By Eilea Knotts
Self-quarantining…what have we all been doing to help slow the global spread of COVID-19? We are practicing social distancing and have been maintaining an outward appearance of a positive attitude for what seems like forever, even though most state lockdowns began only in March. But nonetheless, we carry on, smiling, hoping no one will see how stressed we all might be.
Even without a pandemic, the daily grind of our lives can leave us living in a sea of anxiety. But especially now, with a looming presence of an almost invisible enemy, sometimes we feel our motivation dwindle despite the fact that more time has been allotted to us to work on writing manuscripts, catch up on reading the latest publications, or prepare for virtual webinars or presentations. Maybe you have a family that needs your attention now more than ever with no in-school sessions or after-school activities. Maybe you are easily distracted in your house and need your office for work-life balance.
This blog is here to support you and let you know - you are not alone!!
Maybe you are aware of the common sites and infographics that tell you that it’s okay to be stress. Have you gone to the CDC’s site for managing anxiety while coping with COVID?
Maybe you’ve worked on the strategies to combat your anxiety and are still finding it difficult to cope. Limit exposure to social media and news? Check. Distract yourself? Double-check. Focus on what you can control. Question mark?
Have you said, “I tried all of that”? How about a different approach? You may already have a form of stress management in place. So, let’s talk about self-care as a practice of stress management. Below are just some examples of how you can re-focus your brain on what is more important to you and your well-being.
Determine your emotional balance
Feeling positive emotions makes us happy and can even give us an over-arching sense of calm. If there is a step to help with self-care, it is experiencing enough positive emotions during the day. They build our wellbeing and our ability to cope in tough times. Examples of positive emotions: Amusement, Contentment, Inspiration, Awe, Calm, Trust, Fulfillment, Love, Serenity, Hope, Pride, Gratitude, Joy, Happiness.
First, create a checklist of the positive and negative emotions you felt this week. Did you have more negative emotions than positive? If you did, think about how you can increase your awareness of positive emotions.
Proper breathing is essential to reducing stress. When we are stressed, we tend to take shallow breaths or hold our breaths. This can reduce oxygen in our lungs and bloodstream increasing our stress and anxiety. This increased stress then tightens our muscles causing a feedback loop of feeling tense.
Start with deep, slow breathing. When we breathe with our diaphragm, we fully supply our body with oxygen, trigger a relaxation response to decrease tension, concentrate better, and gain a better grasp on our emotions.
Meditation: Use this time to visualize your successes or do a body scan. A body scan can help you understand how your body carries stress, release tension, and build concentration. And if you’re reading this right now, this is a reminder to unclench your jaw.
Practicing optimism and self-reflection
You can build optimism and resilience with behaviors. By focusing on your thoughts on positivity, you can begin to retrain yourself to think more confidently and optimistically.
When you experience a setback, ask yourself the following three questions:
- Is this really a permanent set-back? Won’t its importance fade with time?
- Does this really impact everything that is important to me?
- How can I apply my skills and focus my motivation on moving forward?
Finally, connect with someone you trust. With them, share your setbacks and ask them to share their perspective on the above three questions. Perhaps ask them if they can help you be accountable for your thoughts and actions towards yourself. Be each other’s accountabilibuddies!
Take a break
Especially being cooped up inside during our self-isolation, it is important to remember to get up and get out. Step away from the computer screen, breathe some fresh air, and (if possible) feel the sun on your skin. Give yourself a break. Press the pause button.
Actions to help with self-management and care
I hope these suggestions have given you ideas on how to take care of yourself during these crazy times. Please know that you are not alone. You are an amazing individual doing everything you can to be the best version of you that you can be at this time. We appreciate you for being you.
Smile and think happy thoughts!