How to be mindful and take care of yourself during the coronavirus outbreak
It is only when you filling your own strength tank you make yourself stronger to take care of others when they need it.
WHO has characterised Coronavirus as a pandemic. Irrespective of the precautions suggested by experts and undertaken by the government agencies namely, social distancing, lockdowns, quarantine facilities, increased availability of labs for testing and hospitals for treatment, the virus is continuing to spread in different parts of the world. The number of cases of people who are infected is increasing by leaps and bounds and the death toll is on the rise as well. This has created strong emotions of fear and in some cases panic among people, as well, as it is an unknown threat that no one has faced before.
In the midst of this situation, fighting the disease at the frontlines, are healthcare workers, doctors, nurses and even voluntary staff. While not everyone is trained to do what they are doing, the normal people are also taking care of their family members and loved ones. And that can take a toll on oneself. Working mothers looking after their children and working from home, or other people taking care of their older parents who are more susceptible to falling ill, even if you are single and living on your own, it is important to take some time out for yourself and practise a bit of self-care.
Now we always speak of self-care but what does it actually mean? It is any activity that we engage in to look after our physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing. It is not a luxury but a basic necessity on any given day and more so in times of the current crisis. Self-care becomes more important especially when one is the home minister of their house- whether male or female, looking after other adults as well as children, and having increased responsibilities due to the lockdown. Practising self-care does not mean you are choosing yourself over your loved ones but being mindful of your own needs as well. After all, when you take care of yourself, you are able to better support and look after your loved ones too.
Taking care of yourself should be a habit that is part of your daily routine and not necessarily a once in a blue moon activity that needs excessive planning.
Following are some ways in which one can take care of yourself:
1. Focus on your 5 sense around you: sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and touch. This will help you to be in the present moment. Breathe in the fresh air, snuggle under a cosy blanket, listen to music, take a hot shower, cuddle with a pet, squeeze a ball, burn a scented candle, admire the nature by staring up at the blue sky and birds flying chirping, lie down and see the sun streaming in through a window, or simply eat a candy.
2. Social networking in times of social distancing: used social media as a platform to connect with relatives and friends on a regular basis.
3. Reconnect with hobbies: create a “ME TIME” and get in touch with the long left hobbies and interest to recharge self- like drawing, painting, sewing, cooking, dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, reading, showing creativity through writing poems/stories, watching the movies/series from the bucket list, playing board games with family, cleaning/organizing wardrobe, or simply planning for the next trip giving self-hope that this too shall pass.
4. Creating a routine for physical exercise/activities: be mindful about the way you are treating your body. Do meditation or some form of exercise at home to relax self- it can be Yoga, Dance, Zumba, skipping or as simple as taking deep breaths, stretch the body, tightening the muscles of the body and relaxing it.
5. Mindful of sleep and eating patterns: starving or overeating at time of crisis is not uncommon. Hence be mindful of eating healthy food and on time is important. The same way sleeping on time to ensure good health as well as to sustain the energy is important.
6. Careful of the thoughts, feeling and behaviour: thinking negative during this time is common especially when one keeps hearing the news about the widespread of the virus. Also, with so much worry and uncertainty floating around it can be easy to absorb other people’s fears unknowingly. Hence instead of thinking what if I get infected? What if I don’t recover from it? I won’t be able to deal with it, think positive. Remember- excessive worry does not reduce the chances of getting infection but following the safety measures suggested does. Also, remind self of the reality that anyone can be infected but with currently given outcome and treatment coming out of this is also possible. Also, set boundaries over the news and information obtained. Trust on reliable sources eg: WHO website. If you have a friend or family member who is sending worst-case-scenario news or is sharing the no of infected cases frequently, practice distancing from them. Let them know you understand but that you are taking a break from worrying news and you will reconnect with them later.
7. Worry time: As known excessive worry can be unhealthy taking a toll on mental, emotional, physical and social wellbeing, assign one hour a day as worry time where you can think and worry about your worries. Set an alarm so this hour is not exceeded. At the end of this hour, remind self that its just worry and not a reality and you can deal with it and coming out of this even if infected is possible.
8. Seek professional help: when you are already having a mental illness or taking care of person with anxiety depression etc, getting affected is normal making you a human being. Hence keep a regular check on symptoms of same through maintaining a chart, be regularly in touch with the mental health professional availing treatment from. And even when one don’t have any mental illness, becoming overwhelmed at this time of crisis is a human reaction and hence taking care of self through seeking professional help is vital.
Remember to be compassionate to yourself and to stay calm during this time. It is also important to ensure that you have the skills and energy to take care of your loved ones. When you are stressed and panicky, caring for others can be taxing which can lead to a breaking point. But when you look after your own needs, you are filling the strength tank for yourself, making yourself-stronger to offer comfort and care to others when they need it most.
The author is a psychologist and outreach associate at Mpower – The Foundation, Mumbai.
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