How to create a personalized self-care routine during the coronavirus struggle
It doesn't have to be face masks and bubble baths
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Anxiety is high amongst everyone during this difficult time, and I’m no different.
About a year and a half ago, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and since then, I’ve been honing my self-care routine to help mitigate emotional and physical symptoms I get from my anxiety. Here, I’ll share some tips for how you can do the same, even if you don’t have diagnosed mental health issues.
Keep in mind, when crafting your own self-care practices, don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect. Do what your gut tells you to do, and enjoy the learning process. Not every activity will work for everyone, and that’s okay.
What is anxiety?
Generalized anxiety disorder, according to the Harvard Medical School’s Health Publishing website, “is characterized chiefly by debilitating worry and agitation about nothing in particular or anything at all.” It’s the most common anxiety disorder, and is often triggered by an event.
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Anxiety can also be triggered in other ways: social anxiety is when a person feels worry and agitation in social situations. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are both anxiety disorders.
Even those who aren’t diagnosed with an anxiety disorder can feel anxious, though, especially in a trying time like this. Self-care is important for everyone to practice.
What is self-care?
A lot of people probably think of this as face masks and bath bombs. While those things are great and can be incorporated into a self-care routine, the point is much larger than just pampering yourself.
Psychology Today wrote in a 2018 article that self-care is “the mindful taking of time to pay attention to you, not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that ensures that you are being cared for by you.”
So that can mean a number of things for a number of people. If face-masks and bath bombs aren’t your thing, don’t do them. Set aside even 10 minutes – away from your kids, away from electronics – to do something for yourself that makes you feel good inside. Read a book, play an instrument, make a cup of tea, take a walk or take a nap. You can do certain things daily, others weekly and monthly.
Taking time for yourself ensures that you’re able to provide your best self for those who count on you – if you’re too busy providing for everyone and not taking care of your own needs, eventually you’re going to hit a wall and it’s not going to feel good.
My daily self-care routine
This is what I do each day: every month or few weeks, I do a face mask and organize my room. Taking care of my skin and keeping a clean home help me focus on what’s important and put me in the right headspace.
Drink lots of tea. Drinking tea is my reminder to slow down, pay attention to what my body is telling me and remember that the stress I’m feeling at any given moment is temporary. It helps me unwind. Maybe even treat yourself to some loose-leaf tea: the flavor is sometimes fresher and bolder than bags.
Follow time limits for social media on my phone. I use social media frequently for work, so I need to disconnect at the end of the day. To set up time limits on iPhones, go to Settings > Screen Time and explore the various features. I have a 15-minute time limit set for the Instagram app, which is the only social media app I have on my phone. I deleted the Twitter and Facebook apps years ago and it feels so good that I’ll never go back now.
Steam it up in the shower. I like to turn my shower into my own steam room and just enjoy time with only my thoughts. No music, no phone. I use this time to decompress and notice what’s going on in my body. Be sure to take some cold drinking water with you into the bathroom in case you get a bit light-headed.
Exercise. This one is harder to do now that gyms are closed, but there are plenty of online resources to help, including local ones. Check out Tricia Swenson’s roundup of five local gyms offering at-home options. Some of my favorite online workout tools are Yoga with Adriene and Popsugar on YouTube, as well as the Peloton app: if you open it on mobile, they have strength training videos, meditations and guided outdoor runs. Even just going for a quick stroll around the neighborhood can help.
If you’re feeling under the weather and can’t train the way you’d like, but want to keep in the fitness mindset, check out the Mind Pump podcast, available on audio streaming services. Beware of some bro-ey attitudes and coarse language, but these trainers are highly knowledgeable and highly entertaining. I like listening to them on walks: most of their episodes are just over 45 minutes and if you’re a quick walker like me, you can clock in about 2.5 miles during one episode. Mind Pump also offers at-home training programs.
Eat right. I really notice a difference in my mental health when I’m taking care of my body and when I’m not. Be sure to get every micro and macro nutrient you can every day: eat protein, carbs and healthy fats. Eat vegetables and don’t eat too much sugar. You also might notice a positive difference in your athletic performance when you’re fueling your body properly. I definitely do.
One of my favorite healthy meals with a sweet kick is a bowl of oatmeal with oat or coconut milk, raisins, raw pumpkin seeds, raw almonds, chia seeds, a tiny bit of honey, a tiny bit of salt and a scoop of peanut butter on top. Works for breakfast and a lazy girl’s dinner, plus it offers carbs, protein and healthy fat.
Read. This is the one that I wish I did more. Sometimes, it’s hard to read after work, but I always feel really emotionally fulfilled after a good half hour with a good book. My tip is to pick something that will keep you engaged. I write a Book Club column each month discussing my favorites, so if you need some recommendations here are a few links. Or ask your friends and family for some.
If you’re not feeling like yourself at this time, reach out to your friends and family or a professional and get the help you deserve. We all need it, and it’s okay to be vulnerable.
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