Self-care has been an increasingly hot topic throughout the past few years, and the stress and anxiety of the coronavirus pandemic have put it front and center.
“We see the empty grocery shelves, feel pressure to find child care, and worry about lost paychecks and whether we can survive financially,” says Aimee Bernstein, L.C.S.W., therapist, mindfulness coach, and author of Stress Less Achieve More. “What most of us are not aware of in this pandemic, however, is the opportunity for self-care.”
As many of us stay home in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, we have a unique opportunity to focus on self-care, which can play a crucial role in our ability to cope with the unusual stresses induced by this uncertain time.
“Self-care promotes a sense of control over stress and situations that feel out of our control,” explains Mayra Mendez, Ph.D., psychotherapist and program coordinator at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica. “Taking time to nurture oneself helps to replenish energy, creativity, stamina, and cognition.”
Though self-care has a reputation for consisting of expensive skin-care routines and other luxuries, it doesn’t have to cost a dime. Here are a few free ways you can care for yourself during this trying time.
Journaling or simply writing down your thoughts is a great way to slow down, disconnect from the outside world, and tune into yourself, explains Elsie Storm, M.A., life coach and spiritual psychologist.
According to one study out of Eastern Michigan University, journaling can help reduce stress and negative thoughts.
Storm recommends starting a routine of journaling at a certain time each day, like first thing in the morning or before you go to bed. All you have to do: Write down your thoughts, how you’re feeling, events that transpired during your day, or whatever feels right.
Though many gyms are closed and group fitness activities have temporarily shut down, you can (and should) still reap the endorphin-boosting, mood-enhancing benefits of moving your body.
Whether it entails walking your dog, going for a run, or doing bodyweight squats in your living room, carve out at least 30 minutes a day for physical movement, suggests Jon Knopke, C.P.T., owner of Health House in Los Angeles.
Read More: I Did 100 Squats Every Day For A Month
Since many fitness brands are currently offering free virtual classes or streaming service trials, now is a great time to try a new workout, too. (Check out The Vitamin Shoppe’s Instagram every morning at 8:30 a.m. for LIVE workout sessions.)
If meditation is not already part of your daily regimen, it’s time to give it a go. “Clearing the mind with meditation exercises supports balanced thinking and promotes positive reflections that reinforce self-care,” says Mendez. In just a few minutes, you can reinstate a sense of calm.
Read More: 5 Easy Ways To Add Meditation To Your Day
Not sure where to start? Search YouTube for free tutorials or check out an app like Headspace. You’ll be surprised by how many free meditation guides there are out there—and the peace of mind they can provide.
4. Get Your Phone Out Of Your Bedroom
“When we charge our phones next to our beds, they are often the last things we look at when we go to bed and the first things we look at when we wake up,” says Storm. This can create create stress and anxiety—especially if you’re scrolling through the news.
Plus, “since we often stay up too late scrolling, they can also wreck our sleep quality,” Storm says.
Make your bedroom a place of true rest by charging your phone elsewhere overnight.
5. Practice Gratitude
Focusing on all that you have reduces your stress, puts you in a better mood, and helps you move forward, notes Julie Coraccio, North Carolina-based life coach and author of Clear Your Clutter Inside & Out .
If you’re struggling, start with the basics. Express gratitude for the roof over your head, having a loving family and friends, whatever works.
Either every morning or every night before bed, write down or say aloud something you’re grateful for. “You give it energy and oomph when you write or say it,” she says. (One perk of writing down what you’re grateful for: You can look back at all of the blessings, big and small, in your life in times of need.)
6. Talk With A Friend
Chatting with friends—even if via text messages or video chat—reinforces connection and camaraderie, says Mendez. This can go a long way for your own happiness. Yep, that means chatting about your latest Netflix obsession is, in fact, a way to practice self-care.
“Social isolation does not mean silence or avoidance of communication,” she explains. “Sharing thoughts and experiences with trusted others is a validating and easy way to practice self-care.”
7. Get Outside
Keeping your distance from other people doesn’t mean you can’t get outside and enjoy some fresh air, whether it’s to take a walk or hike at a local park. In fact, outdoor time is perhaps one of the easiest (and most helpful) ways you can practice self-care right now.
“Spending time in the sunshine helps boost your vitamin D, which is essential for calming a stress response,” says Ericka Eller, C.H.C, functional nutritionist and health coach. “Fresh air works wonders in easing an anxious mind.”
Just 20 minutes of contact with nature can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according to one study published in Frontiers.
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