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Monday, July 6, 2020

Self-Care This Summer: How to Care for Yourself After Experiencing the Collective Trauma That Is COVID-19

Caring for yourself during times of uncertainty

The current COVID-19 global pandemic has disrupted life in a monumental way and quite literally, the world is experiencing collective trauma. 

Trauma “violates the familiar ideas and expectations about the world of an individual or society, plunging them into a state of extreme confusion and uncertainty” (Aydin, 2017), which accurately represents the current experience of many. 

The unexpected difficulties and overwhelm can greatly affect the mental health and well-being of those impacted. With daily experiences of rapidly changing emotions and confronting new realities during this crisis, what can often happen is that our nervous systems become dysregulated in their attempt to process and cope with the distress. 

A key component of wellness during this time is practicing self-care. This is a term that is widely used and perhaps also widely misunderstood, as it encompasses much more than bubble baths and naps. Self-care is always vital in our daily routines, but particularly during the time of COVID-19 and as we return to what may become our new normal. 

Self-care is “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health” -Oxford Dictionary

This blog takes the definition a step further and describes self-care as “any intentional act of meeting one’s emotional, physical, or spiritual needs. Most often it extends beyond tasks of daily living, but when even those have become a challenge, securing them can be a great act of self-care”. 

Let’s explore the several dimensions of wellness that exist, and provide some self-loving options within each dimension that can help bring nourishment and fulfillment during and after the COVID-19 crisis. 

Self-Care Techniques

Self-care techniques vary in their level of effort and impact. Some practices are quick, require less energy to complete, and provide a boost of self-love that temporarily fill your tank. Other practices are more time-consuming, require significant effort, and provide a more fulfilling, significant impact. 

Not all of these techniques will work for everyone - take what works for you, and let go of what doesn’t. Listen to yourself and your body, but also remember that self-care is not meant to always be easy and fun. There will be times that it will be difficult and uncomfortable. Walk through these practices with mindful awareness and compassion.  

Emotional Wellness:

Low Effort

  • Take a short nap
  • Watch your favorite show or movie, stand-up routine, or YouTube video
  • Write down some things you are currently grateful for - both simple and momentous 
  • Spend some quality time with a pet! Or if you do not have a pet, watch some cute animal videos online

Medium Effort

  • Track your mood using an app

High Effort

  • Spend some time journaling your thoughts and feelings. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is that comes up for you
  • Write a letter to your younger self, taking the time to attend to the unmet needs of your younger self
  • Engage in therapy - many therapists are offering virtual sessions to remain safe during COVID-19

Physical Wellness:   

Low Effort

  • Delight in your favorite snack
  • Take your prescribed medications
  • Practice basic hygiene such as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. On some days that may be all you have the capacity of doing and that’s okay
  • Drink lots of water throughout the day to stay hydrated

Medium Effort

  • Enjoy some light pampering such as a face mask or a bubble bath
  • Stretch your body
  • Cook a favorite meal or experiment with a new recipe
  • Make any pending appointments such as scheduling with your doctor, dentist, psychiatrist, etc. 
  • If it is safe and you are able, go for a walk outside

High Effort

  • Move your body with an at-home workout
  • Plan to join a sports team or try out a new physical activity such as swimming or rock climbing 

Spiritual Wellness: 

Low Effort

  • Repeat a personal mantra, or write a mantra on sticky notes and place in visible places as reminders throughout your day
  • Pray or set an intention for your day
  • Spend time in nature

Medium Effort

  • Try a progressive muscle relaxation or deep breathing exercise
  • Practice meditation 

High Effort

  • Write letters of gratitude to loved ones
  • Volunteer your time towards something that you are passionate about
  • Reflect and connect with a higher purpose in a meaningful way that resonates with you
  • Explore your spiritual and religious beliefs
  • If you have experienced a complicated or traumatic relationship with spirituality/religion, seek help in healing from this

Intellectual Wellness: 

Low Effort

  • Listen to an audiobook or podcast
  • Watch a TEDTalk on a topic that interests you

Medium Effort

  • Read a book
  • Create some new goals -  they can be short term, long term, or both

High Effort

  • Learn a different language
  • Participate in a Webinar on a topic of interest to you
  • Learn a new skill that interests you - sewing, home repair, financial literacy, photography, etc.

Social Wellness:

Low Effort

  • Take a break from your phone - recharge and connect with yourself
  • Text a friend or family member

Medium Effort

  • Host a virtual game night or movie night
  • Video chat with someone you haven’t seen in a while
  • Reach out to a support group

High Effort

  • Practice setting boundaries 
  • Plan a future trip, vacation, or outing with friends
  • See what it’s like to disconnect from social media for a week, or set daily limits on screen time

Practicing self-compassion amidst the overwhelm

Your current reality may feel unpredictable and overwhelming. Ensure you are gently and compassionately caring for yourself by prioritizing your well-being. This is an incredibly important part of your relapse prevention plan, and to your goal of lasting recovery and greater wellbeing. The Haven is here to walk alongside you in your wellness and recovery journey and we aim to be a support to you every step of the way. Get connected with us today!