you control?
I personally started to focus on my nutrition again. Last month I completed a 30-day renewal that I blogged and vlogged about, and it helped me kick-start a new health journey. This is something I can very much control. I’ve taken out all sugar and flour from my diet (even gluten free flour) and I’ve incorporated intermittent fasting to reduce insulin resistance and to increase fat adaptation.
I feel lighter, healthier, more energized. I’m avoiding numbing myself with comfort foods or alcohol and focusing on actually FEELING my emotions. FEELING my feelings instead of avoiding them or suppressing them. What a concept right!?
I’m also spending a lot more time in nature. We were one of those families who adopted a dog during Covid and my husband and I typically walk him every morning, but my husband’s schedule has recently changed so I’ve been taking the dog on my own every morning. We go for an hour-long hike in the woods and I listen to an uplifting audio book or a motivating podcast, but at some point during the walk I just listen to the sounds of nature. The birds are singing, the breeze plays in the trees, and my dog Booker and I watch the squirrels, chipmunks, birds and a couple of bunnies we’ve spotted a few times.
Isn’t it interesting that nature THRIVED during this pandemic. While the world shut down nature flourished.
I think it’s important to include being in nature when we’re talking about self-care because studies have shown that just a walk in the woods or along the beach DRASTICALLY improves your physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
Have you heard of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing? It’s a form of therapy from Japan and was originally designed to help reduce stress and death. Forest bathing significantly reduces blood pressure and has cardiac and pulmonary benefits as well.
Don’t worry - there’s no water or bathing suits involved. It’s about slowing down, being in nature, connecting to the forest, and connecting to yourself. Apparently you can actually hire forest bathing guides in some parts of the world.
Something else I CAN control is the connection to my friends and family. I know we’re all sick of Zoom, but every time I chat with one of my closest friends, I feel so incredibly happy long after the call has ended.
Now that things are opening up I’ve also been able to spend more time with my friends in person – and that just fills up my heart with so much joy.
Something else I'm focusing on is the amount of time I spend with my daughter. She’s out of school for the summer, so we’ve gone into Manhattan a few times; we went to the Ice Cream Museum, she walks the dog with me in the evenings and we have great conversations, we got her hair done, went for manicures, and saw our first movie in two years at an actual theatre.
She’s 11 years old and I know I’m going to blink my eyes and she’ll be heading off to college or to travel the world, so I’m very focused on spending as much quality time with her as I can.
I know many of us were in close quarters with our families during lockdown, but what I’m talking about is incorporating conscious connection as a form of self-care. My friends and my family give me so much joy, and spending time with them (even if it’s just over the phone) lifts my spirits significantly. I’m referring to grounded connection with the people who give you joy. When you jump off the phone with them or go home after spending time with them, the feelings of happiness lingers.
YES – book a spa day. My husband and I recently did that together which was so magical and so needed.
YES – draw a bubble bath for yourself and use some epsom salts or essential oils, and light some candles.
YES – go get a hair cut and get your nails done.
AND - if you want to take your self-care deeper, then I encourage you to incorporate practices like:
- Spending time in nature.
- Connecting with loved ones who put a smile on your face and make you feel good about yourself.
- Focusing on nurturing your mind and your body. Remember our health is our most valuable asset.
- Speaking with a therapist! That should probably be at the top of the self-care list.
- Meditating or finding time to simply be quiet and still.
- Volunteering. Helping others in need.
These are all alternative self-care practices that can greatly impact your mental health and overall wellness – and there are many more!
We all know people who are addicted to suffering - let's make a choice to be addicted to joy.
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