Self-care is so important, particularly during this period of self-isolation. Check out these tips from MyWorkplaceHealth consultant Kristin Bower.
Kristin Bower is a Leadership and Workplace Consultant with MyWorkplaceHealth and an award-winning Diversity and Inclusion expert. With over 20-years of experience, she is an outspoken advocate for a deeper awareness of mental health issues and is committed to helping organizations foster psychologically safe and healthy workplaces.
“I miss hugs.” That’s what my mom said to me yesterday morning when we spoke on the phone. Thankfully, my mom and dad are safe and sound at the family cabin. They have everything that they need right now – food and modern conveniences – and are healthy. But what are some of the other, perhaps less obvious things that we need? Or things that we forgot that we needed on a daily basis?
My mom’s words underlined the thing that so many of us have taken for granted: human connection and physical touch.
Human beings are social animals We need to be part of a pack. I see so many beautiful examples of people finding new ways to remain connected. And that is vital right now, especially for our mental health and overall well-being.
I also see a lot of people struggling with this temporary new normal. It’s a scary, uncertain time and we don’t know exactly how temporary any of this is. As a result, fear is driving some of our actions. We’ve all seen the empty grocery store shelves where two weeks ago they were fully stocked with toilet paper, pasta and bread. Not anymore – we’ve become a nation of people who stockpile things we fear we’ll run out of.
What about self-care? Maybe we should be stockpiling that.
I’ve lived with depression and anxiety off and on for half my life. I’m also an introvert at heart. So, to be frank, I’ve been training for this my whole life! That’s a joke, of course. I struggle, too, with the uncertainty of all this.
Self-Care During Self-Isolation
My point is I’ve had to manage my mental health and overall well-being on a daily basis for a long time. Here are some of the things that have helped me through challenging times:
1. Stay in the Moment: When you find your mind racing ahead and worry about the future becomes overwhelming, take a moment to ground yourself in the moment. Breathe in and out. This is not easy, I know. Practice recognizing when your thoughts start to run away from you and bring yourself back to the present.
2. Practice Good Sleep Hygiene: Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule; get up and go to bed at the same time each day. Create an environment that is conducive to sleep and turn off your devices a few hours before bed. I like my bedroom to be cool, dark and with white noise.
3. Eat Well & Drink Moderately: Be mindful of what you are eating and when you are eating. For example, sugar causes inflammation in the brain and can have a negative impact on mood. Similar to the food that you eat, alcohol has an impact on our mental and physical health. In the short term, alcohol may help us to relax or fall asleep. However, alcohol is a depressant so the long term impact is a negative one.
4. Listen to Music: I always have music playing – different music for different moods. I listen to instrumental music when I am working or writing. When I am driving or puttering around at home it can be anything from reggae to country to jazz to pop or rock – I like it all. And if I am feeling down I will play some of the songs that I know will lift my mood.
5. Use Your Brain: Read a book, take one of the free online courses available from many universities, finally learn to cook, or dig out your craft supplies. Occupy your mind in new ways. Not only will you distract yourself, but you’ll also learn some new things.
6. Move Your Body: Full disclosure – this one is hard for me. I am lazy. There, I said it! I also know that I feel better when I move my body and get some exercise. This past week I have gone for more walks in the neighbourhood, stretched and done some exercises with weights. The mind and body are connected, they are one. When you feel better physically you feel better mentally, and vice versa.
7. Practice Gratitude: This is my favourite tip and it’s one that has been transformational for me. If you find your mood wavering, list three things that you are grateful for. It can shift your mindset from one of pessimism, loss or fear to one of abundance.
This list is not exhaustive. And it certainly doesn’t contain anything new. These are boring, old, simple ways that have been proven time and again to promote wellbeing. They have worked for me and I am certain that they will work for you.
If there is a silver lining to this, and I do believe in silver linings, it is that we, as a society, are talking much more about mental heath- both personally and within the context of the workplace.
As we continue along this journey of physical distancing, let’s stay connected in the ways that we can. Send an email, text a friend, post on Instagram, pick up the phone or send a letter. Use this time to stockpile wellness tips and tools like they are toilet paper! And if you need help, please ask for it.
And mom, there is a giant hug coming your way when this is all over. xo