Runnin’ on Empty — or Self-Care in a Pandemic
With so much to worry about, how can we worry about ourselves?
Truths we tell ourselves: I’m overwhelmed. These times are surreal, stressful and suckful. I’m plain worn out.
Lies we tell ourselves: I need to take care of this but I have no time. I’ll do it later. It’s selfish and indulgent to even think about combing my hair. This is life, right now.
Okay, enough with the judgment. What’s a woman to do?
You’ve no doubt heard the term “self-care.” And you probably know what it means: Self-care is about the importance of taking care of you. It a deliberate act in order to safeguard your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. It’s your key to a better mood, lower anxiety and sustaining good relationships with the people who surround you.
I hear you. Loud and clear. But. But. But.
And we hear you too. But hear us out here. (#homonymhumor).
This pandemic is an unprecedented wake-up call not only for public health preparedness and infrastructure support but also for the health of the planet. A top U.N. official says it’s a “real opportunity to do things right for the future,” and that “we, humanity, are not separate from the world around us.”
And, hey, let’s not forget our own personal health. Because the future, Pausers, is with us. Without our health, where’s our future?
There’s enough to worry about right now. How can I possibly make myself a priority?
When you realize the importance of self-care, especially now, you might change your tune. The pandemic is not only shifting us externally — as in the way we live and work — it’s shifting us internally as well. As it strains hospitals and clinics, education, commerce and just about every aspect of our lives, it’s also has placed our personal health under siege too, forcing us to play a never-before balancing act and pushing our body’s inner workings to the max.
Self-care seems selfish, especially now, though…
Not selfish. Necessary. That’s because eventually, your body will run out of gas if you don’t refuel it. And now more than ever, it’s evident that good health will put you and your immune system in a better place.
Basic needs 101:
Air. Food. Drink. Shelter. Sleep. If you really want to dig in further, you can see how psychologist Abraham Maslow lays it all out.
That doesn’t sound selfish, now does it?
Fresh Air: That’s not just the name of Terry Gross’ NPR show, but something right outside your door that can help you cope. Even a short time out in nature can have a positive impact on your health:
It cleans out your lungs.
It lightens your mood.
It increases your energy.
It helps you connect with your senses.
It breaks up the monotony of your days.
Psst…when you do go out, here’s how to practice social distancing.
Food: Good nutrition is the key to a healthy life. That means:
A balanced diet
Good-for-you foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, dairy and lean protein
Try this: Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies
And this: Make half the grains you eat whole grains
And also, this: Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
Want more ideas? Here is some food for thought.
Drink: Switch out sugary drinks for water. Water is so much healthier in so many ways. We need it to cushion our joints, help out digestive system, flush our body of waste, and help it form saliva and mucus. Need a little more flavor? TaDa.
And while we’re at it, let’s consider the “other” drink that many of us are turning to right now: Alcohol. Quarantinis sound so cutesy and fun but be careful. Stress drinking is on the rise. Newsweek reports that alcohol sales increased 55 percent in just one week amid the Coronavirus pandemic. (Whoa, Nelly… No wonder liquor stores are considered “essential” businesses!)
What’s wrong with a little nip now and then?
A little is key here (read: one drink per day for women). But if your one nightly drink has turned into two or three, that’s problematic.
Reminder: Alcohol may help relieve or deal with stress, but its effect is always short-lived. And in the long run, it may fuel the same feelings you’re trying to relieve, such as anxiety and depression. Other risks of overdoing it (besides the obvious, like slurring your words and being a mean drunk): high blood pressure, pancreatitis and the risk of some cancers.
Important too: Drinking too much can also lower your immune’s system ability to fight off disease.
Oh, course, decide for yourself what’s right for you. (Weigh your risks and benefits here.) At thePause, we agree with the old saying, “Everything in moderation.”
Shelter: While we’re all stuck at home, sheltering in place, why not make your home a pleasant place to be? Cozy it up with these tips from Real Simple.
Sleep: Yeah, it’s a biggie and as we’ve all learned, sleep is critical for brain and immune function — not to mention your mood and well-being.
Lots and lots of people are losing sleep right about now, kept awake by anxiety, depression, excess screen time, stress and fill-in-the-blanks. Not to mention those crazy corona-dreams. (Although, if you ask us, this whole pandemic feels like a really bad, crazy dream.)
When it comes to self-care, a nap scores big time: Here’s what 20 to 30 minutes of sleep will do for you.
And here’s how you can get the sleep you crave — and could only dream about.
Beyond the basics…
We all have our favorite things that help us feel special (sharing mine: a bubble bath), but if you’re really a self-care novice, here are some of our favorite suggestions to tuck away for later, from deep breathing to zodiac signs:
Stay well. Stay healthy. Stay safe.
See you next time!
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