To Take Care of Others, You Must First Take Care of Yourself
Lisa Drennan, IIN Content Writer
Self-care is even more important in the time of COVID
COVID-19 has impacted our lives in significant ways - you may be working from home, experiencing financial hardship, or even grieving the loss of a friend or relative. Or perhaps you’re living with people you love, but after all of this time at home, you’re feeling everything but love for them! Cabin fever is real and we are here to support you in maintaining healthy, happy relationships.
So how do you maintain your relationships during this time without driving each other crazy? If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you’ve heard the flight attendant instruct passengers to always put on their oxygen mask first before assisting the person next to you. You also may have heard the expression, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Improving our relationships with ourselves is not only important, but essential, if we wish to take care of others.
Self-care is not just about taking care of our physicality, but also our mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Developing the habit of self-care takes time and commitment, and while it doesn’t need to take hours and hours, it does require carving out a chunk of time each day. Self-care is also bio-individual - what feels soothing and relaxing to one person may not be the same for someone else.
Self-care is about exploring a variety of practices and finding what works best for you. It is also important to recognize that what supports us today may not be what we need tomorrow. One day might look like going for a run or playing an instrument, while another day it may be better to call a friend or meditate. Tuning into our mind, body, and heart and discerning what serves us each day is key!
Consider these helpful strategies to set yourself up for self-care success:
- Establish a daily routine. Having daily structure can help us prioritize our activities, minimize procrastination, create new healthy habits, and free up more time for self-care! Consider writing out a schedule for each day of the week and share with your housemates so they know when you need alone time and when you’re free to engage. If they seem left out or upset in any way, you can let them know that having this structure each day is what helps you be more present and loving when you are with them.
- Practice discernment. With more time at home, it’s easy to be distracted by cravings, compulsions, or even addictions. While it is totally natural to have coping strategies or impulsive desires, it’s important to practice noticing what your mind wants versus what your body needs. Before taking any action throughout your day, try closing your eyes, taking a few deep breaths, and asking, “What do I really need right now?”
- Permission to say “no.” One of the most loving acts of self-care is the ability to say “no.” When someone requests something of us that we do not have the energy to do, we have every right to decline. This doesn’t have to be harsh or lacking compassion, but can actually be delivered with kindness. For instance, if your housemate or loved one asks if you want to go on a hike, and you really don’t want to, you can say, “Thank you so much for the invite, but I am not feeling the energy for a hike right now. I really appreciate that you want to spend your afternoon with me though. I love you.” Of course, find whatever words are most authentic for you! If you have responsibilities that you don’t want to do but honestly know you need to do, try asking yourself “What is the opportunity in this?”
- Practice compassion for yourself and others. Any unresolved issues or concerns within ourselves or with others are likely to be pronounced when going through something traumatic such as COVID-19. Extra time at home with our families is like shining a spotlight on any emotional, mental, or even physical pains. Simply being aware of this is an important step in practicing compassion for yourself and others. Choosing to see this as an opportunity to grow and personally develop is a great next step. Once you feel more kind within yourself and ready to grow, try sitting down and having an open and honest discussion with loved ones about your experience. Which leads us to the next strategy...
- Honest communication. Having open and honest communication with the people we share space with is essential. Try inviting your family or housemates to come together one day each week to share any emotional, mental, and physical needs. Invite everyone to practice actively listening while being as non-judgemental as possible. Perhaps come up with one or two simple strategies that everyone can agree on that honors each of the expressed needs.
Now that you have these five simple strategies to set yourself up for success, explore the collection of self-care ideas below for your mind, body, spirit, and emotions. Consider trying out one or two this week that resonate most with you.
- Do a sudoku or crossword puzzle.
- Read a book.
- Listen to an inspiring podcast.
- Recite or write down positive affirmations.
- Play an instrument.
- Enjoy stream-of-consciousness writing. Set a timer for 20 minutes and write down whatever comes to mind without pausing to think.
- Learn a new skill. Watch a YouTube video tutorial or read a book about something you have always wanted to learn.
- Tidy up one small section of your home. A clean space is a clean mind!
- Unplug from all technology for at least an hour.
- Try out a new hobby such as pottery, jewelry making, woodworking, origami, knitting, homebrewing kombucha, archery, or photography.
- Drink water throughout the day. Eight 8-ounce glasses a day is a good rule of thumb.
- Practice deep breathing.
- Try some self-massage with a foam roller or tennis ball.
- Soak up some vitamin D spending time in the sunshine. You only need up to 30 minutes!
- Get in bed 30 minutes earlier than normal with a journal, good book, or meditation practice.
- Release any pent-up anger by punching a pillow, shouting in your car, or doing sprints up the stairs.
- Prioritize a sleep routine.
- Take a warm bath. Indulge with Epsom salt, candles, and essential oils!
- Go for a jog, walk, swim, or bike ride.
- Try out new, healthy, and fun recipes!
- Spend time in nature.
- Spend quality time with a pet.
- Donate money to a charity you admire and respect.
- Sit in silence and observe what is going on around you without trying to change anything.
- Watch a soul-inspiring documentary or YouTube video.
- Pull an angel or tarot card.
- Contemplate spiritual/cosmic questions such as “who am I?” “why am I here?” “what is my purpose?” or “what do I value?”
- Create a morning and bedtime routine. For example, begin each day with a calm, empowering practice, and end each day with relaxation and gratitude.
- Talk to a therapist, coach, or mentor.
- Journal your feelings without reservation.
- Do something that nourishes your inner child such as skipping down the street or drawing on the sidewalk with chalk.
- Write down the people, things, and/or experiences you love and appreciate.
- Write and mail a letter to a loved one.
- Let yourself cry, scream, laugh, or growl, depending on what needs to be expressed!
- Practice mirror work. Try looking at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself all the things you did well today, repeating positive affirmations, or saying “I love you.”
- Read moving poetry or watch a heartwarming film.
- Sit with your hand on your heart and ask if it has anything to share. Notice what arises without judgement.
- Practice accepting your feelings. If a feeling arises that you do not prefer, simply breathe and be an unbiased witness.
Remember, as we spend time rejuvenating ourselves through self-care, we not only support our own needs but we cultivate the energy that helps us be fully present and compassionate in our relationships with others. Keep it simple, and just try implementing one new practice at a time. And as always, explore with curiosity and have some fun with it! To learn even more about cultivating practices that improve your holistic health, check out our Circle of Life exercise.