Self-Care in Times of Stress
Being ordered to stay at home was a unique situation for most of us, along with the uncertainty accompanying COVID-19. It revealed much about ourselves, including revisiting old injuries or ailments. It's very common for individuals with chronic pain and illness to relapse during times of extreme stress. You may have thought that you fully rehabilitated an injury, or chronic condition, only to have it 'flare up' when experiencing challenges. Self-care has become very important for both our physical and mental health during this crisis. Yet, it can be really hard to focus our attention during these times. Yoga therapy has the potential to help fill a gap for your pain management needs while also attending to your mental health. Yoga and Ayurveda have many suggestions for proactively maintaining our health and reducing stress.
In addition to remote yoga classes, there are other simple actions that you can take to improve your well-being during this crisis:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule getting 7-9 consecutive hours of sleep a night sometime during 9:00pm-9:00am. Avoid taking long naps during the day, if possible. If you need to rest, try a short, 20-minute nap where you lightly doze instead of sleeping deeply during the day.
- In addition to a daily mindful yoga practice, it is important to get enough exercise. I know it's allergy season, but a good brisk walk has many benefits, including cardiovascular exercise, fresh air, a broader perspective past our own 4 walls, a connection with nature, and it's free. A regular dust mask, or handkerchief tied across your nose and mouth, will help with the allergies (not the virus). Taking a shower and using a neti pot for sinus irrigation after your walk can help remove a lot of the pollen. You can also dance to your favorite music in your home.
- Take extra care with your dental hygiene. If you have a waterpik, or similar, use it everyday in addition to brushing and flossing, to maintain healthy gums and avoid impacts to your overall health. Dentists, as well as medical doctors, will be less available at this time. Also, clean your toothbrush regularly with detergent or hydrogen peroxide and don't share toothbrush stand/cup with others. Use alcohol (NOT bleach) to disinfect. Alcohol content must be 70% or greater.
- Eat healthy food. Close proximity to your refrigerator and those apocalypse snacks may lead to over-indulgence. Sugar and saturated fats may make you feel sluggish. If you are already struggling with energy, make sure to include protein in your meals and snacks.
- Avoid excessive caffeine. If you're feeling agitated, short-tempered, or have over-active thoughts, caffeine may exacerbate this mood. Caffeine may also interfere with sleep.
- Avoid getting drunk. Even if you're not normally a drinker, it may be easier to over-indulge here too. Alcohol is ultimately a depressant and may interfere with your functioning, especially if you already have depression. On the other hand, if you're feeling panicky, a drink might be in order. Please be very moderate, though (i.e., 1-2 drink maximum; don't imbibe everyday). No matter how much relief you feel, once the alcohol leaves your bloodstream, you may feel down. Notice for yourself how you feel afterwards and you can decide if a drink is a good way to 'relax' or not.
- Avoid too much screen time and the news. Consider printed media, even if it's on a screen, to reduce anxiety. Check-in with the news 1-2 times a day and then switch to your favorite entertainment if you want to stare at a screen for a while. There is also some research to suggest that revisiting a favorite movie, program, or book can be calming. You know how it turns out, so the plot tension is reduced and you can enjoy the distraction without the tension.
- Find activities, in addition to your yoga practice, to redirect your attention away from stress and concern. Is there something you can do to capture and hold your attention? Hobbies? Projects? Make time for music, dancing, singing, reading, cooking, gardening, etc.
- Helping others is very effective in reducing stress. Call to check on a friend who lives alone. Complete isolation from other humans is really tough.
- Develop a home routine/schedule. Routines are comforting and can re-establish a sense of control.
- Check out my article on virus prevention.
I hope some of these suggestions have been helpful. Developing an individualized self-care routine that is healthy, grounding, and supportive is one thing you can control.
If you're game, try this very simple mindfulness practice for pandemic hygiene: Remain aware of what your hands are doing.
If you would like a yoga practice to do daily for your individual needs, and for this unique time, Luna is available for remote yoga therapy sessions. Afterwards, she will email your practice to you, complete with a diagram of movement, breath work, meditation practice notes, and other lifestyle suggestions.