Self-Care Your Way
Tuning out from the daily routine to rest your mind
By Caroline Onuk
COVID-19 has impacted all of us in more ways than one. Stress and anxiety levels are at an all-time high and there is uncertainty as to how long this global health pandemic will last and, therefore, one area we all need to turn our attention to is self-care.
What does “self-care” actually mean and what does it look like? According to the Oxford dictionary self-care is “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.” This definition emphasises the fact that we have an active role to play in self-care and we are in control of it. Self-care, first and foremost, means taking care of your physical health such as eating healthy & balanced meals, having regular sleep patterns, drinking enough water as well as engaging in healthy activities and exercise. Apart from taking care of yourself physically, self-care also means taking care of your mental and emotional health. This helps you manage stress and tackle the day with more positive energy.
Self-care means finding ways to decompress throughout your day. Think about what helps you tune out from the daily routine for a few minutes and ensure you take a few minutes to rest your mind. Most people believe they don’t have the “luxury” of taking breaks but, at such an unprecedented time such as this, it is even more essential to ensure you integrate mini-breaks throughout the day in order to continue functioning at your best and to stay fresh whether you are working from home or spending your time coordinating children with their schoolwork and running a household. This could be, for example, stretching to release tension, taking a brief walk (even if it's only around the apartment), preparing a favourite drink, talking to a friend for a few minutes to connect, having a “virtual lunch break” with your colleagues who are also working from home or having a “virtual coffee break” with some other moms. The brain needs pauses to function better.
Remember to take the time to listen to your body. Take a minute to listen to what your body says it needs, especially when you are feeling a heightened sense of stress as there might be something else affecting you. There is an acronym that comes in handy when thinking of this—HALTS. It stands for:
H - Hungry
A - Angry
L - Lonely
T - Tired
S - Sick
When you find yourself with a rise of emotion, or if you just feel low- stop and think of this acronym. Take a moment to do an internal assessment. Are you hungry, angry, lonely, tired or sick? If so, take the steps necessary to address these needs first. Afterwards, you can take another assessment and see if you are feeling a bit calmer and less tense. If you are still low, stressed or anxious, then allow yourself to feel your emotions. Take a moment to observe what you are truly feeling and in a non-judgmental way acknowledge them. The most important is not to judge yourself for feeling what you are feeling. This is an uncertain time for all us globally and it is completely understandable to feel a mix of emotions.
To help you with self-care, it helps if you create a “safe space” for yourself in your home. Carve out both a metaphorical as well a physical space for yourself. Find a space for you to safely retreat to. Given a lot of us are sharing space with several people at the moment, maybe that means coordinating using different rooms throughout different times of the day. Ensure you also carve out the actual time for yourself and your self-care every day, even if it is just for a few minutes.
Communicate with those you are living with about the importance of this time for yourself. During your self-care time, close the door and do the things that bring you joy such as reading a book, dancing to your favourite song, listening to a meditation podcast, writing in a journal, taking an uninterrupted bath, joining a virtual fitness class, connecting with a friend, reading an article you have been meaning to read and, in essence, doing anything that is good for your soul and brings you contentment!
One of the main elements of self-care is to not be hard on yourself. Do not compare yourself day-to-day, do not compare your moods and do not compare yourself to others. Do self-care your way and for what is right for you. Keep things in perspective and enjoy the little things that bring you joy. Do not over complicate it—self-care is in essence just taking the time to pay attention to yourself!
Lastly, do not hesitate to get additional support if that might be needed. There are plenty of resources for online support groups as well as remote counselling services that can assist you if you need more support getting through this rather challenging time.
This is an unprecedented time where lots of things are out of our control, so you need to focus on what you can control. One thing is for sure, you can control doing self-care YOUR way!
Caroline Onuk is an Associate Executive Coach accredited by an International Coaching Federation accredited training provider and the Founder of Bright Future Leaders. She uses her global, in-depth knowledge of HR to help clients achieve their full potential You can contact her through LinkedIn.