How to take care of yourself during a pandemic

We’re all in this. Navigating the new, wild terrain we call home. If we’re lucky enough, we don masks and alcoholic spray foams or gels just to go out and get groceries. We have dinner with loved ones through screens.

We are already doing a lot to take care of ourselves and others. That deserves acknowledgement and maybe we aren’t giving ourselves enough credit. We’re sacrificing our human nature.

A good portion of our realities are becoming lived via smartphone or laptop. Online exercise classes, birthday parties on Zoom. Most forms of human connection have become a vicariously lived, pixelated concept of what you would rather be actually experiencing.

most forms of human connection have become a vicariously lived, pixelated concept of what you would rather be actually experiencing.

Beginning to forget whether it’s Monday or Thursday. We cringe when we hear someone cough. We cringe when we cough. The slightest hint of a cold, a fever, a chill, a sneeze causes varying amounts of panic. We are trying to pry ourselves away from the news. The catastrophe of human lives, becoming a number, a statistic. A sad, sick worldly roundup where you definitely do NOT want your country to be the winner.

We live in an entirely new reality from what was true just one month ago. We’re all going to be germaphobes for a very long time (if not, forever.) We can’t visit our friends, hug our dear family or attend any of the events we were so excited about in the foreseeable future.

During these uncharted times. We are all wondering a lot. How long with this last? What will the world look like when this is over? Will this ever be over? Some of us are risking our health everyday to provide others with necessities, while some of us sit at home feeling guilty and maybe a bit useless.

I’m here to tell you that you have a purpose and it is to thrive. Even through this, even while you’re sitting at home in your pajamas.

I’m sure there are a few things that were put on the back-burner this month, next month. Maybe it was a trip, a job, a course, a new self-loving commitment, it doesn’t matter. It’s okay that it was put on the back-burner. It’s not everyday we swerve into a global pandemic.

You are still worthy of working towards something good (maybe something even better) for yourself and for others right now. This is The Great Pause. And yes, I know we’ve all seen a post or two that goes something like this:

This is NOT what I’m talking about. This is some sort of self-aggrandizing bullshit.

The world doesn’t stop specifically for you. It never will. And you may never get your shit fully together (which is totally normal by the way.) But, you can look at this global tragedy as an opportunity to simply

take care of yourself.

No – you don’t need to come out of this ripped and 20 pounds lighter, a huge entrepreneurial success or with a PhD in sourdough baking. (I’m also saying this to myself.)

Yes – you can look at the pandemic as an opportunity to reflect and spend some time doing what makes you truly happy. This isn’t going to last forever and some day we’ll look back at this time and think, “Wow, what a trip that was.” (I hope.)

So you don’t need to be ashamed of spending your downtime doing what you love. Whether that’s playing a video game, reading a Harlequin or watching Tiger King. If it brings you joy, allow yourself to enjoy it. You now have the time.

I think taking care of yourself is finding the line between these two extremes:

Coronavirus memes

Yeah, you still need to show up for yourself.

But you don’t need to go ape shit trying to prove something of all of this either. Maybe there’s nothing to prove, this is a freak accident and it will pass.

In the meantime, I’m going to provide you with a simple set of instructions to follow that will help you get through your day in a nurturing way.

the four pillars of constructive self-care:

  1. Write down a few things that you’d like to accomplish in the morning.

    This doesn’t have to be a play-by-play of your entire day and it doesn’t have to be a huge list. Just jot down between 3 and 5 things you’d like to do today. For example: read a chapter of a book, journal for 15 minutes, try to cook a chimichanga.

    You don’t have to accomplish everything on the list. Even accomplishing one thing is great. Your goals can transfer over to the next day. And if you find yourself transferring over the same goal day after day yet not accomplishing it. Let it go for a bit. Clearly you don’t need it right now.

    Be sure to choose at least one thing though that simply feels good. Like taking a bath, painting your nails or rolling around on an acupressure ball.

    Another way to go about this is writing down things you’ve already accomplished one by one. This way, you take away the pressure and can revel in your accomplishments at the end of the day.
  2. Exercise, hydrate, sleep.

    These all go hand in hand. Get in at least a half hour of healthy movement a day. Take the dog for a walk. (Bonus: there are a lot of very happy dogs in the world right now.) You don’t need to build an insane daily regime. Just commit to a bit of exercise daily. I like yoga, obviously. I also like watching motivational interviews while I ride my stationary bike.

    Hydrate. Pick out your favourite drinking vessel (mine is a steel tumbler covered in sloths), and actually keep track of how much you’re drinking. There are a million apps for this. Invest in a nice water filter, they make a huge difference.

    Pick a bedtime and stick to it. Even if it’s just physically getting into bed, dimming the lights and reading a book. Put your phone away. If you’re tossing and turning, get up, do something relaxing and then go back to bed. Even if everything else is out of whack, try to keep a consistent sleeping schedule. I promise it will make you feel better.
  3. Eat vegetables and protein.

    We all have a pretty good idea of what constitutes healthy eating. You might be moving around a bit less these days or burning up fewer carbohydrates. Loading up on more fruits and vegetables is definitely not going to hurt you. The main takeaway is: make veggies the star of your meal. There is no shortage of vegetables in supermarkets. A little less starch, a little more colour.

    Be creative with your protein choices but try to get some into every meal and snack to keep you feeling satiated and away from mindless binging. Delicious and healthy examples include: free-range eggs, non-gmo tempeh or tofu, organic chicken, shrimp, fish, beans, legumes, nuts, yogurt, cheese and protein powders.
  4. Connect.

    Firstly with yourself and secondly with others. There are many ways to do this. I recommend finding one way to connect with yourself and one way to connect with someone else a day.

    Connecting with yourself can mean, going for a quiet, self-reflective walk. Meditation, either guided or on your own. (I recommend Insight Timer), journalling, creative writing, or expressing yourself via art, dance, music. It can even mean just allowing yourself to have a good cry.

    Connecting with someone else is just a phone call, a FaceTime, a group chat, or a text away. Check in with your friends, make sure your mom and dad are doing alright. You already know how to do this and are probably doing an awesome job at it without me needing to tell you.

This list is meant to be a starting point for you to figure out what your own self-care regime might look like. Everyone’s lives are going to look a little different right now and many things are uncertain. But we can still take care of ourselves and by doing so take care of the people we surround ourselves with by following these easy steps.

I hope you can read this and feel inspired to love yourself even just a tiny bit more. You are not useless and you don’t need to feel guilty for however you’ve been handling things. We will all collectively grow from this, we have no other choice.

If you’re feeling low. I ask that you try to accomplish even just one small thing on this list. Then, take comfort in the fact that you are aiming to be well and where your attention goes, energy flows.

And that’s it. It seems simple because it is. This isn’t a time where we need to completely reinvent ourselves or emerge from our quarantines as completely transformed butterflies. Many of us though, might just do that anyways.

And if you don’t feel like you’re becoming a butterfly, that’s ok too because we aren’t actually caterpillars we’re human beings going through a very real global tragedy.

But rather than focusing on that. Let’s focus on grabbing that glass of water. That at least, we do have control over.