Self-Care in a Global Pandemic : Guest Post

This article has been contributed by Vidushi Singhania, Founder and Editor of Sprig & Vine. Vidushi is a wellness writer and food consultant who inspires all by sharing easy recipes, best wellness practices, and holistic health inspiration on her website. She is often cooking up a storm in the kitchen, creating recipes with fresh and vibrant ingredients. She also loves skincare products, and looks forward to travelling the most. Find her at www.sprigandvine.in or connect with her on Instagram.

As the world continues to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic and we find ourselves without a lot of the familiar processes that we built our lives around, chronic stress and anxiety are skyrocketing. Speak to anyone around you, and chances are that they’re anxious, worried, scared, lonely, or struggling with their mental health in some way or the other. This is uncharted territory and we don’t know the long-term mental health implications of this pandemic – the only thing that’s for certain these days is uncertainty. While we all have plans and goals in place when it comes to improving our physical health, we often fail to seek out ways to elevate and improve our emotional + mental health. And right now, our mental health needs all the support it can get.

Even if it may seem like most things are outside our control, there are lots of small ways in which we can support our mental well-being at home and within our daily schedules. Small acts of self-care can prove to be grounding, and can significantly improve and elevate your mood. If you’ve spent enough time scrolling through Instagram, you might have seen that self-care is often touted as elaborate 6-step skincare routines or twice daily meditation sessions, but there’s more to it. Acts of self-care should be little touch points that allow you to check in with yourself throughout the day or week, and only work if they’re not anxiety-inducing items that simply lie unchecked on your to-do list. There’s no one size fits all approach when it comes to self-care: it looks a little bit different for everyone, and can be as little or as much as you want it to be.

If you’ve been feeling like an anxiety-ridden frazzled mess lately, here are some small acts of self-care that you could incorporate in your routine. It might give your mood a tiny boost, and perhaps leave you feeling slightly more relaxed, positive, and recharged throughout the day.

☀️ Wake up and let sunlight into your room. Waking up to natural sunlight signals to your body’s circadian rhythm that it’s time to wake up, allowing your body to naturally adjust to the day, grounding you, and leaving you more energetic. 

👩‍💻 Plan your day, make a to-do list, get organised — often our anxiety stems from feeling under-prepared or worrying about missing something important. If this is the case for you, having your schedule planned ahead of time will help you feel ready to take on the day.

💙 Take a quality break when the afternoon energy slump hits (and it will). If you’re working from home, take a lunch break away from the workstation. Rather than mindlessly scrolling through the same two apps on your phone, take a short walk to stretch your legs, do some breathing exercises, talk to a friend. Get some fresh air if you can. You’ll end up getting back to work feeling refreshed and with better perspective.

🥘 Eat real food. A healthy, balanced diet is key to improved mental health, and eating nutritious foods that are good for your body is essential. If you can, try cooking your own meals every once in a while. It’s a wonderful grounding exercise, and can be a great way to unwind and de-stress. While on the topic of food, it’s worth mentioning that sugar + alcohol is inflammatory and can make anxiety symptoms worse. I’m not asking you to cut them out completely, but it’s good to know your trigger foods. 

💌 Take 5 minutes in the day to practice gratitude journaling. Take a notebook, and write out 3 things you’re grateful for. This activity helps you center and refocus, while calming down the mind and filling you up with positive energy – putting things in perspective when you feel down and defeated. It’s also 5 minutes of solitude spent away from your screens… win-win!

🤸‍♀️ Sweat it out. While you may be choosing your workout to improve your physical health, the good news is that it’s also great for your mental health! You don’t have to always push yourself with high intensity workouts – even some restorative yoga, a leisurely walk, or a fun dance lesson can get those endorphins up and elevate your mood.

🖌 Make time for a hobby or an activity that brings you joy. Read that book lying on your nightstand for the longest time, break out the watercolour paints, or make a jigsaw puzzle. A hobby does not need to be a “productive” activity, as long as you enjoy doing it – they’re a great way to unplug from the “always on” hustle culture that we are a part of.

✨ Marie Kondo your bedroom. Would you rather go to bed amidst piles of junk, or on a clean bed with freshly laundered sheets? Clutter can contribute to feelings of anxiety, and de-cluttering and organizing your can foster improved mental wellness, productivity, and mood – not to mention bring on better zzz’s.

🎵 Listen to music — it’s an instant mood booster. Sing along if you like, be goofy, and have a dance party!

🗣 Reconnect with loved ones and friends, find a support group, or participate in a (virtual) community activity like a class or workshop. Staying connected while isolating is essential – we’re all going through this together, and connecting with someone with is a great way to reduce anxiety or feelings of loneliness.

🛑  Say no. Conversely, sometimes saying no to yet another Zoom call or Houseparty session is the need of the hour. With everyone being at home all the time right now, there is increased pressure on the need to always be available to talk and chat. You don’t have to reply instantly – to emails, messages, or even calls. We need to social distance from our virtual social lives and embrace ‘me-time’ too.

🌷 If things start feeling overwhelming, try a simple grounding exercise. Inhale deeply, hold the breath for a few counts, and exhale through your mouth. Repeat a few times until you feel a bit calmer. Even going outdoors for a few minutes (with all safety precautions of course) and breathing in some fresh air can really reset your mood.

🤡 Unplug from too much news and information. Yes, you need to be informed about everything that’s going on in the world, but do you really need to have second by second updates? Repeated negative news cycles can really wreak havoc on your mental health, so limit your news consumption to once or twice a day.

🎈 Make a “joy toolkit” – a box of 3-5 items that trigger happiness and comfort you in times of need. The items in your kit should have personal meaning, and engage the senses. For example: something textural to hold, a photo or memory book from your favourite travels, an essential oil/perfume/lotion that evokes a sense of calm etc. On days when you feel an emotional slump, you have your toolkit to turn to.

😴 Unwind with a relaxing nighttime routine to set yourself up for deep sleep. Reduce phone usage post dinner, take a shower or run a bath, dim the lights, and support your circadian rhythm to prepare for sleep. Good quality sleep is essential for managing cortisol (the stress hormone), and in turn can improve mental health quality.

🥰 Take it easy. Avoid setting lofty goals and putting pressure on yourself to “be productive.” This is a global pandemic we’re going through, not a competition to prove who can come out on the other side with another degree or having mastered a new skill!

What are some acts of self-care that are helping you support your mental health right now?

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