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Why is self care important through COVID-19 and how can you plan for it?

Written by Elizabeth Blooms, Senior Manager (Health Services) with integratedliving

The upheaval of these COVID-19 times has placed a renewed importance on our emotional wellbeing, as well as our physical and spiritual health and social wellbeing. Rarely has there been a time where we’ve needed to look after our whole selves more than these past couple of years.

Self-care – we’ve all heard of it, most of us know we should do more of it, and usually we find ourselves giving almost everything else higher priority. Now, the uncertainty of these COVID-19 times has forced many of us to reconsider self-care’s place on our to-do lists. Looking after ourselves and our emotional and social wellbeing has shifted from indulgence to necessity.

No longer can we just consider our physical bodies, we’ve had to look beyond these to the wellbeing of our minds, emotions, spirits and social connections, too. Many of us have, at times, struggled to keep ourselves on an even keel with extended periods of social isolation, interrupted schedules, thwarted plans, and an ongoing sense of uncertainty about what the short and long-term future holds.

Hopefully we’ve all learnt that it’s ok not to be ok. And that there are ways to find more balance going forward, so the ups and downs in our lives become more manageable. If not for ourselves, we know it helps in being there for those we love and care for.

Many of us also have people who rely on us. A lot like an emergency situation on an aircraft, we are realising we must put our own oxygen masks on first so we don’t struggle or become completely unable to assist those we love.

So, how do we do this? What does this look like? What are the tangible things we can do to make this happen? How can we encourage goal setting for seniors and all of us in these important and sometimes neglected areas of our lives?

We’ve come up with a self-care plan to take any non-committal ideas out of the equation, and add more awareness, structure and achievable mini goals to ensure it is put into practice. Also, to ensure it is enjoyable. In the end, this is what self-care is all about – enjoying life a little (or a lot) more. Taking some time to nurture ourselves helps us to connect with that calmer, more centred place within that naturally enjoys and relaxes into life more easily. Increasing our emotional, physical, spiritual and social wellbeing positively impacts all other areas of life, with any one of these areas proving just how important self-care is to our life as a whole.

Sound good to you? Let’s do it!

Create your self-care plan:
 

Step 1 – Observe how you are coping

When things get tough, we can either use positive or negative coping skills. Be as honest as you can (without giving yourself a hard time) and notice what’s really happening for you. The less judgment and more kindness we use towards ourselves, the easier it is to learn, adapt and grow. Consider the strategies you’ve been using most of the time in your daily life lately.

Positive strategies include:

  • Breathing deeply
  • Exercising
  • Meditation
  • Stretching or yoga
  • Reading
  • Connecting with others
  • Picking up an old or new hobby

Negative strategies include:

  • Skipping meals or eating unhealthy foods
  • Smoking
  • Withdrawing from contact with family or friends
  • Substance misuse
  • Avoiding exercise or other healthy pursuits
  • Procrastination, especially on things you know help you feel good
  • Negative self-talk, whether aloud or silently in the head

 

Step 2 – Identify your needs

What do you need for yourself each day? Start small and set yourself little mini goals that are easy to achieve. To help you do this, look at these specific areas of your life and identify which ones need more of your attention at this time. Start with one goal in those areas. Keep goals specific and set an achievable time frame for them. Try not to set more than two daily goals to start with so you’re not stressed by your plan and thus likely to avoid it soon after you’ve started.

  • Emotional wellbeing and psychological health
    • Try to set aside five minutes each day to check in with your body. (Often just after you wake up, or before you go to bed can be an ideal, slower time.) See if you can allow any aches and pains to be there and notice any feelings you have about them. Try not to judge either the physical or emotional sensations, just be with them as you would a friend in discomfort. See what happens when you give them some attention without judgment.

    • Write down your accomplishments from your day. Include the little things, like hanging out the washing, paying a bill or doing the dishes. We often overlook the smaller things which make up most of our day, but these are important to acknowledge as they contribute greatly to our life in general and overall wellbeing.

    • Write an achievement list for your past year. Our minds will tend to focus on all the things we haven’t done when there is so much we have that is forgotten. These achievement lists can really boost our emotional wellbeing and self-esteem.

    • Communicate openly with your loved ones. Tell them what’s really going on for you, and listen deeply when they share what’s happening for them. An honest, heartfelt conversation with someone who cares can make a lasting difference to our moods.

    • Dust off the diary, or download a journal app on your phone. Daylio is a great app to track mood and note down feelings. Make space and time for all of your internal chatter to come out. Writing in a journal for your eyes only can be a very safe space to do this. It often helps to slow down the noise in our heads for the rest of the day.

    • Disconnect from your devices for stretches of time each day.

    • Seek counselling or other assistance when you need it.

    • Check in with yourself and others – make RUOK? Day every day.

 

_______________________________

_______________________________

 

  • Social wellbeing and connection:
    • Make contact with people who bring out your best. Tell them how much you enjoy their company, and specifically what they mean to you.

    • Grow your relationships. Take the time and make the effort to call a friend or family member you haven’t spoken to for a while. Notice how you feel afterwards and remember that feeling when you’re struggling to reach out in the future.

    • Research joining a group of interest to you. Making new social connections through a common interest can really expand your experience and perspective on life in a healthy way.

    • Connect via video calls. If you don’t already know how to, make it a priority to learn how to set up video calling from your phone or device. integratedliving has just launched a Digital Dialogue program to help you with all your needs, and you’ll even get an iPad to go with it. We also have a host of excellent Wellness for Independence programs which include a four-week digital wellness component. Video calls are especially important when you’re isolated or live in different countries or states, it can make a huge difference to be able to see the other person you’re talking to.

    • Write a letter by hand to someone you love or want to thank.

    • Share a laugh. Smiling and laughing is good for our body chemistry. Most people agree sharing it with another person doubles this natural pleasure.
  • Physical wellbeing:
    • Eating well and mindfully.

    • Regular exercise. Make the healthy activities you enjoy a regular part of your daily routine and wellness.

    • Stretch or yoga. If you need some guidance, integratedliving offers a range of excellent virtual wellness exercise and movement classes, as well as in-person classes at one of our Wellness Centres by integratedliving™.

    • Sort your space. Try decluttering a room or a cupboard or even a drawer. Reorganise an area or make a pile for the op shop. It’s amazing how good it can feel to clear up a mess or throw a few unused or unwanted items out.
  • Spiritual wellbeing:
    • Reading – books or poetry, spiritual or meditation texts. (Avoid news or current affairs here, the aim is to slow down our thoughts with this reading, not produce more as news will often do.)

    • Self-reflection. It can be very helpful to write these down:
      • What is working well for you right now?
      • Who and what makes you smile?
      • What brings out your best?
      • What is something you have worked toward that is now a reality?
      • What ideas are you yet to explore?
      • What are you looking forward to?
      • What would you like to do in the coming weeks, month or year?
      • What isn’t working for you right now?

    • Meditation – there are lots of great guided meditations on YouTube. Find one that works for you. Keep it short initially so you’re more inclined to stick with it. If you would prefer to do it yourself, find a quiet spot at home or in easily accessible nature, and sit still for five minutes. Try and notice your thoughts passing through your mind like clouds. Try not to follow them – just let them pass by as new ones form. If this is not possible, try counting your breaths. Breathe in for 4, then out for 8. A slower outbreath can really help calm your system.

    • Prayer or word of thanks – to a higher power of your own understanding. Be that God, nature, life itself, your breath, the ocean, whatever fits for you, saying thank you to something bigger than ourselves can bring a sense of peace, contentment and support.

    • Write a gratitude list each day. List three specific things you are thankful for today. You may be surprised how quickly your list grows and you have to write more than three things.

Now, it’s all about putting it into practice. Go gently and ease into it. This is part of self-care – being kind and tender with yourself. It’s also important to be light-hearted where appropriate, even about serious matters. Taking the weight out of them can help you think more clearly and creatively.

Choose your goals in the areas you most need to improve and ease into them. Notice how good it feels when you do write that list, stretch your aching parts, take five minutes to breathe, say thank you or connect with a friend. The more we notice these life-enriching outcomes, the more likely we will be to keep doing these positive things and add more of them to our lists over time.

To our own self-care and wellbeing, and showing those we love how to look after themselves also!

 

Find out how we can help you take your self care further.