As we continue to face disrupted schedules, limits on social interactions, virtual classrooms and work from home, our stress levels continue to compound in many ways.
“Extra changes that come with the start of fall — a new school year and the upcoming holidays — add new stressors to our lives,” says Olga Hays, an American Council on Exercise-certified wellness promotion specialist at Sharp HealthCare. “This is a great time to prioritize self-care and self-growth.”
“Taking care of yourself and your growth mindset in the fall and winter months will support your mental, emotional and physical health, and ensure your long-term well-being,” explains Hays.
Make sleep a priority
Sleep is fundamental for your health and well-being, just like nutrition and hydration. It may not always be possible, but aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night. To improve your sleep quality, avoid caffeine and alcohol several hours before bedtime.
Staring at screens before bedtime can also sabotage your sleep due to the exposure to blue light. Power down your electronic devices two hours before going to sleep and read a book instead.
Try mind-body practices
Practicing yoga, tai chi, meditation or deep relaxation techniques not only builds physical health, but also deepens awareness and connection between the mind and body. Yoga, which uses breathing techniques, poses and meditation, has been shown to reduce stress. Mindfulness meditation and deep relaxation can help you control stress, anxiety and other negative emotions you may face during this time. It can also be a powerful tool for personal growth and self-understanding.
Don’t skimp on the basics
Exercising and eating healthy are high priorities when practicing self-care.
Daily exercise — at least 30 minutes, five times a week — can help you both physically and emotionally, boosting your mood and reducing stress and anxiety.
Infusing your body with the right nutrients is essential to self-care as well. Nourish yourself with meals that consist of a balance of carbohydrates (whole grains, beans, vegetables and whole fruit), proteins (lentils, peas, nuts, seeds and animal proteins) and healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, flaxseed and fatty fish). In addition, avoid inflammatory, sugar-spiking, insulin-releasing foods such as processed carbohydrates, added sugars and anything made with flour.
Focus on the positive
Life during a pandemic is hard, and it is important to remind yourself of all the good things that you have. Start a gratitude journal and reflect daily on the things you’re grateful for to help you learn to appreciate what is going well in your life instead of what is going wrong. Take note of the high of the day, the low of the day and your plans for tomorrow. By graciously appreciating the positives, you cultivate a growth mindset and motivate yourself to create more positives in your life.
Learn something new
Learning something new is an opportunity to flex your growth mindset. Think about what it is that you are interested in, such as a new sport, an art class or an online class, and dive in. You can choose something for your personal or professional development. If you don’t have time to start a new hobby or class, books are a great source of knowledge as well.
“Self-care is not selfish,” says Hays. “When you follow a regular plan to prioritize your self-care and growth, you are better equipped to handle any stressors and changes to daily life that COVID-19 may throw your way.”