The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major disruption in our lives and its mental health impacts are profound. It has brought stress, anxiety, and uncertainty for many people in our community.
During such a time, practicing self-care may seem trivial or indulgent, but in fact it is the key to living a balanced life. When your own cup is full, it makes you more available to those around you.
So, what exactly is self-care? There’s more to it than bubble baths and vacations.
Self-care is any activity undertaken deliberately to take care of mental, emotional, and physical health. Meaningful self-care requires changing thought patterns and behaviours that impact well-being.
It is an ongoing activity that requires constant assessment – it is not something done once or even occasionally. Self-care is not optional. This approach helps build resilience in the face of hardship and can prevent burnout. It can promote healthier relationships and make you more productive.
There are several ways to approach self-care. Categories of self-care include physical, emotional, mental, social, practical and spiritual, among others.
Caring for your physical health could involve creating the conditions for good sleep, by reducing screen time and avoiding stimulants. It could mean nourishing your body by making good food choices and drinking enough water. It involves maintaining personal hygiene and being active. And in addition to that bubble bath, it can include less obvious measures such as asking for nurture and taking “me” time.
Emotional self-care includes acknowledging or expressing your feelings regularly. Find creative outlets or activities that help you identify, accept, and express a range of feelings. Consider therapy, joining a support group, attending a workshop on self-care, or reading self-help books. Express yourself through painting or writing. Practice relaxation techniques. Decrease social media usage if it’s proving to be a distraction.
Take proactive steps to stay mentally healthy. Undertake activities that stimulate your mind, such as picking up a hobby or reading.
We are inherently social. When it comes to social self-care, focus on building quality family interactions and on nurturing friendships outside of your family. Engage in stimulating conversations with neighbours, friends, co-workers, and members of community groups.
Examples of practical self-care include writing a will, creating a budget, taking a continuing education course, or other organizational activities that provide a sense of mastery and accomplishment. Something like organizing your closet can also be a form of self-care; these are activities that help prevent stressful situations in the future or contribute to your financial security.
Make time for spiritual self-care. This could take the form of prayer, worship, charity, volunteering, or enjoying the healing power of being in nature.
Self-care also means knowing the things you no longer want to do: Consider refusing to check emails after work or not answering your phone during family dinner, for example.
Start small: a few minutes of self-care each day is better than no self-care. Focus on regular tasks as you get started, for example, healthy eating or getting to bed on time. Remember self-care is an active choice. Plan for it rather than waiting for an opportunity. Try different self-care activities. And don’t forget to assess periodically to make it an intentional practice. It can be life-changing. There is so much value in making yourself and your well-being a priority.