Self-Care During a Pandemic

  • Self-Care Tips - from The Child Mind Institute 

    When you are a parent or caregiver, self-care often slips to the bottom of the list.  But taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury.  It’s essential.  And during this difficult time, when children are home and stress is running high, it’s more important than ever.  Here are five tips from the Child Mind Institute that can be helpful.

    Make time for yourself right now:  Much of the personal time that was part of daily routines – commutes, time alone at home or the store, social times with friends – is not available for folks with kids at home.  Without it, we have to be intentional about creating space to recharge and decompress.  This approach could look like taking aa shower or a bath, walking around the block alone (or with your dog), or designating time to read or rest after the kids have gone to bed.

    Prioritize health choices:  The added stress and lack of structure we’re all experiencing right now can make it easy to slip into habits that feel good at the moment but can be detrimental in the long term.  “Make sure you’re eating properly, try to get enough sleep (but not too much!), and create a routine that includes physical activity,” recommends Jill Emanuele, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.  This approach doesn’t mean pressuring yourself to get into tip-top shape, or not eating ice cream or viewing your favorite shows.  It does mean being thoughtful and intentional about how you’re treating yourself and your body.

    Be realistic:  “Perfectionism and the coronavirus don’t mix,” says David Anderson, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.  “It’s time to be exceedingly realistic, both at work and as a parent.”  Avoid burnout by setting realistic expectations and giving yourself grace if you can’t meet them.  Practice forgiveness and self-compassion,” says Dr. Anderson.  Parents should remind themselves that these are unprecedented times.  “There is no playbook for this.  Remember, you’re doing your best during a very difficult time.  Cut yourself some slack.”

    Set boundaries:  Anxiety is rampant right now.  With so much worry and uncertainty floating around, it can be easy to absorb other people’s fears and concerns without realizing it.  If you have a friend or family member who’s in the habit of sending worst-case scenario news or is prone to sending anxiety-provoked text messages, practice a little emotional distancing.  Let them know you sympathize but that you’re taking a break from worrying news or hit the Do Not Disturb button.  You can always reconnect when things are calmer.

    Reconnect with things you enjoy:  Think proactively of things you can do with this enforced time at home.  Get back in touch with hobbies or activities you enjoy but rarely have time for, or make a choice to learn a new skill.  Maybe there’s a knitting project you’ve always wanted to try, but you’ve been too busy.  Or you’ve meant to learn how to needlepoint.  Maybe you love jigsaw puzzles, but with rushing between work and home and caring for kids, it’s been years since you had the time to do one.  If young children make solo activities unrealistic, seek out activities you can enjoy together, like baking bread or making art.  Finally, remember, being kind to yourself will not only help you stay calm during this challenging time, but it will also help ensure that you have the bandwidth you need to take good care of your family.  When you’re running on fumes, caring for others can tax your already depleted resources to the breaking point.  But when you prioritize your needs, you’re filling the tank, emotionally and physically, and that means you’ll be in a position to offer comfort and care to others when they need it most.