For many people, practicing good self-care is key to their well-being. They might go to yoga class, take a walk on their lunch break, or meet up with friends for dinner.
However, in the past few weeks, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has radically changed everyone’s lives. By now, most people understand that it is imperative to stay home and avoid close contact with people other than with family or roommates to slow the spread of the virus. As people face this intense and unprecedented stress, they also find themselves unable to take part in many of the activities that help them manage anxiety.
“Yet, it is possible to engage in self-care without even leaving your home or apartment,” says Estefana Johnson, a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and Trainer with ART International Training and Research. She suggests that one of the simplest ways to calm down is to practice a technique called square breathing. Simply, breathe in for a count of four, hold for another count of four, exhale for a count of four and then pause for a final count of four before beginning again.
“Stress causes triggers to the body’s sympathetic nervous system, increasing the heart rate and blood pressure, speeding breathing and preparing a person for fight or flight,” says Johnson. Focusing on breathing, especially deep breathing, activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Sometimes called the rest and digest system, the parasympathetic nervous system conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, calming a person down and allowing their heart rate to return to normal.
“Another useful technique is to practice bilateral stimulation or stimulating both sides of the brain at once. To do this, give yourself a “butterfly hug. Cross your hands over your chest and tap one side and then the other, repeating for a couple minutes,” says Johnson.
In times of stress, Johnson also recommends pausing and observing all five senses. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel? Taste? Any activity that can immerse a person in their senses can help relieve stress and alleviate anxious feelings. This is a good time to bake a loaf of bread, paint a piece of furniture, or start a garden.
If possible, go for a walk outside. Being in nature is calming and exercise is good for the mind and body. If staying inside is the only option, follow along with an exercise or yoga video or a guided meditation. There are many podcasts offering guided meditations and intention setting techniques.
“Focusing on gratitude can also help bring about a sense of calm and well-being. Rather than thinking of deprivations and uncertainty, think about the hidden blessings of this time of isolation. Consider the meals you get to cook, the walks you get to take, and the books you can read,” says Johnson.
Other ways to practice self-care at home include:
- Calling a friend or loved one
- Experimenting with a new recipe
- Coloring or painting
- Writing a letter or sending a package to a friend
- Meditating or praying
- Making a craft
- Taking a bath
- Getting a good night’s sleep (which boosts the immune system)
- Giving yourself a manicure or facial
- Having a telehealth session with a therapist
- Watching calming movies or TV shows
- Writing in a journal
ART International Training and Research Inc., is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to Accelerated Resolution Therapy® for individuals suffering from trauma and other mental health diagnosis through innovative research and clinician training and education. For additional information about the therapy or to locate a therapist near you, please contact or visit ART International.