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.

 

After You Breathe – Three Ways to Cope with the Ambiguous Losses of the Pandemic

Special guest post written by Alexander E. Chan., Ph.D., LMFT ; State Specialist – Mental & Behavioral Health; University of Maryland Extension – Family and Consumer Sciences

African american woman is sitting thoughtfully

Since the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting quarantines began, social scientists have jump started the coping process by labeling an experience we are all facing: grief

Grief may result from human losses, such as the death of a loved one, or it can result from ambiguous losses like cancelled graduations, no goodbyes to your kindergarten teacher, missing the enjoyment of prior daily routines. Both types of loss are happening right now. Anger, sadness, anxiety – these are all part of our unique responses to loss. They are like emotional weeds growing from the roots of grief. 

There are coping strategies for all of the symptoms of loss. Please practice (or learn, if you haven’t yet) those deep breathing techniques. However, the ongoing challenge is to make sense of our new realities – a process mental health experts call meaning-making. This process helps us cope with the mismatch we are experiencing now between our old views of the world (more familiar to us) and what we see now. 

Here is how you begin the work: 

image-from-rawpixel-id-2317500-originalThink about how you want to emerge from this crisis. What will it say about you that you lived through this crisis? Will you have developed any new habits or ways of appreciating your daily life? Will you have learned to cook a different food? You may need to think out loud with a trusted friend, partner, or therapist on this task. 

Meaning-making is both personal and inter-personal with others. This is not going to happen in one sitting. This is like reading a book – you pick it up for a while, then put it back on the shelf while you do other things. You can always come back to it when you are ready.

Support others by acknowledging their efforts, but don’t let others make meaning for you. A friend may find meaning by becoming a runner, crafting or cooking. You might not. That’s okay. They need you to recognize their process just as much as you need them to give credit to yours. Without this validation, the process stalls for everyone. If some of the conversations feel repetitive, that’s ok. Repeatedly talking about difficult topics helps us master them rather than avoid them. 

image-from-rawpixel-id-2320261-originalWelcome all emotions daily. On any given day, allow yourself to laugh, cry, and everything in between. Mindfulness training can help you non-judgmentally accept whatever emotions you are currently experiencing. 

 

These coping strategies can help address the roots of grief. However, the strategies require ongoing attention and use. You may repeatedly experience difficult emotions like anger, sadness and anxiety throughout the process. It is to be expected. Each time you use one of these coping strategies, you are building up a mindset that will help you manage your life in our new reality.

Resources for Personal Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Risk Management Solution Crisis Identity Planning ConceptIt was March 12 when we found out that offices were closed, and the following day that schools would be closed in our state.  At that time, it was supposed to be for a two-week period, but now we have moved beyond that. While many are still working, others are laid off or furloughed. Even if you are still working, you may experience fluctuations in your income or even unexpected bills. Since the beginning, I have been keeping a list of resources shared by my friends and colleagues during this difficult time. 

Now is the time to share them with you.

Several government agencies have pulled together resources for consumers. The list is not comprehensive and focuses primarily on finance related topics. An important note is that the federal tax filing deadline is extended from April 15 until July 15. Now if you are expecting a refund, you probably should not wait to file your taxes. You should also check the filing requirements for your state. Maryland residents have a filing date of July 15.  Click on the links below for government resources in response to COVID-19.

Cooperative Extension has responded with resources available for food preservation, nutrition, mindfulness, and finance. Most of the links provided will focus on finances, as that is the role I serve with Extension. The most important item to remember is that you need a plan. Figure out your current situation and develop a plan in case your situation changes. Always seek credible resources for information. There are people out there that are trying to take advantage of you in this challenging environment. The Cooperative Extension resources listed below are credible. You should also check the Extension resources available in your state.

I am a member of the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS).  The organization has pulled together a list of resources around emergency preparedness, cleaning, hand washing, and food safety, family resources, and financial wellness resources.  Click here for its COVID-19 resources.

Some parents are looking for free resources to teach your children at home. 

Colleagues have sent me other resources as pdf files.  If you are interested in them, please email me at jketterm@umd.edu.

It is important to keep in mind that this situation is temporary. Stay positive as this will pass. During difficult times, you need to take care of your mental and physical well-being. Take time to unplug and stop reading all of the negative coverage.  

Stay healthy.