Have you become a regular couch potato lately, binging on Netflix shows and digging into the chips and dips? We get it. You’re stuck inside. You've got little to do and maybe even going a little stir crazy. But that’s not healthy. When we’re not active, we get run down. That in turn, can weaken our immune system and make us more vulnerable to illness – just what we don’t want to do in a pandemic.
Self-care has never been more important than now. Our health care and government leaders are telling us we could be hunkered down for months. So we need to think seriously about how we will get through this in ways that will protect our physical and mental well-being.
Here are some tips and tools for your COVID-19 Self-Care Toolkit.
The pandemic has brought the daily rhythms of our lives to an abrupt halt – and this is especially true for the working population. Daily commutes are now walks to our kitchen tables where we Skype and text message our co-workers, while we referee bored kids. To keep the lids on potential pressure-cooker situations, we have to accept that working from home isn’t the same as working at the office – far from it – especially when our lives are under lockdown. In short, we have to be like a certain animated Disney princess and let it go.
If you’re working from home – as many of us are – create a dedicated space to work that that is is comfy and cozy and has a door for privacy. Ideally, your work space is somewhere you can easily walk away – or at least pack it up at the end of the work day. If possible, use an ergonomically correct chair to protect your back and a decent light to prevent eye strain. Place a vase of flowers in the room or hang up a favourite painting to brighten your mood.
Even in quarantine, it’s important to stick to a daily schedule that helps you stay focused and on track to finish work assignments. Here’s where maintaining daily agendas and setting reminder notifications come in. Every morning, make a list of things you want to get done and if you can, log on and log off around the same time each day. However, don’t stress if your plan goes sideways. It’s bound to happen.
Set short- and long-term goals to achieve while in isolation, be it completing that strategic plan that you’ve been working on or tackling a DIY project. Why not check off that “honey-do list” that you’ve been putting off? Ugh. Yeah, we know. But there's nothing to stop you now from cleaning out the garage or fixing the drain pipe in the days and weeks ahead. Plus, ticking off that checklist will give you a sense of accomplishment and a welcome distraction from the constant barrage of bad news.
Sure, it’s fun to joke about wearing our daytime and nighttime PJs during self-isolation, but dressing up for work each day – even if you never leave the house – is essential to our mental wellbeing. So get in your adult clothes when you get up for work. Besides you don’t want your co-workers to see you in your ugly bathrobe, do you?
It’s easy to give into temptation when the pantry or fridge is just a few steps away from your desk. However, eating well is fundamental to good health and well-being. When you do a grocery run, make smart food choices for you and your family. Stock up on nutritious fruits and vegetables to turn into delicious smoothies, salads, soups and stews. Make extra to store in the freezer and have on hand when your food supply runs low.
Make sure to take occasional breaks during work hours – and not just to wash the dishes or fold the laundry. Allow yourself to look after your health and wellness. Practice chair yoga and meditation to reduce stress and improve mental clarity. Take a short nap if needed. Remember that as a caregiver, your care should come first in order to build your reserves of energy and resilience.
We all get a little “shack wacky” at this time of year (especially in some parts of Canada, where spring-like weather has yet to arrive). A stroll, a jog or bike ride through the neighbourhood (respecting the social distance of two metres or the length of a hockey stick apart from others) are all great cabin fever relievers, plus sure-fire ways to keep the body in shape and the mind sharp.
Not able to get outdoors? Whether it’s Wii bowling, baking cookies or decorating your windows with colourful pictures and cheery messages to your neighbours, there are lots of family fun ways to cure the isolation blues – without having to leave the house. Google creative ideas for indoor activities.
There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to rest and rejuvenate. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. Follow best practices in getting a decent amount of shut-eye like sticking to a regular bedtime and avoiding screen time one to two hours before hitting the hay.
How often have we longed to have quality time to spend with our families? Now we have it – lots of it. Think of this isolation period as the “gift of time” to enjoy with the ones you love. Sit down together for a meal and conversation at least once daily. Then, after the dishes are cleared from the table, set up a board game or deal out the cards for a game of Crazy 8s or cribbage.
It’s also important to have a system to achieve a work-life balance – even when you and your entire family are under one roof. One of our Medavie employees sends a group text to her husband and kids to let them know when not to disturb her and when they can let loose. She even has a sign on her office door that indicates whether they can stop or go into the room.
Being cooped up in the house for long stretches of time can lead to temper tantrums (that includes all of us, not just the kids). To avoid those meltdowns, get outside and shoot hoops with the kids in the driveway. Skip, play catch, marbles or hopscotch as the weather gets warmer.
This is an anxious time for everyone so imagine what it’s like for children. If you have young ones at home, have frank discussions about their feelings. Let them know that their emotions are normal reactions to this difficult and uncertain time.
No doubt you’re checking your social media feeds more than usual. But it’s important to unplug and unwind – at least once daily – to declutter your brain and recharge your batteries.
We all want to keep up to date on the news surrounding the pandemic. However, too much information can be a bad thing for your mental health. Step away from the television and computer screens and the 24/7 news cycle. Avoid overloading your system with information that can cause anxiety or depression.
What activities bring you happiness? Is it curling up with a good book and cup of tea? Playing or listening to music? Cuddling with your kids and or your pets? Now is a good time to do the things that spark joy like returning to a favourite pastime or taking up a new hobby.
Take advantage of the extra time you aren’t commuting to invest in your professional development. Listen to a podcast or enter a virtual classroom to gain knowledge or build new skills. There's lots of learning opportunities popping up online to keep our brain cells stimulated. In addition, there's a wide variety of virtual classes to keep our bodies moving, from Zumba to yoga, along with uplifting events like online sing-alongs to raise our spirits.
Did you know that you can get healthcare from home? Connected Care, our digital health platform, offers several options to meet your healthcare needs – anytime, anywhere you are. Using your computer, tablet or mobile device, you can connect with a Canadian doctor for consultation and treatment or with an accredited therapist for counselling and education services. Our employee and family assistance program, inConfidence, also offers services to help you deal with a range of work-life issues, with support available by in person, by phone or online 24/7/365.
COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down. We’ve been thrust into a situation that is beyond our control and fraught with all kinds of challenges to our health and wellness – from the pressures of meeting our household needs to worries over money and job security. If you’re feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, make sure reach out and connect with others for advice and support. We’re all in this together and we will get through this together.