2) Practice Self Care
When we get stressed, worried or afraid for the future, here's what happens inside of us:
- our bodies tense up
- our minds race, and our thinking becomes less clear
- our anxiety levels increase
- we feel less connected and loving towards others, and
- we take poorer care of ourselves.
Therefore during stressful times like these, we need to practice more self care so as to maintain our health, joy, and ability to function well.
Here are Some Tips for Doing This
- Find ways to deeply relax your body + mind (see more below)
- Take time away from worry (more below)
- Take care of your mental health (more below)
- Nourish your mind, body, emotions and spirit (e.g. start here)
- Find ways to help others which also inspire you (this page can help)
- Give yourself some daily structure (see the calendar below)
(Calendar created by the Greater Good Science Center)
Below are some practical ways to put these tips into action....
Remember to Breathe
When we are tense, we breathe shallowly, which gives less oxygen to our brain and body. Breathing more fully helps us to relax. How?
Take time to notice your breath. Begin to breathe more consciously, evenly, fully. Gently breathe into the lower part of your chest, stomach or belly. (Don’t use pressure or force.) Make your exhalations a little longer than your inhalations. This simple practice activates the body’s relaxation response.
Here is a sample Breathing Exercise, from BecomeRelaxed.com
Relax your Body
Notice where you are feeling tense, such as in your shoulders, chest, belly, or legs. See if you can begin to relax them. Imagine breathing into to those tight areas, and beginning to feel them let go or unwind.
Canadian stress management pioneer Eli Bay has created some highly effective recordings to help people relax and reduce the harmful effects of stress, worry and fear. He has also created a website to give free access to his library of online exercises during the pandemic. The address is www.innercalmonline.com
The first exercise is called Relax Now. It's a 33-minute recording which combines Empowered Breathing and Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
Click here to listen to the audio, or click the blue box below it for the video on his site:
For his entire online library of relaxation and stress reduction exercises, click here.
Relax your Mind
Like to imagine yourself on a beautiful beach under a warm sun, listening to the ocean's waves?
This exercise is called Autogenic Relaxation, by Jasmine Buraik.
More Ways to Take Time Away from Worry
Clear your Thoughts for just a moment...
Before doing your next activity, take a short pause. That's right, just stand or sit still for a moment.
Breathe gently. Quiet or calm your thoughts for 15, 20 or 30 seconds. And see how it feels to just be still.
This method of 'being present' is a simple but effective way to build more peace into your day. Try it a few times today, and see how you feel...
You've probably heard people talk about it. It's getting a lot of attention around the world today. So what is it, really?
In its simplest terms, "mindfulness" is about being present -- and noticing more fully what is happening inside and around us.
During times of crisis, the mind generates lots of negative, fear-based thoughts such as: worry, criticism, the desire to run, fight or attack others, fear of the future, and so on. These also generate feelings like anxiousness, upset, despair and powerlessness. Together, these feed off each other. And that’s why fear grows so rapidly at times like this.
Being mindful is about becoming more aware of our thoughts and feelings. Why is this helpful? Because when we do, we have a choice about we respond. And this gives us more control over how we are inside, and how we act on the outside.
Want to know more about it? Here are some free resources:
What Mindfulness Is, from Mindfulnet.org
A Short Experience of Mindfulness, from Daily Calm
A rich collection of resources, from MindfullnessEveryday.org
Resources/Links specifically for the coronavirus
Why relaxation and mindfulness?
Both of these turn on your body's natural healing system, which:
- lowers your blood pressure
- increases blood flow (to the brain, and all parts of the body)
- turns off the busy mind
- strengthens your immune system
- leaves you feeling calmer, and more centered
- helps you think more clearly.
This is also true of meditation, and many kinds of visualization, imagery, and prayer (which you'll find links for on following pages).
Can you think of anything better at a time like this?
Watch your Energy Level
Notice when you are feeling depressed, sluggish, tired or exhausted.
Rather than push to do more, step back. Turn to activities that bring you more energy, rest, or hope.
Also notice how you are feeling, e.g. if your mind is racing, heart pounding, or anxiety growing. These are also your body’s wisdom, guiding you to slow down, back off, and put less pressure on yourself.
When you can, give yourself permission to take naps + rest more often.
"Center and Ground" Yourself more often
So what does that mean? When we get busy or worried, our focus goes outside of ourselves. We spend much of our time "in our heads," focusing on what we need to do, or what's coming next.
Centering ourselves is a natural way of calming, by helping us connect to our bodies (and feelings) and bringing our focus back inside of us. Here's how:
"Start by noticing the sensations in your body, e.g. the feeling of your seat on the chair, or feet on the floor. Notice your breath. Feel your center of awareness (and energy) dropping from your head... down through your shoulders and upper body... your waist and seat... your legs, ankles and feet."
Grounding is about feeling our body connected to the floor or ground beneath us. Here is a simple exercise for beginning to do that:
"Stand up, and breathe gently. Relax the tension in your shoulders. Bend your knees slightly. Feel the sensations in your legs, and feel yourself connected to the floor underneath your feet.
Use your imagination to visualize a deep root system growing out from your feet into the ground. See the roots expanding and deepening, helping you to feel anchored and steady inside."
Why Taking Care of Your Own Well-Being Helps Others
Our emotional well-being can benefit the people around us.
by Jill Suttie, from GreaterGood
This might sound a bit self-centered or indulgent, but it is actually a powerful + practical way to take care of ourselves.
Self love is about choosing thoughts and actions which counteract the fear we feel during times of crisis. The more we do this for ourselves, the calmer and richer we feel inside. And the more we grow our capacity to give caring, compassion and kindness to others.
Regularly ask yourself questions like:
"How can I take better care of myself? Am I being kind to myself? What do I need right now, or what would feel loving here?"
With these insights, you can then take actions which are more compassionate and loving towards yourself.
Remember to take breaks for physical activity! (No, not just getting up to wash the dishes or see what's in the fridge...)
Here are a couple of resources that may be helpful:
Walking at Home
For Beginners and the more Advanced:
Yoga at Home
Courtesy of a company called down dog (and free for a limited time):
Take Time Outside, if permitted
Staying at home is recommended in most areas. But unless you are under a "self isolate" order (which means not going out for 14 days), in a city that's locked down, or if your local health authorities tell you not to go out, it's still helpful for our health and well-being to get outside occasionally!
Walk, cycle, run, or roller blade. Take a car ride through a local park. Remember to see the beauty around you. Take photos. Do whatever restores your soul.
Just remember to go to places that aren't busy with people...
and stay six feet away from others
while you're doing these!
Note: Health recommendations differ from place to place,
and are changing on a daily basis. Remember to check what is recommended by your local health authorities.
Caring for Your Mental Health
The World Health Organization tell us that, among all of the causes of disability worldwide, depression is actually at the top of the list.
So it's time to focus on this. We are not powerless.
We can actually do something... for our brain health.
- Dr. Christine Moutier, psychiatrist,
CNN Town Hall of the Coronavirus
Information and Resources on Stress, Coping and Mental Health
from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Coronavirus: Mental Health Coping Strategies
from the U.S. National Alliance on Mental Illness
Mental Health and the COVID-19 Pandemic
from CAMH - Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
COVID-19 and Anxiety, from Cdn. Mental Health Assn., BC Division
It's OK not to feel okay: Olympic Athlete Michael Phelps, Mental health and the Coronavirus pandemic
Living With Mental Health Challenges During the Pandemic
by Cassandra Vieten, from Psychology Today
Want some help at home with depression or other mental health issues? Here's Woebot: “Tiny conversations to feel your best.”
And For Those Working at Home.......
(which seems like most of us these days)
Take shorter work periods – with space between them to relax, de-stress and regenerate (e.g. using ideas like those described above)
Take regular breaks from email, internet and cell phone use.
- Yes, we know it's hard. So take short ones to start ;)
Notice your energy and anxiety levels
- Do what you can to keep your energy positive, healthy, uplifted.
- Notice when you’re feeling driven to do more, and ‘step back from the edge’
- Slow your inner self down. Speeding up or "trying to do more" increases anxiety and stress.
Before you begin new activities...
- Take a few moments to pause.
- Relax your body. Notice how you are feeling. Clear your mind, and become present.
- Picture or visualize what you want to bring into your next activity (e.g. healing, calm, love)
Stay connected to others.
- And ask others for help, when you need it.
Feeling the need for more humor?
A Few Additional Resources:
Here is a month-long "Coping Calendar" from www.actionforhappiness.org
And here's a useful list of ideas and resources for taking care of yourself and others, from Greater Good Magazine:
This web-page is one of the most comprehensive we've seen, with a wide variety of articles and ideas for kids, teens, parents, individuals, and teachers. There are also many practices and spoken recordings (podcasts) for dealing with stress and anxiety.
Want to Have a Home Retreat?
Finding Freedom Wherever You Are is a free, half-day retreat online: