Staying healthy, both physically and mentally during a time of social distancing for the COVID-19 pandemic can be a challenge.
But psychologists both locally and nationally offer advice for traveling in these uncharted waters.
First and foremost, they say, is to establish a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.
They even suggest developing a self-care toolkit. This can look different for everyone. A lot of successful self-care strategies involve a sensory component - touch, taste, sight, hearing, smell, movement and comforting pressure.
Find the softest blanket in your house or even a stuffed animal with which to cuddle. Then, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate – see, you’re feeling better already. Those things are calming.
Instead of turning on the television news, play some comforting music and put a simmering pot of spices on the stove. You could include things like cinnamon, orange peel, pumpkin pie spice or vanilla.
Make time for quite time, the psychologists say.
And, when it’s not snowing outside, try to get out at least 30 minutes a day. If you’re concerned about contact with others, trying getting out first thing in the morning, or later in the evening. It is amazing what fresh air can do for spirits.
Make time also for reaching out to others. We are social animals, so
try to connect with other people to seek and provide support. You can do this through phone calls, FaceTime calls, texting, social media, group teleconference on your computer with Zoom, Skype, and MeetMe platforms among others.
Even though you may feel isolated and depressed, try to stay hydrated and eat well. Stress and eating often don’t mix, and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new.
Remember that everyone is a little on edge right now. Give everyone, including those in your household, the benefit of the doubt, and a wide berth. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone.
Cut yourself some slack. You can’t meet all the demands of work deadlines, homeschooling children, running a sterile household, and making a whole lot of entertainment in confinement.
We can get wrapped up in meeting expectations in all domains, but we must remember that these are scary and unpredictable times for everyone.
Lower your expectations and practice radical self-acceptance. We are doing too many things in this moment, under fear and stress. This does not make a formula for excellence.
Instead, give yourself what psychologists call radical self-acceptance - accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback.
You cannot fail at this - there is no roadmap, no precedent for this, and we are all truly doing the best we can in an impossible situation.
Calm. Caution. Compassion. Communication. We can do this together.
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