Taking the time to care for yourself is linked to not just your own health, but also to your ability to take care of others. As one of my sisters reminds me, (metaphorically, following airline advice) put your own facemask on first, only then can you help others. Yes, self-care includes a good diet, exercise, and sleep, but also protecting yourself from COVID-19, and the flu. So, keep social distancing and get your flu shot if you haven’t already! It also involves keeping up with self-management routines for your existing chronic illnesses and talking to your GP regularly (by telehealth or going into the practice). Importantly, self-care also involves looking after your mental health and social wellbeing. Your self-care plan should also include something:
Some activities combine 2 or 3 of these, giving you more bang for your buck! Remind yourself what you previously did for fun and find creative ways to do modified forms of it during social distancing. Take a walk with a friend, or dance to your favourite music in your lounge room or try a new recipe. Learn to notice when you’re starting to get anxious or stressed and replace that unhelpful thought. For example, “this isn’t going to be forever.” Pace your activities and take breaks before you need to (I really need to work on this one myself!) and take a short nap when you need one. Take a relaxing Epsom salt bath (if you can safely do it) or relax on a heat pack with a relaxation exercise or meditation before bedtime.
As Katie Reed said, “self-care is giving the world the best of you, not what’s left of you.” Or as Anne Lamott commented, “almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
Dr Sue Ferguson is an Honorary Associate Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Macquarie University.