It seems the whole world changed in a matter of just weeks. Each of us has been impacted in different ways, but we all share one thing in common – life has changed. In the first weeks of the shutdown, businesses had to freeze in place or pivot fast. Individuals had to relocate to working from home or just be home without working. Children of all ages had their school schedules abruptly ended and are in various stages of remote learning or having a very long spring break. And as we discussed in last week’s show, we’ve all entered a state of waiting, which is where most of us are still stuck at least for a little longer.
While some are reacting to waiting by protesting or filing lawsuits or finding someone to blame, I hope that most people are spending at least some time thinking about what they want to do differently when the stay-at-home orders are lifted. Perhaps even how they’d like the world to be different as it emerges from this crisis.
Like a pearl from an oyster or a butterfly out of the cocoon, agitation can result in beauty. For those of us who are well or have healed from the virus, we’ve all experienced various degrees of agitation over the past few weeks. What do we want to see emerge?
I truly believe this is an opportunity to make changes in our lives for the better. Many of us were blindly following the status quo with little regard for our own well-being or the well-being of others or the planet. This pandemic has been an enormous wake-up call for those willing to listen. However, before we decide to change our lives, our outlooks and our future actions, careers or relationships, I think it’s important that we spend some time in what’s left of our secluded retreats to take a self-care inventory.
When we think of self-care, we tend to think of exercise, eating right, and getting a good amount of sleep. And these are all excellent practices for staying well. But rarely are the first thoughts of self-care directed at our emotional well-being. We must not ignore our mental health, as it can have a negative impact not only on our emotional, but physical well-being.
Start by taking inventory of your self-care practices, including your mental health. For most of us, it has been sorely tested over the past few weeks. Fear, panic, anxiety, frustration, anger and more, which may have led to feelings of sadness, stress, exhaustion and even depression. These are all natural responses to what we’ve been going through, but remaining in any of these states for a prolonged period of time can have serious health implications.
Again, assuming you are well or healing, consider whether you’re still stressed out. If you’re still in seclusion, what’s causing this stress? If you’re at home and careful if you go out for necessities, you’re pretty safe from getting sick, so it’s probably not that causing your stress. Pay attention to your thoughts. Are you creating your own stress by obsessively overthinking, from dwelling on the past, to replaying negative events to worrying about the future? Putting yourself into a state of “stress” has a negative impact on the entire body.
If you’re struggling with your thoughts, don’t judge yourself. This is just what our brains do, but the good news about stress is that we can control it to a large degree through methods of self- care that will help reduce the negative chatter and help us refocus on actions we can take to support our well-being. Reducing stress has been shown to increase immune response by keeping the body in a state of ease. A body under stress is a body in the state of unease, or simply put, dis-ease.
Practicing meditation, mindfulness and other forms of contemplative practices can help us calm down the projections of the mind and allow us to see where we can minimize stress. Being present allows us to recognize that in this moment, we are not in a stressful situation at all. Most of it is made up stories in our minds about a what-if that hasn’t even happened.
Mindfulness practices also help us accept what is. If you’re out of work now or are concerned you will not have a job to return to, that’s definitely a scary scenario. But the fact is, millions of people are now out of work and may be for some time. If you run a business that has been closed or is considered high-risk, you’re also facing a very uncertain future. So again, just plain scary. But stressing about it won’t help and in fact, can make the situation much worse.
When we are in a state of stress, our ability to think clearly or creatively is greatly diminished beyond fighting or running, neither of which we can actually do. If ever in the modern history of the world do we need to be able to think clearly and creatively, it’s now. So, the most important step you can take right now for your self-care is to mind your mind. Let’s add mindfulness to the self-care list of exercising, eating healthy and getting enough sleep.
Beyond these activities, self-care is actually very personal and individualized. Find activities that bring you pleasure and peace. For now it may be something as simple as baking a cake, playing video games, reading a good book, creating a drawing or completing a puzzle. Lots of people seem to be finding joy in tackling home-made sourdough bread. One key to self-care while waiting to see what happens in the world is finding something to get lost in that brings you joy. Creativity can be a great way to channel stress into something that ultimately brings you peace. Self-care is different for everyone and only you know what makes you feel good.
As thoughts return to worrying about the future, which they will, simply remind yourself to return to the task at hand. What are you doing right now? How does it feel? If it feels good, keep doing it. If it feels frustrating, find something else to do. The time will come when we will have to focus on what to do about lost jobs, rebuilding the economy, and how to navigate the world in a new way. But right now, we can focus on identifying what we need to do to shore up our individual well-being so that we’re ready to tackle whatever challenges lie ahead. That brings us to today’s guest.
Matt Zinman is a personal success trainer whose experiences as an entrepreneur, athlete, single parent, caretaker and nonprofit founder drive him to be a difference-maker. This led him to author “Z-isms: Insights to Live By” with the goal to positively impact as many people as possible. In addition, Matt is CEO of The Internship Institute, which he established to "Make Experience Matter."
As Matt said, why be anything less than kind to yourself? Perhaps that should be the foundation of our self-care inventory. While we know the basics of self-care for most of us, feeling happy or content is equally important for our emotional self-care. Notice how you feel and if you suddenly feel good, what did you do to make you feel that way? It can be anything: talking to loved ones, cleaning, gardening, painting, cooking, dancing, reading or just sitting outside. It doesn’t matter what it is or if it matches what experts tell us is considered self-care, only that you identify it and do it. Pay attention and write it down. Incorporate it into your regular self-care routine and additionally, turn to it anytime you feel stress rising.
If you’re struggling or feeling depressed, as we discussed in the interview, seek professional treatment. There are telehealth options as Matt mentioned, like BetterHelp, so you don’t need to physically go to a clinic or doctor’s office. Please don’t ignore feelings of depression or think you should be able to handle it yourself. Seeking support is a critical factor of self-care and the ultimate kindness to yourself.
Once you’ve taken your self-care inventory and adjusted your activities to align with what makes you feel good, engage in those activities every day. That will help prepare you for whatever comes next. We’ll be discussing that in more detail over the next few weeks and again, clarity and creativity will be required. We’ll be exploring how we can emerge into who we want to be and how we want to show up every day in our new world. We’ll shift into focusing on what’s truly important to each of us and how we integrate that into our new lives. But for now, let’s focus on getting ourselves beyond surviving so we can take the first steps toward thriving in a post-pandemic world.
Here are some wonderful resources:
Telehealth: Better Help - Online Licensed Counseling: trybetterhelp.com/bemindful (10% off for our audience)
Aura App for sleep. Three months free with the code: FINDPEACE2020
Sanvello App - CBT and Meditations - Free
Lasting: Guided Relationship App - Free version available
Please see our disclosure page for more information on the companies we work with.