No one is unaffected by these uneasy times. You may feel productive and calm one minute, and then stressed and anxious the next.
Learn how three mental health professionals from Sharp HealthCare are focusing on self-care during the COVID-19 pandemic to support their own mental health.
Silence your brain
“With all the noise of to-dos, wondering if I just touched my face or if I’m ever going to be able to hug my mom again, I need a break from the internal chatter,” says Lindsay Damoose, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Sharp HealthCare.
Damoose commits 10 minutes every morning to the practice of meditation and silent prayer. Meditation has been found to reduce stress, control anxiety, enhance self-awareness, reduce age-related memory loss and promote emotional health.
“I’m no guru in this area, so that’s why 10 minutes is perfect for me,” says Damoose. “It’s totally doable and gets me to start the day with a little less worry in my mindset.”
Ditch expectations of what self-care is supposed to look like
“During the first few weeks of California’s stay-at-home order, I was concerned that I wasn’t ‘correctly quarantining,’ and I beat myself up for not making the most of the day with housework, resting or finding a perfect balance of both,” says Damoose.
Damoose suggests making a conscious decision not to have any expectations for what you should be doing. Also, stop micromanaging your free time.
“Over the weekend, if I want to take a midday nap on the couch, I do it,” says Damoose. “If I just want to spend a Sunday cooking and eating all day, I make French toast for lunch and savor every bite.”
Hit the road
“Out of sheer coincidence, I started a running training program at the beginning of this year,” says Damoose. “Since my gym has been closed, I rely on running much more as an excellent outlet for managing stress.”
“I make sure to schedule time alone,” says Dr. Dara Bliss Schwartz, PhD, a lead psychologist at Sharp Mesa Vista. “Between having kids who are going stir-crazy and working in an essential care industry, there is little time to decompress and get centered.”
Dr. Schwartz suggests taking at least 20 minutes a day for yourself and letting the people you are quarantined with know that you are offline.
“I use this time for a warm bath, cup of tea and a magazine,” says Dr. Schwartz. “I try to not take that time for granted, and be very aware and grateful that it is mine.”
According to Dr. Schwartz, it is important to allow yourself to feel overwhelmed, scared or even resentful of this virus.
“After I let out my frustrations, I ground myself by taking stock of how truly lucky I am,” says Dr. Schwartz. “I have a home, food, meaningful career and healthy children.”
“I allow myself some extra guilty pleasures during this time,” says Dr. Schwartz. “It’s OK to binge-watch an extra show, have a pajama day or skim a gummy bear — or five — from my kid’s plate.”
The key is to notice the pleasurable feeling that these activities generate and have awareness that there is still pleasure all around us, she says.
“One of my favorite guilty pleasures is relinquishing being an adult for a little and participating in the fun couch forts my daughter creates during this pandemic,” says Dr. Schwartz.
Socializing through virtual technology
“A couple of times a week, my friends and I schedule a time to meet up on Discord and stream a movie together,” says Elizabeth Callahan, EdD, a licensed psychologist and behavioral health therapist at Sharp Mesa Vista. “It makes me feel like they are in the same room with me, even though we are all in our respective homes.”
Callahan suggests using technology in an interactive way to keep in touch with loved ones, rather than just connecting through social media with likes or comments.
Maintain healthy sleep hygiene
“I continue my pre-pandemic sleeping routine for optimal sleep,” says Callahan. “My bedtime routine includes personal hygiene, deep breathing exercises for five minutes and keeping my environment calming with a fan for white noise.” Some sleep guidelines Callahan practices:
- No caffeine in the evening.
- No eating anything past 8 pm because late-night meals can cause heartburn or indigestion.
- Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends.
“All in all, finding ways to maintain a level of ‘normalcy’ during times where we have to stay at home is helpful,” says Callahan.