How to Practice Self-Care during a Pandemic

Taking time for you looks a little different right now. Finding alone time in your own household is challenging as children and college students learn remotely and you work virtually. Gym time is restricted or even closed. Same for massages and facials. Even catching up with friends at the local coffee shop or wine bar is not an option.

“Stress and anxiety over the unknown have remained at high levels,” said Amber Olson, LCSW, with Memorial Behavioral Health (MBH). “Finding outlets for self-care is an important way to combat feeling overwhelmed or depressed by this ever-changing situation related to the global pandemic.”

But how do you incorporate self-care in a routine that is mostly locked down? Consider these ideas.

  • Step away from perfect. This global pandemic is the first one (for most of us!). Beyond mask use, social distance and handwashing, there is no handbook or “How-To” bestseller to reference. Give yourself grace to make mistakes and room for do-overs.
  • Schedule your downtime. Yes, put it on Outlook or the family calendar. Bundle up and head outside for a walk around the block or your yard. Hide in your bedroom and binge Netflix or read a magazine. Take a leisurely shower or bath. Go for a drive.
  • Make healthy choices. Avoid using alcohol or drugs to self-soothe. Choose a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Make sure you sleep a reasonable amount of time—generally seven to eight hours a night. Add some activity or exercise to your day.
  • Reconnect with old hobbies or discover new ones. Maybe it’s knitting, water painting or working jigsaw puzzles. Consider tackling a recipe or a fun DIY project that interests you. Not sure how to proceed? There is a tutorial for just about everything on YouTube.
  • Avoid toxic relationships. If you have a negative Nelly or Ned in your life, consider taking a step back for now. Or at the very least—set boundaries. That daily phone call can go to once or twice a week. Stay in touch the old-fashioned way, via handwritten letter, which limits interaction.

“People who are caught up in life tasks—from caring for small kids to aging parents to bored teenagers—those people need to be kind to themselves during this pandemic,” Olson said. “Everything takes more mental and physical energy right now. Don’t burn yourself out. We have a way to go yet before this pandemic is behind us.”

Need to talk? 

As behavioral health services across the state close temporarily in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Memorial Behavioral Health provides telehealth and phone appointments with their patients. In addition, MBH has established a free and confidential emotional support hotline, available at 217-588-5509 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., to provide support to individuals who are experiencing anxiety or stress, even if they are not MBH patients.