Self-Care in the Time of Corona… and Beyond

So here we are:

The age of Corona.

Life has changed in so many ways, big and small and we are all coping with it. Mostly.

This new now involves more time spent at home and, even it’s just “for now”, a brand-new routine. For some, this whole shutdown thing just made life more full and more busy-er.

I do want to take a moment to acknowledge that for all of those who work in essential services, this has meant jumping into—or being thrust into—the role of everyday hero and for that, we are all so grateful. We see you and we thank you.

Finding your way in ‘the new normal’…whatever that means…can be stressful. The stress can be overt and obvious. And it can sneak up on you.

This is where self-care comes into play.

Now here’s the thing:

Where self-care is concerned, you probably already know what to do, so I won’t spend too much time making suggestions.

Ok, just a few:

  • Routine. If you don’t have one, make one. Use life pre-shutdown as a guide. Maybe use your old ‘commute’ time for some additional self-care!
  • Exercise. This is pretty obvious, I know. One nice thing is that since everything shut down, we have seen an explosion of virtual and online fitness offerings. Speaking of which, if you’re looking for some fun mixed in with your functional fitness, check out Redefine Strength and Fitness: Home Edition!
  • Stay connected to friends and loved ones. There are all sorts of video-chat options available and socializing can do all sorts of good for your mental health.
  • But don’t stay connected all the time. There seems to be no shortage of news right now. And opinion pieces about the news. And social media. It can all be a bit much at times, so making some time to disconnect—even just for a little while—can be refreshing.
  • Set boundaries. For some, the start and end of the work day has been blurring for quite a while. Now, in this time of social distancing, those blurred lines may be getting all blurrier. Deciding on and setting a definitive time start and end time to your work day gives you some clear ‘you’ time.
  • Eat well and get plenty of sleep. Good nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated—even when your grocery supply may be different from your usual—and there are several little changes (like this, this, and this) you can make to improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Take breaks. Set a timer that goes off once an hour. Or heck, once every three hours (start where you’re at)…and then take a 15-minute break. Stand up. Stretch. Place your focus somewhere else for a bit.
  • Get outside. This can still be done responsibly, following the rules of social distancing, and this way you still get all of the wonderful benefits of being outside.

But, there’s a good chance that nothing I mentioned above is brand-new information.

Knowing what to do isn’t the tricky bit.

What to do is not the question. How…not in terms of mechanics, but how to fit it into your day…that is the million-dollar question.

I would like to offer a couple of thoughts/strategies for addressing this.

Pre-work: self-assess. Where are you now when it comes to self-care? Is self-care a part of your daily routine—or, might it be better to ask, do you get in some self-care every day? What are you doing to manage stress and make sure you remain grounded during this weird and scary time?

Step 1: Start with why.

Pick a change. Any change that you would like to make will do.

Let’s find out why you really like to make this change.

The 5 Whys.

(I can’t remember where I first encountered this technique, but the internet tells me Sakichi Toyoda—founder of Toyota car company—created it). The idea here is pretty straightforward (perhaps, deceptively so): start with the question ‘why do  you want to make this change?’ and then, once you answer that for yourself, ask ‘why’ again…five times.

For example:

  • I’d really like to start meditating.
    • Why? (#1)
  • I hear that meditation is really good for managing stress.
    • Why do you want to manage stress better? (#2)
  • Because I feel like if I managed my stress better, I would feel better able to handle everything in my life and I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed.
    • Why is that important to you? (#3)
  • Because when I feel more on top of things, I feel better overall.
    • Why is feeling better overall important to you? (#4)
  • Because when I feel better overall, I feel more confident and in control.
    • Why is feeling more confident and in control important to you? (#5)
  • Because when I feel confident and in control, I feel like fear can’t stop me and I can move my life in the direction of my dreams.

Take some time to clarify your priorities.

Long ago, back in the early days of email, there was a ‘forward’ going around…

Email “forwards” like this don’t seem to happen as much these days. You’re probably more likely to see this as a meme shared on the Book of Faces or in the Reddits…but I digress:

You’ve probably heard this one before. The forward told the story of a college professor who gave a bit of a lecture about figuring out what your “big rocks” are. The professor had a jar with some rocks, a bunch of pebbles and some sand. How they all fit into the jar—or whether they would all fit at all—was a function of which got put into the jar first.

If the sand goes in first, the rocks and pebbles don’t fit so well. If the big rocks go in first, followed by the pebbles…you get the idea.

Just to be super clear in case you’re not familiar with this metaphor, the jar represents your time and/or energy and the big rocks are things like your health, your friends and family (chosen and/or otherwise), financial security…and pretty obviously, the big rocks represent the things in life that are most necessary for feeling a sense of overall wellbeing.

The pebbles are the ‘nice to haves’, which while definitely life-enhancing aren’t totally necessary.

The sand is everything else.

On the surface, this is an exercise about time management, but it’s also valuable as an opportunity to pause and reflect on what really matters most to you.

The underlying idea here being that after taking some time to get clear on what matters most to you, you have the opportunity to reflect on how that measures up to how you’re spending your time.

Now that we’ve gone through the intellectual exercise of establishing a compelling reason for changing something about your personal self-care routine, you could easily be forgiven for thinking ‘that’s nice…but how do I fit this into my already-packed-full life?’

Let’s start with 15 minutes and one thing.

There are all sorts of good ideas out there for self-care.

Whatever your one thing is, start small. Let’s say, 15 minutes.

For 15 minutes, take some sand and put it aside and focus on a big rock for just 15 minutes.

1>0

If you’re not where you’d like to be with your self-care routine, then even one minute of your time spent on your one thing represents a step in the right direction.

And remember that making a change like this can be hard, so take it easy on yourself if you stumble along the way. Set yourself up for success by making it really easy. Do that really easy thing for two weeks and then, if you’re feeling ready, take another step.

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