Welcome to the next in our new series of short blogs to help you stay safe, sane and supported during the current crisis. And this time we’re discussing the importance of self-care, and how you can look after yourself during this time.
An important aspect of resilience, self-care enables us to take time out, step back from the coal face and ensure we are as strong psychologically, emotionally and physically as we can be to face the next challenge.
When times are good self-care is something we don’t need to spare much thought for. It happens without us having to consciously make ourselves do it. However, during challenging times, when we are fire-fighting, doing all we can to survive and support our families and friends to get through, it is easy to lose sight of our own self-care.
So we thought it would be helpful to remind you how to recognise when your self-care is slipping and what you can do to keep your batteries charged and carry on.
Self-care and resilience
Self-care is an important component of resilience. It is multi-dimensional and is associated with positive actions we can take to look after ourselves emotionally, psychologically, physically and spiritually. It relies on us taking care of ourselves in our relationships and also in our workplace or professional lives. If we are able to maintain self-care within all these dimensions we are more likely to be able to bounce back, adapt and even thrive in the face of new threats or challenges.
Each of these dimensions can become depleted if we do not take steps to keep them nourished.
Identify one or two dimensions of self-care that you feel you are not doing so well at and would like to try to develop. This might be about making more time for self-care activities or about finding new ways of looking after yourself.
Here are some ideas to help you to get started:
- Notice sources of positive emotions, keep a diary or write down three good things in a gratitude journal at the end of each day
- Try to notice feelings of satisfaction or pride when you achieve something. Don’t forget to adjust your expectations, small things that would not have been difficult at all before the lockdown will now have become much more important, such as managing to buy pasta or flour, contacting loved ones, spending time in nature
- Take time to share humour with friends
- Seek out comforting activities or objects – a cosy jumper or a comfy pair of slippers
- Take time to check in with yourself, reflect on how you are feeling and put in place a strategy to manage difficult emotions or ways of coping that you recognise have negative unintended consequences either for yourself or for others
- Set yourself some new challenges. Perhaps learning a new language or to play an instrument. What are those exciting new activities or hobbies that you have been putting off for years? Maybe now is the time to have a go
- Read! Research shows we are reading less and this has been linked with the rise in use of technology. Perhaps revisit one of your favourite authors or join an online book club
- Understand your strengths and find ways of using them in novel ways. This builds self-efficacy and self-esteem
- Remember to eat regularly. When we feel stressed it is easy to put off meals or not take the trouble to eat healthily
- Exercise regularly. This is more difficult under lockdown, with access to gyms and swimming pools restricted. Perhaps try exploring new forms of exercise that you can do in your own home or outside. Online yoga, exercise or dance classes are good ways of joining with others to exercise whilst on your own. Alternatively walking, running or cycling are easy to do during daily exercise periods
- Sleep well. Having a bedtime routine and going to bed at a regular time will help your body to recognise it is time to sleep. If you are struggling, try having a warm milky drink before bed or take a hot bath
- Take time off if you are unwell. Give yourself permission to let go of some of the usual demands of your life, drink lots of fluids and get lots of rest
- Whether or not you consider yourself a spiritual person, making time to do things that are meaningful to you, spending time in nature or engaging in a community activity are all important to our spiritual self-care
- Take time to relax, meditate or pray
- Feel inspired. Take time to listen to uplifting music, podcasts or read about things that inspire you
- Try to notice and be aware of the non-material aspects of life
- This is much harder under lockdown, but try to find novel ways to keep in touch with friends and family, whether this is by phone, video link or post
- Schedule regular meet-ups or activities with friends and family. Putting these activities in the diary grows positivity by giving us something to look forward to and to savour
- Offer support to someone you care about
- Ask for help from friends and family when you need it or if you feel you are struggling. Strong relationships are built on reciprocity, so be sure to find ways of both giving and receiving support in order to maintain those bonds
Work or professional self-care
- Whether you are working from home or still going into work, schedule breaks during the working day. Whilst it is important to make time to do work and complete tasks, it is also important to set limits on work time. It would be too easy to fill our time with work and forget the importance of leisure and social activities.
- Allow yourself some quiet time to complete tasks, and perhaps switch off electronic distractions during this time, such as phone or email notifications
- Arrange your workspace so it is comfortable and uncluttered
- Find ways of making time to chat with co-workers and colleagues, particularly if you are remote working
If you found this helpful and would like to find out more about coping in a crisis, check out some of our other blogs in this series. You might also like to join our Facebook group UR Resilient, where members are busy sharing creative and inspiring ideas for staying positive during this challenging time.