With COVID-19 cases continuing to increase in many areas, people and communities are continuing measures in place to decrease the spread of the virus. You may be continuing to experiencing the closure of schools and businesses in your area, “shelter in place” orders and be practicing social distancing of 6 feet from everyone except the immediate members of your household.
Some of you may start seeing businesses open up this week and in the coming weeks. You may be able to go to more appointments, send your kids to childcare or you may even be planning to head back to work. Although as communities open, they likely won’t return to normal anytime soon. You may still decide to (or be required to) protect yourself and others by wearing a mask and maintaining social distance. You’ll likely still be spending a lot of time at home.
I believe these measures have been necessary in order to keep the health care system from being so overwhelmed that it can’t accommodate those who develop COVID pneumonia or have another health emergency during this time. However, as testing capability continues to increase and treatment options are more available we will be able to identify patients needed treatment before symptoms become severe. I discuss this more in my webinar from April 29.
A global pandemic of this scale is something we haven’t experienced before, and it’s no wonder that people are feeling scared, overwhelmed and anxious. There is worry about job stability, money, health risk, and death. There are high school seniors who won’t get to walk down the aisle at graduation and grandparents who can only see their new grandchildren through a glass window. Some of us are at home with coughs, fevers and fear. It’s a time of incredible heartbreak and grief— believe me, I feel it too.
And it’s okay if you still feel this way, even after many weeks of staying at home and if it continues as communities try to go back to normal. The pandemic isn’t over and there is still a lot of uncertainty about what is to come.
This has been a time when we were forced to slow down, and that slowing often shows a silver lining.
I had a patient tell me that she saw all the new things her toddler could do that she didn’t notice when she was so busy with commuting, working and all of the other stuff filling up our day-to-day lives. And another patient told me that her headaches are less because she hasn’t been driving and involved in other situations that are normally triggers for her.
One of the most beautiful silver linings is that of feeling united and together, even while we’ve been apart. Are you as touched by the outpouring of love for health care workers and the displays of kindness that we are seeing more of each day as I am?
I know that some of you reading this are at home with more time on your hands, while others are still working at grocery stores, hospitals and supporting us all in other important ways. You may even be working more than ever before. Some of us are now juggling homeschooling our children while also continuing to work from home. Some of us are trying to find a job while everything is shut down.
Although we all benefit from added self-care right now, it might look different for each person depending on your situation and how that situation will change in the coming weeks. This article is meant to offer some ideas about little ways you can support yourself in this moment by taking care of your body, mind and soul.
In this article, you will learn self-care strategies around:
- Stress reduction and
- Nourishing nutrition
Be Kind To Yourself
Often when the discussion of self-care comes up, it looks like another impossible list of “to-dos.” I don’t want to put more on your plate or make you feel guilty for what you aren’t able to do right now. The Internet is giving us a lot of messages about using this time to get in shape, learn a new language or write that novel, but it’s also okay to not be as productive right now. This doesn’t need to be a time of self-improvement if you are just trying to survive.
One of the best things to do right now is give yourself a healthy dose of self-compassion.
According to Dr. Kristen Neff, self-compassion expert, there are three things that are helpful in developing and practicing self-compassion:
- Kindness. This means practicing being kind towards yourself, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or having a bad day. You don’t have to be perfect or handle this the same way as someone else.
- Sense of common humanity. Acknowledge that we are all human, have flaws and struggle. You don’t need the extra pressure that you put on yourself, especially now.
- Mindfulness. There are a whole range of mindfulness practices, including meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and anything that brings you to the present in a non-judgmental way.
If you need a self-compassion script, try this: “I know this is hard right now. It’s only natural to feel stressed. May I be kind to myself right now.” What a beautiful and kind way to speak to yourself!
Reduce Stress And Support Mental Health
Increased stress decreases the resiliency of the immune system and managing stress is incredibly important for all of us right now. The first step may simply be the awareness that you are noticing more stress – perhaps your shoulders are tight or you aren’t sleeping as well. Then you can put measures in place to give your body and mind some extra support.
You may already have some tools that work for you as far as diet, movement and supplements. Here are some additional ideas:
- Get outside. For many of us indoor hours and sedentary time has increased because gyms and fitness studios are closed. Try to get outside for 30-60 minutes per day for a walk, bike ride or gardening. We all know the physical benefits of moving our body, but exercise brings mental health benefits as well. What’s more is that time in nature has been shown to reduce stress and strengthen immunity and may play a key role in preventative medicine.
- Reduce or limit media exposure. Information overload, social media and political news certainly contributes to stress and anxiety for many people. On one hand it’s helpful to know what is going on, but it can also be detrimental. You’ll have to decide how much is too much for you, but here are some ways that I suggest navigating media right now.
- Make an appointment with the news. Schedule yourself 30-60 minutes to read or watch your favorite news outlet, scan updates and read articles you are interested in. Then turn it off until tomorrow. This takes some discipline but can be helpful.
Watch my recent webinar to get updated with immune support supplements, prevention and treatment suggestions.
Give yourself a social media bedtime. At 7 pm, for example, stop scrolling social media and turn to other non-screen activities.
- Connect – virtually. Social distancing doesn’t need to mean social isolation. Be sure to connect with friends and family through phone, video calls or messaging. Check in daily with someone who fills your heart or would love to hear from you. In addition, there are many online social happenings, whether you like dance parties, yoga, book discussions or anything else, there is sure to be a group connecting via Zoom. This is the positive power of the Internet!
Nourish Your Body
One of the best ways to care for yourself is through what you eat, and this is true now more than ever. I suggest a Paleo diet and removing sugar, and then personalizing from there depending on your health goals. This type of nourishing nutrition supports the immune system and a healthy stress response.
During this time there may be some challenges around food including not having access to your favorite Paleo ingredients. This means it’s time to get more creative in the kitchen!
If you like to cook from recipes, here are some of my favorite paleo recipes with substitution ideas.
- Instead of the spaghetti squash, substitute another squash or use sweet potato or zucchini noodles.
- If you don’t have curry paste, substitute turmeric, black pepper, ginger, garlic and cayenne pepper to taste.
- Use frozen or even canned wild Alaskan sockeye salmon if you don’t have fresh, or substitute another fish such as wild cod.
- Kale and lettuce can be subbed for another green you have on hand.
- If you don’t have coconut milk, you can make your own by soaking shredded coconut in water, blending and straining.
- Use the same technique to roast any hearty veggies and sauté any quicker cooking veggies.
- Substitute any ground meat you have on hand for the bison.
- Use maple syrup or another natural liquid sweetener if honey is in short supply in your area. (It can be soothing for coughs!)
- If you run out of eggs, mix 1 tablespoon of ground chia or flax seeds with 3 tablespoons of warm water to form a gel that works as an egg replacement.
Create meals without a recipe.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or take a long time to build a healthy balanced meal from what you have on hand. The possibilities are literally endless! Here is an easy template to follow.
- Center the meal around protein. Cook extra so you have leftovers to re-purpose.
- Try to fill half your plate with veggies. Fresh are great, but using frozen works too.
- Cook with nutritious fats including olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil.
- Add flavor – fresh and dried herbs, spices, nuts, nutritional yeast, coconut aminos, hot peppers – the list goes on. It’s likely you have a lot of things in your pantry that you can use.
In addition, continue to support your immune system and practice good hygiene with hand–washing, restful sleep and supplemental support. As life changes during this next phase for us all, these basic practices continue to be important.
I know this time is trying and challenging for us all, and showing up for yourself with kindness and care allows you fill up your tank so that you can tend to everything else that needs tending. Don’t underestimate what a moment of pause or a walk outside can do to allow emotion to flow through you and give you more grounding and perspective. Wrap yourself with a big hug!