This year so far has been challenging, to say the least.
Some are trying to figure out how to make ends meet after experiencing significant financial setbacks.
Others are exhausted from home-schooling and looking after their young families at home day-in and day-out.
Some are battling illness or loss.
And of course, there are those who are working on the front lines of this crisis. (Thank you!)
Feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression threaten many of us.
That’s why, no matter what your situation, I believe self-care and balance are more important than ever during this time.
But what does that look really like?
I had to ask myself this question recently and here are the ways I’m finding balance and making time for myself.
Although these self-care strategies for stress are prompted by the current global conditions, I think they are applicable for any time in life when you’re going through a mentally difficult time.
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1. Prioritize sleep (if you can)
Honestly, whenever I’m feeling stressed or anxious, it really messes with my sleep schedule.
But I have decided that no matter what happens, I have to make sleep a priority. So while an early morning routine is great, I’m not going to get up early at the sacrifice of sufficient sleep.
Which means I will sleep in a bit if I need to. (Side note: I do realize this is infinitely more difficult, if not impossible for young parents. 😐 )
It’s not just about avoiding sleep-deprived crankiness. Getting enough sleep is crucial to immune functions, cognitive performance, and even weight control.
That’s not a free pass to stay up late, and I’m trying to get back to my early morning routine. But if I’m not falling asleep early enough or staying asleep long enough, I’m not going to get up at 5:45 am to exercise.
2. Practice perspective
It’s so easy to get caught up in “panic mode”.
I’m an expert at this.
Being an imaginative person, it’s very easy for me to take a potentially precarious situation and think up all the worst possible outcomes.
To combat this, I’ve had to make a conscious effort to step back and think about things objectively.
This can be as simple as taking ten minutes in the morning to be grateful for the things that are going right. If you have food, shelter, loved ones, and your health, you have things to be grateful for.
And that tends to put things in perspective pretty quickly.
Some simple meditations can also be helpful for gaining perspective and slowing and overactive mind. If you have trouble sitting still for very long, try a bit of yoga. (YogaDownload is my favorite resource for finding calm through movement, stretching, and meditation.)
I also like to seek out “good news” stories and listen to uplifting podcasts to balance out the deluge of scary news making the headlines.
3. Tweak your exercise regime as needed
No matter what’s going on in your life, exercise should be a part of your routine. There are just too many benefits to leave it out!
But what your workout schedule used to look like might not be realistic in the current situation.
For example, I’ve always been a proponent of getting my workouts down first thing in the morning. But now that my sleep schedule has been out of whack, I’ve had to adjust my exercise schedule too.
Now I am exercising after work and doing shorter sessions with Aaptiv, saving my longer sessions for the weekends.
And you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. All exercise is good exercise.
4. Pick up some new (or old) hobbies
It’s amazing what a little fun can do for your mood and overall mental health. It gives you something to focus on without needing to be too concerned with the outcome.
And since it staves off stress and burnout, you can bet it should be a part of your weekly routine.
I used to bake quite a bit but stopped having time for it when things got busy in my career and side-business.
I have started baking on the weekends again and now it’s something I look forward to each week. (There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked cookies, am I right?)
I also started an Instagram for my cat, which I’m having a ton of fun with!
Heck, I might even pick up a pair of knitting needles again and see what kind of laughable garment I can come up with. (My knitting prowess leaves something to be desired!)
5. Slow down
Sometimes, it’s okay to do nothing.
In fact, sometimes you need to do nothing.
This is something I lost sight of for a long time.
For the entirety of 2019 and even the start of 2020, I was always on the go.
I was working about 90% of my waking hours and if I wasn’t working, I felt guilty. I always felt like I needed to be doing something “productive”.
Of course, I started to burn out.
And I had to drop clients and other responsibilities to keep myself sane.
Then this global virus hit and it forced me to slow down even more.
Even though these are some of the strangest times of my life, I feel like somehow I’ve actually recovered a part of myself by being forced to do less.
These days, I will spend an entire Saturday afternoon binging on Startrek Voyager. (Yes, I’m a trekkie! #nerdalert)
Other hours have been whiled away playing Scrabble on my phone.
And for the first time in a long, long time, I feel great about that.
Self-care strategies for stress are about making time for the things that matter
As a career-minded person, I’m a part of several online communities where I have been seeing this message that the global crisis is a time for us to hunker down on our goals, be as productive as possible, and achieve All The Things.
And while I think having drive is important, living your life and doing things that bring you joy and peace is even more essential.
This crisis has reminded me that not every moment in life needs to be spent working, monetizing, and achieving.
More importantly, life should be spent living, loving, and supporting each other.
What are your self-care strategies for stress? Let’s hear them in the comments!