blog3School closings.

Working from home.

Empty toilet paper aisles.

Social distancing.

I think we all know what these things have in common. The coronavirus has taken the world by storm, and it’s been life altering to all of us in some degree. I am sobered by the news of elderly who are unable to get groceries or see their families, employees who have been laid off, parents searching for childcare so they can go to work, and the growing number of COVID-19 victims each day. I realize I don’t know or understand even half of the pain and loss being suffered by so many, and I don’t claim to have any answers. All I can truly offer is my own experience, be there for others as I am able, and pray.

It is certainly easy to get lost amidst all the chaos, uncertainty, fear, and negativity. In times of crisis, self-care can feel like the least important thing on the list. However, I discovered the hard way just how quickly I hit rock bottom when I let go of self-care.  Practicing daily self-care has become a lifeline for keeping my hope and spirit intact. And isn’t hope what our world needs most right now? We are better equipped to serve and share hope with others when we take good care of ourselves. The following are a few self-care practices that have helped me stay grounded.

  1. Set boundaries with news and social media.

This has been a game-changer for me ya’ll. Turn the TV off. I know it’s hard, I know it feels safer to know every single detailed update of every single minute but trust me, turn it off. Even just for a few hours. I checked the news religiously for the first few days- scrolling on my phone, refreshing my newsfeed, checking online, with the TV constantly blaring in the background. And I. Was. Consumed. It has felt like a refreshing bath of clean water to turn it off for a few hours. This will look a little different for everyone, but I encourage you to set a media boundary that feels life-giving for YOU.

  1. Get outside.

Do something normal. Go for a walk, wheelchair roll, or work in the yard. The blessing of living in Alabama is that we are already experiencing Spring! The weather is gorgeous right now, and the sunshine and cool breeze is an instant pick-me-up. When we are constantly stressed, our bodies over-produce the stress hormone called cortisol, which puts our brains in “fight or flight” mode. We cannot make good decisions or live healthy lives when our cortisol is constantly elevated. Constantly elevated cortisol increases our risk for anxiety, depression, and heart disease. Getting outside is an easy and enjoyable way to get our stress levels down. Just remember to practice social distancing and other state guidelines.

  1. Engage in activities that are grounding for you.

Think about what kind of activities bring you peace and make a commitment to do these things a few times a week. Don’t just say you’re going to do it, but actually plan a time and make arrangements for it. Maybe you wake up an hour early to fit in some “you” time or enjoy a quiet moment alone while children take naps. It doesn’t have to be every day, but don’t be afraid to adjust your schedule and make time for yourself. Remember to make both your physical health and your mental health priority during this stressful time.

  1. Set a loose routine.

With altered work schedules, kids at home, and summer-like weather, it can be easy to lose track of time—fast. While nobody is setting a routine for you, it can be incredibly grounding to set one for yourself. As much as we often hate to admit it, humans thrive with some structure. Plan to keep a loose routine for yourself and your family. Maintaining some normalcy will help you feel more human, and will make for happier children too. The following are a few ideas of what a loose routine might look like.

(1) Keep normal hours (i.e, wake up in the morning, not at noon, go to bed at normal bedtimes, keep normal weekday/ weekend routines for children).

(2) Get dressed. Yes, you can wear your pjs for the first few days, but getting dressed can help you to be more productive and can fight away that “yuck” feeling.

(3) Eat three meals a day. Aim to include 3-5 food groups at each meal.

(4) Find a place in the house that is your “office.” Work in this office as if you were in your real office, and only do work in this space. Setting a specific location for work can help your brain transition from “play” mode to “work” mode more easily.

(5) Set school hours. Try setting regular school work hours at home so that children have a clear expectation of what times are meant for school work, and what times are meant for play. Aim to keep the same hours every day, when possible.

  1. Stay connected.

We live in an amazing day in age where technology makes it so easy to stay in touch. Let’s not lose touch during this time. Continue to chat on social media, make phone calls and texts, hold video conferences, and even mail cards. Think of those who might be especially lonely during this time, and make a special effort to reach out. We need each other.

  1. Practice gratitude, have hope, and wash your hands!

Enough said.

Praying for strength and health in each of your families, and that we will see the end of this journey soon. In the meantime, let’s take care of ourselves and each other, continue to find joy in the small things, and hold fast to your sense of peace.

Jenna Le Kayworth, MS, RDN
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