Practice Self-Care During the Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been stuck in the house, consuming new information, working from home, while also taking care of our loved ones. We have been practicing “social distancing” and staying indoors. This can take a toll on our mental health and it is important that we stop and take some time each day to practice self-care. 

image-from-rawpixel-id-2302332-originalWhat is Self Care? 

Self-care is an activity or practice that we do purposely to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. It is time we take for ourselves to recharge and feel good. By practicing self-care you choose a simple activity that makes you feel good and incorporate it into your daily or weekly routine. One way to practice self-care is to write it in a calendar and also tell others to help increase your commitment. An increase in self-care activities has been seen to improve one’s mood as well as reduce stress and anxiety. It also has positive effects on our self-esteem and self-awareness. 

How To Practice Self-Care? 

  • Take a Break from the News 

Different platforms such as social media, online news sources and websites, and the tv, have constantly been putting out information about COVID-19, and we are being bombarded by messaging, which can be stressful. One thing you can do each day to practice self-care is to take a break from those platforms, helping to decrease stress and anxiety. 

  • Eat Healthy 

image-from-rawpixel-id-435608-jpegNourishing your body during this time is very important because it is the foundation of health. You don’t have to “diet” but eating healthy fruits and vegetables daily can help you feel good throughout the day. Cooking a healthy delicious meal for yourself or your family can be a good practice of self-care because you’re taking your time to provide a well balanced and nourishing meal. 

  • Exercise

image-from-rawpixel-id-2317499-originalNot being able to go to the gym has taken a toll on many of us, but it shouldn’t stop you from exercising at home. Exercising is a good practice of self-care because it can improve your mood and also releases endorphins to make you feel good. It increases your energy and can help you maintain a healthy weight while at home. There are many different apps and videos online to help you work out right in the comfort of your living room. 

  • Do Stress-Reducing Meditation 

Mediation is one form of great self-care. It is a calming activity used to help you release stress and anxiety. Mediation can be done daily for about 10 minutes and it can help improve your health as well as sleep. Self-care must include taking time to get in touch with your thoughts and emotions. 

During these times we can easily feel worn-out and have a lack of energy but a little self-care each day can go a long way to helping you feel motivated and optimistic. 

This post written by River Philbert, Class of 2020, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland.


Make Time for Meditation 

Photo by Prasanth Inturi from Pexels

During the recent pandemic many of us have been anxious, worried, and stressed. News on television and social media is inundated with this dangerous virus, and to make matters worse, we are all on lockdown, away from our family and friends. With stress and isolation affecting many of us, our mental health can be impacted. One thing I have tried while being stuck at home is meditation.  

Meditation is a mental exercise used to practice mindfulness that helps to achieve a clear mind and emotional stability. It helps with stress reduction, controls anxiety, promotes emotional health and more. When one is mindful they can be engaged with the present moment. People who meditate usually have a clearer mind and it helps to increase constructive and positive thoughts. It has also been proven that meditation can make you happier. 

The best way to practice meditation is by setting aside time every day at the same time to get into a routine. Meditating when you first wake up is one of the best methods. It’s good to start your day off with a clear mind, and meditating can help set the tone and rhythm for your day. If you have trouble falling asleep, it might be better to mediate around your bedtime. There are several different apps to help guide you in mediation such as Headspace, which walks you through meditation sessions. 

Photo by madison lavern on UnsplashSome Physical Benefits of Mediation 

  • Stress Reduction 
    • When we are stressed, our body goes into a flight or fight response. When you meditate it automatically puts your body in a calm state and helps your body repair from stress. 
  • Improved Sleep 
    • During this time, a lot of our sleep schedules are out of whack or we are stressed and have trouble falling asleep. Meditation helps us sleep better because it can help increase melatonin and help you relax. 
  • Strengthens Immune System 
    • With a global pandemic, we are all trying to find ways to boost our immune systems and stay healthy. When we are stressed there can be an increase in bodily inflammation, which can impact our immune system negatively. Meditating can provide a positive mental environment that can boost our immune systems. 

Basic Meditation Steps For Beginners 

    1. Find a quiet comfortable space. Being in a quiet environment can help with practicing mindfulness and help with clearing your mind. Sit on the floor, in a chair, on your bed, or anywhere you feel comfortable with your legs crossed. 
    2. Set a time limit. For beginners, choosing a short time of 5-10 minutes may be easier. After about a week you should increase the time to what feels best and works for you. 
    3. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Find a tempo with your breathing and inhaling with your nose and exhaling from your mouth.
    4. Be aware. When you’re taking deep breaths your body will naturally calm itself. Focus on each breath when you’re inhaling and exhaling. Throughout the meditation try not to let your mind wander and if it does return your attention to your breathing. 
    5. End the Session. When your timer goes off, open your eyes and get up slowly. Stretch yourself and you did it!

Meditation does not always come naturally to everyone, so be patient. Meditating to relieve stress is a learned skill and developing new habits, much like exercising or eating right, takes practice.

This blog was written by FCS Extension intern River Philbert, Class of 2020, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland.

Save Your Skin with Cold Weather TLC

This blog was written by River Philbert (’20), communications intern for the Family and Consumer Sciences Extension program.

Portrait of white woman doing her daily skincare routine

Does your skin drastically change when the weather gets colder? Well, you’re not alone. Myself and many others battle with dry, itchy, flaky skin when the temperature drops and the weather gets colder. 

In the winter, humidity levels in the air drops making the water in your skin evaporate, and causing your skin to be extremely dry and flaky. To further the problem, indoor heating contributes to dry air in your home environment as well. When it’s cold, many of us like our homes and cars nice and toasty, but the direct heat that hits our skin also increases water loss in our skin. 

Here are four habits that you should adopt to keep your skin protected and glowing through the season. 

Man having an outdoor showerTake Shorter Showers: In the winter nothing is better than taking a long hot shower before getting ready for work. It can relax you and also clear stuffy noses, but hot showers sadly, aren’t good for your skin. Hot water takes away moisture from your skin which can cause your skin to become dry and flaky. The skin has natural oils to keep you moisturized, but high water temperatures strip the oils from the outermost layer of skin. Cooler showers can help to keep your skin moisturized and hydrated, and also promote healthy shiny hair as well. 

Change Your Moisturizer: Moisturizing is key in skincare, but it is especially crucial during the cold months. The cold and dry air causes our skin to become dry so using a good moisturizer can help to lock in your skin’s natural oils, to keep your skin hydrated. Despite the fact that it’s cold out, the sun can also be damaging to your skin in the winter so using a moisturizer with SPF can help to provide healthy, glowing skin.

Another great tip is moisturizing immediately after a shower. This is the time your skin is the most hydrated so moisturizing can lock in hydration before you towel dry.

Woman relaxing with a facial mask at the spaFacial Masks & Face Scrubs: Facial masks can help to keep your skin hydrated and give a little extra moisture during the winter. Face masks are good because they help to unclog pores and brighten skin. When masks dry on your face and harden it causes expansion in blood vessels underneath your skin, which improves your skin tone almost instantly. It is best to use a face mask about 1-3 times a week. Choose one that has Hyaluronic acid, which can be found in many products, because it helps to draw water back into the skin adding extra moisture. 

Facial scrubs are also a staple in skincare routines. Scrubs can help exfoliate dead skin cells and dirt. They also help to remove dry and flaky skin caused by the weather. Over time your skin has buildup but light exfoliating can provide clean, glowing skin. It is best to exfoliate 1-2 times a week. 

Invest in an air humidifier: It is routine for us to want to turn up our heat during the winter, but the artificial heat inside your house can make the air dry in your interior spaces. The drier the air in your home, the drier your skin will be. An air humidifier can help add moisture back into the indoor environment, which can help to fight dry skin. 

Another benefit of an humidifier is that it can make the air feel more warm than dry. This can be beneficial because you can turn down your thermostats to conserve energy. The best humidity level should be between 30-60% but it all depends on the outside temperature. 

There are also car humidifiers, which can purify the air and help keep your skin moisturized during your commutes. Another great benefit of car humidifiers is that they come with scent diffusers, so you can put essential oils to make your car smell nice. 

Through the different seasons, the needs of our skin changes, and in winter, show your skin some extra TLC. To have healthy, glowing skin during the colder months, you should adjust your skincare routine and habits to accommodate the weather. 


Meals On-The-Go

Special guest post from UMD senior River Philbert, Class of 2020

Commuting to a college campus daily is one of the many ways college students can save money. Students are not only able to save on room and board, but also save money by not purchasing a meal plan or spending money at on-campus dining.

As a commuter student, I faced the challenge of staying on campus all day without an actual meal. Unlike other college students, I wasn’t able to run to the dining hall or my apartment between classes to eat a meal. It’s very easy to spend money on meals, but I knew that I was unable to afford buying a meal every day, so I needed to get creative. Over the past two years, I was able to master bringing my lunch to campus and have enjoyed it ever since.

Meals On-The-Go
Bringing your own lunch doesn’t only save costs but it can help create a better eating lifestyle. Making your lunch can increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat daily and decrease the amount of sodium, and sugar you find at fast food restaurants.

Cost savings 

Buying lunch or meals from fast food restaurants daily can become very costly. For example, a meal might cost anywhere between  $7 to $10, which can equal almost $50 a week or $200 a month.

Packing meals can help cut down those costs significantly. For example, you buy one sandwich for about $7 at Subway. You can get the same ingredients for about $15 and make the sandwich at home. The ingredients can last for about a week, which in total can save you $20 compared to buying a sub from Subway every day.

Food safety

Commuter students may also face the additional issue of lacking refrigeration for their lunch, or access to a microwave for on-the-go meals. Many students are unaware that the buildings with multiple food establishments tend to have microwaves, including the Union Shop at STAMP Student Union. The UMD campus map shows a listing of public access microwaves on campus.

(Meal tip: when reheating food is always keep your dish covered with a microwave-safe lid.)

Keeping food cold is essential so bacteria doesn’t spread. It’s best to prepare and refrigerate meals the night before and not take them out until you’re ready to leave. To keep foods cold throughout the day, get a frozen gel pack that you freeze overnight and put on top of your food to keep it cold throughout the day. Not all foods need to be kept cold such as whole fruits, nuts, vegetables, chips, etc.

Healthy on-the-go options 

Hummus Wrap: spinach tortilla, spicy roasted hummus, cucumbers, and spinach.
Salad in a Jar:  choice of veggies, nuts, and dressing.
Snacks: Crackers, apples, almonds, and raisins

There are lots of delicious lunch options available online to try. Packing a lunch to bring to campus has helped me stay healthy and saves money. I have experimented with a variety of meals and snacks and have learned what works best for me. Don’t be afraid to try something new, like bringing your lunch; you won’t regret it.

River Philbert is a senior Communications major, with a minor in General Business, at the University of Maryland.