We are living through a challenging time. The changes have been unprecedented and leave us isolated and feeling uncertain. As a mental health care professional I think it is important to acknowledge that this is a source of stress at best and at worst traumatizing. These times require us to focus on self-care during social isolation.
First we must take care of our bodies and physical needs. Regardless of whether you have a regular work schedule or not, keep a daily routine, which includes healthy diet, sufficient sleep, and regular exercise. Your schedule needs to balance your own needs for self care and that of your responsibilities. Most of us are underestimating our needs for self care at this time. For more resources on self-care, see A Focus on You.
Beyond our physical needs, focus on finding sources of connection and support. Some people live with other family members and others live alone. Those who live alone may be especially vulnerable to isolation. How much social contact do you need? Everyone is different. You can get creative about how you can connect with your support system. People are using social media, video meetings, watching movies or TV at the same time, or doing virtual tours at the same time. Are you dating while social distancing? Dating can provide you with a source of inspiration and hope for the future.
Are you able to get as much social connection as you need or not? If not, consider other means of self care. Many of us are lacking the physical contact we need and unfortunately, hugs and handshakes are out of the question. Ask yourself in what ways can you show your body the love it craves. Below are a few ideas:
- A pet you can cuddle with
- Warm showers or baths
- Scented oils or lotions
- Self massage
- (Yes, masturbation!)
- A weighted blanket
- Brushing your hair
- A mud mask
- Sun bathing
Dealing with Uncertainty
Uncertainty and stress can trigger anxiety for most people. When things are uncertain, grounding and exercises are really important. Grounding exercises that those that keep you in the moment, by training your focus on sensations in your body. Also, consider the thoughts or beliefs that help you feel grounded and centered. Consider the following means of self care to deal with anxiety:
- Increased exercise
- Taking breaks from news and social media
- Walking in nature
- Regular relaxation exercises, like progressive muscle relaxation or breathing exercises
- Mindfulness Meditation or prayer
Loss and Grief
Many of us have lost a way of life.There are many old habits, hobbies, work environments, jobs and social circles we have been forced to abandon.While some of this may be temporary, other changes will be permanent and we are not sure how much of our way of life has been lost.It will be a journey for us to process our grief about these changes.
Give yourself time to allow yourself to be present with these feelings and don’t expect yourself to be as productive as you have been at other times. Finally, it is important that we continue to notice the positive changes that may be happening. If nothing else, we have more time. We can continue to look for opportunities for growth, learning and a new way of living.
For further reading, here is a blog article containing resources for social isolation.