Have you noticed a decline in your mental or physical health? Perhaps increased anxiety, irritability, insomnia, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness?
Are you experiencing relationship problems that you didn’t have before? In your marriage, at work, or with other family members?
Has anyone suggested you should slow down, take time off, or take better care of yourself?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be at risk for caregiver burnout. The fact is, people are now in a position where they are juggling work, taking care of young children and/or aging parents, not to mention the added stress of a worldwide crisis. Self-care during uncertain times like these is a matter of critical importance. Therefore, the following tips and strategies will help you keep yourself healthy and well through it all:
1. Limit Access to Social Media and the News
It is good to know what is going on in the world and to be prepared for worst-case scenarios, but do we really need to listen to the same fear-based messages over and over every waking moment of the day? No, we absolutely do not. Therefore, protect your mental and emotional energy by limiting the amount of time you spend on social media and listening/reading to news.
2. Pay attention to Your Own Mental Patterns
Thinking is an automatic process, like breathing and digestion. You cannot control whether or not you think, but you can learn to choose your thoughts. The price of personal freedom is responsibility over each and every one of your thoughts. Start paying attention to the repetitive voice in your head and instead of getting hooked into the drama of your own mind, start questioning your thoughts. For every stressful thought you have, ask:
Is this thought true?
Is it serving me well?
How would I feel if I didn’t believe this thought?
3. Start and End the Day on a Positive Note
Take three deep breaths.
Get in tune with your body by using your awareness to scan every part, starting at the top of your head all the way down to your feet. Relax each muscle as you scan it.
Listen to positive affirmations when you wake up in the morning and before going to sleep at night (instead of getting on Facebook or watching the news).
Practice gratitude: Start a gratitude journal, and in the morning, take a moment to write at least three things you can be grateful for. Do the same before bed. Try to feel your feelings of gratitude versus simply thinking about it.
When waking up, ask yourself what you can do to make this the best possible day for YOU. Before bed, focus on the positive things that happened throughout the day. Remember, it is your choice whether you focus on the positive or negative side of things, and that choice will significantly impact how you feel.
4. Find Humour
This can be as simple as watching a comedian on TV or cute animal videos on YouTube. Try to laugh as much as possible every single day even when serious things are going on in your life and in the world. When you lose your sense of humour, it is not a good sign.
5. Go Back to Basics
Eat, breathe, and exercise every day, even when you don’t feel like it. This might seem obvious, but if you’re not getting adequate nutrition or exercise, and forgetting to breathe deeply, you are lacking the foundation for good mental and emotional health. Eating whole foods, and regular exercise (even if it’s just fifteen minutes), can immediately start improving your overall level of wellness and put you in a much better state.
Our bodies were not made to endure a chronic state of stress. In fact, when we allow ourselves to remain in a stressful state, our bodies can start to shut down. When you are simulating stories in your mind about how stressful things are right now, or how terrible the future might be, you are creating a great deal of internal stress, and you will suffer the consequences. Instead, take care of yourself by writing several of the activities listed above on individual pieces of paper (small pieces). For example, “breathe,” “be grateful,” “exercise.” Note you can be more specific and write “take three deep breaths,” “write three things you are grateful for,” “go for a fifteen-minute walk.” Write at least ten activities, then fold each paper and place it in a Mason jar. When you are having a challenging moment, choose one from your jar as a reminder of things you can do to feel better. Think of it as your self-care prescription bottle.