My 10 Personal Practices for Self-Care in Challenging Times
In the midst of so much uncertainty and daily changes to our reality, I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to share with you that might be helpful. I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt almost bombarded the last few weeks with so much information, ideas, tips, resources, and suggestions. Some I have felt truly helpful and grounding. I wanted to share a few of my personal commitments and take-aways that I am doing my best each day to truly PRACTICE . . . with grace, kindness, and compassion. Perhaps you might find them helpful, too.
The Simple Practices (or scroll below for more details):
- Eat to NOURISH your body
- Stay hydrated
- Honor your need for sleep and rest
- Move your body every day
- Practice mindfulness
- Be in nature
- Express gratitude and appreciation
- Affirm the importance of creativity, play, humor, and love
- Welcome opportunities for empathy, compassion, kindness, radical acceptance, and receiving/giving support
- Create healthy boundaries through discernment
The Practices in More Detail:
Eat to NOURISH your body: Foods that support your immune system include colorful, fresh vegetables and fruits, quality protein, and healthy fats. Adding spices and fresh herbs can also be beneficial (think onion, garlic, fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley, and spices like turmeric). Fermented foods like raw apple cider vinegar, raw fermented vegetables, and kimchi may also be beneficial–a happy belly supports a strong immune system. Be mindful of sugar and processed foods as these can deplete your immune strength. If you are feeling “phlegmy” I also suggest taking dairy out for a while since it is quite mucous-producing. Most importantly, if you do find yourself stress-eating, be kind to yourself and reach out for support.
Stay hydrated: This one may seem obvious but I added it to my personal list when I noticed early last week that I was not drinking enough water. I think I got thrown off my routine. So now I’m making a conscious effort to drink plenty of water and herbal tea throughout the day. A cup of nourishing broth works too! I try to use a colorful cup for my water so that it catches my eye and I’m reminded to drink. Adding a little lemon or lime to water can also make it more enticing to drink (plus a little vitamin C!). Herbal teas like ginger, licorice, and mint would be beneficial too.
Honor your need for sleep and rest: You might be finding that as we adjust to our new routines and ways of working that you have more energy fluctuations. Be gentle with yourself in this time and rest when you need to rest. It’s okay to need a break. I also encourage you to keep to your regular sleep times as sleep and rest are also an important part of supporting our immune system. If you can sleep in a little now that you don’t have to commute, do so! But still go to bed at your regular hour to keep consistency there.
Move your body every day: There are absolutely no shoulds on exactly how to move your body every day. Have a dance party, join a streaming fitness class, create your own home workout, walk your neighborhood, go up and down the stairs in your home, do some stretches. Just move!! Many of us are sitting way more than we usually would, so you might need to be more conscious about body your body daily. Beyond my daily walks and fitness routine, I have also found it helpful to take mini-breaks through the day to stretch, grab a cup of tea, sit in a different location or sit in a different way (like on the floor instead of at my desk).
Practice mindfulness: Again, there are a myriad of ways to do this including meditation, yoga, taking a hot bath, reading a comforting spiritual book, taking 5 deep breaths throughout the day, using essential oils for aromatherapy, coloring, knitting/crocheting, walking, gardening. New to meditation and want to give it a try, Deepka Chopra and Oprah are offering for free their 21-Day Meditation Series “Finding hope in uncertain times.”
Be in nature: If you feel comfortable doing so, get out into nature every day. Find nature in small places like your neighborhood (the flowers are glorious here in Oakland right now!), your backyard, your patio. Plant and grow something, if you can. Garden. Get your hands in dirt. Watch the sun rise or set. Look at the stars. Connecting with nature on a daily basis is one of the most important things we can do right now.
Express gratitude and appreciation: My husband and I have made it a daily practice to share each day: one “win” from the day, one challenge, one gratitude, and one appreciation to the other person. It’s become a lovely ritual, one I hope to continue. Gratitude is key right now. Even on the most challenging days, we can find something to be grateful for. Some days it might be something big like, “I’m so grateful for the health of my body” and other days it might be simple like, “I’m grateful for running hot and cold water.” Even in the midst of great unknowns, we can practice expressing our gratitude. Appreciation is slightly different in that it is the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something. If you’re co-housing and co-working suddenly with a lot of people, a little appreciation can go a long way: “I appreciate that you gave me space to do my video meeting today” or “I appreciate how you cleaned up our morning dishes today.” If you live alone this appreciation might extend to a friend, family member or neighbor: “I appreciate you checking in on me.”
Affirm the importance of creativity and humor and love: Even in the midst of great challenge and difficulty, there are opportunities for laughter, joy, and pleasure. Take these moments and cherish them. I truly believe this time is calling on us to get creative. This may look like actually creating some piece of art like music, painting, knitting, writing, cooking, etc. Or it can be about having a creative mindset and getting innovative with solutions. And humor is also so important right now. Not only does it feel good to laugh but it can also boost our immune system! Lastly, and most importantly, these times are calling on us to CHOOSE LOVE. This might be love for our families and loved ones but also radical self-love. Love is the antidote to fear.
Welcome opportunities for empathy, compassion, kindness, radical acceptance, and receiving/giving support: I know I’m not alone in appreciating the myriad of stories out there of someone expressing kindness to strangers in these difficult times. I believe that what we give our attention to expands, so I am choosing to focus on places where I can be compassionate to myself and others. We are all handling this major event in different ways and I know I handle it differently depending on the day, the hour, the minute. That is all ok. Radical acceptance is about fully being with what is happening right now. It doesn’t mean you have to like it, but you stop resisting or denying it or wishing for a different outcome. Letting go of expectations or the sense that we can control things can be challenging, but it is good work to practice right now. Lastly, if you are in a place to give support right now, please do so: donate to a favorite non-profit, buy gift certificates to your local businesses who are closed right now, call a friend or neighbor to check on them. And if you need support right now, practice receiving kindness and generosity.
Create healthy boundaries through discernment: Right now we are all being asked to create a physical boundary for the well-being of our society, but remember to also create healthy boundaries mentally, psychically, and spiritually. This might mean being careful about how much news you watch (or when you watch it), being mindful about time spent on social media, choosing thoughtfully what shows you are watching, or even being more conscious of your own thoughts and where you place your attention and intention. Discernment is about consciously deciding what you bring into your world . . . whether that’s food, people, information, or your own thoughts. I find this to be very empowering.
Like all of you, I’m taking my life day by day right now. What this time of sheltering at home amidst a global pandemic seems to be highlighting for me are my daily practices of self-care so that I can show up for the world feeling as healthy, strong, energetic, clear, and grounded as possible. I hope you have found some of these to be helpful, too.
I would love to hear from you in the comments below: What daily practices are working for you and your household?