Vital Self-Care Tips From A Licensed Mental Health Professional
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented changes in the lives of most Americans.
Daily habits and schedules have been thrown into pandemonium, activities that were commonplace are difficult or untenable and socializing has taken on a completely different tone.
Drastic changes to daily habits and time management can feel overwhelming at the best of times and takes on even more ominous overtones in the face of the pandemic. Uncertainty over one’s time and energy can feel scary when there’s no longer a guarantee of “normality.”
With so many new regulations and changes to life, it’s no surprise that so many people are feeling stressed out and anxious. I want to tell you that the truth is, it is not all doom and gloom like it might feel right now. That is a perspective you might have that I challenge you to shift. If you decide to change your focus to something better, you will feel better.
For example, the thought you can think can be something like, “These changes to life actually offer a unique chance to explore new ways to care for and feel good regardless of what is going on in the world. I have control over my choices. I can choose to find fun, exciting, meaningful things to do right now. I am the creator of my own reality. I can think of empowering and productive thoughts. I am in charge of what I allow into my mind and what I will keep out. My thoughts create my reality. I am getting better and better at shifting my perspective every day.”
It is true that schedules might change, things are certainly “different” in many ways and it’s become abundantly clear that self-care is a priority now more than ever.
What Can Self-Care Do For You?
Self-care looks different for each person. Some might discover taking a quiet, relaxing bath as a way to reduce physical and emotional tension. Other people might move in a different direction and start using their extra time to take up a new hobby or begin an online exercise program to feel good that way. Still, others might discover a new interest in all the interesting shows on Netflix and spend more time watching TV. Any of those options are viable. They can all be beneficial to keeping a sense of calm, happiness, and “normalcy” they may be craving right now.
Take Control Of Your Time
The most effective self-care strategy is ownership of time. While this might sound like a nebulous idea, it really just means that YOU start deciding what you will spend your time doing and what you give your attention to.
Throughout your day, you will feel like doing random, various things. You might restrict yourself from doing them because you judge yourself and call it a “waste of time.” The reality is, following your inspired actions is never a waste of time. It’s okay to take a nap, a long relaxing bath, or watch an extra hour of TV, as long as it is decided deliberately.
Give yourself permission to allot time to do what you want to do, even if that means it doesn’t feel productive at first. When you decide to allow yourself little pleasures throughout your day, you are centering your mind and grounding your life to be more stable and content.
When you feel better, you do better. Studies have shown that when you engage in activities that feel good and are good for you, then you can positively impact your brain chemistry and affect the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) dopamine and serotonin.
The neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin can affect depression, anxiety, motivation, and feelings of satisfaction. Controlling your time to ensure pleasurable and healthy activities, can definitely reduce stress and improve your brain health. Feeling calm and peaceful allows you to be more efficient and productive.
A Healthy Life Leads To A Healthy Mental State
Do healthy things that bring you more joy and you will create the life you want. Choose to intentionally give your valuable time, energy and attention to the things you DO want. Remove your focus and attention from the thoughts, feelings and things you DON’T want.
Take the time to clear your mind of all thoughts, and see what bubbles up to the surface that feels exciting and inspirational. The only way to get new, inspired, positive ideas is through taking time to quiet your mind and do more of what you love. That is how you tap into guidance and inspired action. If you are feeling like relaxing more, then relax. If you are feeling like working more, then work.
Deliberately choose what you want to layer into your life that feels better, and your life will feel more satisfying. Deciding how you will structure your time and energy will empower and enrich your life to a whole other level of success.
The time you spend on any activity needs to be intentional, purposeful and directed. If you don’t structure your time, you will find another day has gone by and you feel lost because you just went in circles. Not deciding what you want from your day and controlling how you spend your time leads to self-doubt and uncertainty. During this pandemic, it’s vitally important that people control their time as much as possible and to include a balance of what “needs to get done” with what you want to do that feels great.
Below are some activities that can help reduce stress and use time in a productive and enjoyable manner. Remember, it’s all right to choose an activity and then discard it if it’s not helpful. The truly important thing to remember is to consciously decide what you want to create, how you want to feel and then take action and do it. This process is considered an excellent form of self-care.
The 4 Best Ways To Practice Self-Love During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Focus on Mental Health
Creating time at the start of a busy day to work on your mental and emotional health or well-being is crucial self-care that would be great all the time, but is especially important to implement during the quarantine. Decide to set aside five or more minutes every day to take inventory of your thoughts and emotions and recalibrate how you feel right now and then decide how you WANT to feel today.
Once you decide how you want to feel and what you want from your day, decide what you will do to make that happen. You have control of what you decide. Focus on the aspects of your life you CAN control and release those you cannot.
Wasting time and energy worrying over things out of your control will cause you unneeded stress during these already difficult times. For example, you make decide to quiet your mind, step outside and take in the beauty of nature.
While you are breathing and releasing all thoughts, you think about all you are thankful for. You decide you want to feel connected and love. Great. Now how will you create connection and love for yourself? Well, you mind decide to make a list of all the good, kind, wonderful friends you have in your life and why they are so amazing. Then you can decide to write one of them a special letter, text, or email telling them you were thinking of them and then list all the reasons you think they are so amazing.
This is one of the hundreds of ideas YOU could do to create the desired feeling of “connection” and “love” you said you wanted to feel today. Doing this every morning sets you up for an incredible, successful, fulfilling day. Do it for 30 days and experience the rich improvement in your life experience.
Don’t Give Up on Socializing
Covid-19 has given social gatherings ominous overtones. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t enjoy each other’s company. People are social creatures and it is vitally important that people stay in touch, talk to each other, and care about each other. The biggest difference now is how to socialize.
Keeping up with friends and family is more important now than in pre- Covid-19 times because so many people have lost so many avenues to see friends, to talk with family, or to meet new people. Online interactions may feel trivial or insincere, yet they can be more beneficial than you realize!
Calling or video-chatting with friends lets people know they are cared for and can feel wildly gratifying in the absence of physical interactions. Recognizing the value of long-distance communication is more important now than ever.
Isolated people might think no one cares about them. Prove that fear wrong by calling old friends or distant family. Connecting with them for even ten minutes can provide a welcome relief to the doubts and uncertainties of life during Covid-19. It can remind people there is a whole world of experiences outside their own, there are many people who care about them, and a beautiful reminder they are not alone and certainly not forgotten.
Prioritize Physical Health
Making a conscious effort to take care of your body will have profound impacts on how you feel physically and also emotionally. Study after study correlates exercising with a positive mindset and feeling happy. Exercise and being physically active can be one of the most effective paths to emotional well-being.
Taking a break from normalcy and indulging in your favorite treats from time to time isn’t the end of the world and it can be an acceptable stress reliever in moderation. However, ensuring that you are putting healthy things into your body and brain the majority of the time is essential when maintaining your emotional self-care during these times.
What you eat has been shown to affect your mood. If you are interested in learning more about how food affects your body, do your research and read the myriad of fabulous studies and articles available online to expand your knowledge in this area.
Remember to Breath
Breathing exercises might sound silly, or you may wonder how that is valuable to your well-being, but taking even fifteen minutes to focus on breathing can literally change your life. It’s another internal declaration that “Yes, I do matter” and by giving yourself time to practice something so basic, it also is an admission of humility and self-respect.
To consciously practice something everybody does unconsciously is difficult, humbling, and eye-opening.
People with generalized anxiety typically breathe in shallow, uneven and quick breaths. Taking the time to breathe deeply, and to focus only on that inhalation through the nose and exhalation through the mouth will give any person a sense of mastery and calm.
If one’s breathing is relaxed and purposeful, everything else fades away and becomes trivial. While there are vitally important things happening in the world, giving yourself time to let all thought of the outside world melt away, simultaneously gives renewed energy and a sense of peace that is difficult to describe until you try it and is most definitely powerful to experience.
Investing in yourself and educating yourself on the various ways to take care of your mind, body and soul is more important and valuable today more than ever before. You are worth the time, money and investment to feel better. Don’t wait. Start now.
Tune in to what you want and need so you begin to shape your life, step by step, into exactly the life you have always wanted.
What are some of the ways you practice self-care during quarantine? Tell us in the comments below!
About the Author: Dilyse Diaz a licensed therapist in Valencia, California who owns her own practice. Dilyse is also the CEO of Decide 2 Thrive, which hosts parenting classes, women’s destination retreats and group learning workshops. For more information about counseling or therapy from Dilyse Diaz, please visit her contact page.