This post is based on the October 11th Adult Religious Education RE session entitled “Self-Care During the Pandemic”, presented by Ian Sachs, April Smith, and Marci Collier.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ian, he is the coordinator of the Lay Pastoral Ministry Team. The mission of this team is to help our minister provide a ministry of hope and caring so that no member of our congregation need be alone. We carry out this mission by supporting those going through a life crisis, maintaining contact with those unable to attend church due to illness or disability, supporting friends and family involved in caregiving, and comforting the bereaved.
Marci Collier has been a member of Emerson since 2015. She joined the LPMT shortly after that. In her spare time, she watches too much Netflix and is working on making her backyard more habitable
We are very fortunate to have April Smith as a member of the LPMT. April is a certified coach and yoga teacher who specializes in helping people who experience chronic stress practice effective self-care so they can feel more joy and live more vibrantly. If you want to learn more about April and her work, you can go to her website at www.inthespacebetween.net.
As you all know, there is a lot going on in the world right now resulting in a great deal of stress and anxiety: the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic downturn, the hotly contested upcoming election, and racial inequalities and unrest – just to name a few.
Ian Sachs, chair of Emerson’s Lay Pastoral Ministry Team shares, “As a physician, I have seen firsthand what adverse effects stress can have on people’s health. I also know that prevention of problems is always better than trying to solve problems. With that in mind, the Lay Pastoral Ministry Team thought it would be helpful to talk about the importance of caring for yourself during this very stressful time.”
This blog post will give you an understanding of what effective self-care is, why it’s important, and will introduce you to some specific self-care techniques you can practice to help bring you comfort and ease during this difficult time.
What is “effective” self-care?
Effective self-care is about creating long-term peace rather than short-term pleasure. It involves self-reflection and really spending time looking at what’s causing you to feel stressed or burnt out, and figuring out what you need to do on a consistent basis to overcome this. By taking a look at what’s not working, and realizing what’s missing in your routine, you can make the needed changes for long-lasting relief. Self-care is not about avoiding or distracting yourself from your problems – effective self-care allows you to face things head-on.
Here are four tips for effective self-care, or what I (April) like to call The 4 Pillars of Self-Care:
- Self-study – Begin by making time to really identify your needs, your self-care routine will be much more effective than if you just tried things that you think you “should” do, or that someone else recommends.
- Honesty – Be honest with what your needs are and what activities will help you meet those needs.
- Dedication – The best self-care practice is one that is long-term and sustainable. Your self-care isn’t a quick-fix, but a way to support your healing and growth.
- Self-Compassion & Forgiveness – Some days fitting in your self-care isn’t going to happen, or it’s not going to have the impact you want or need. And that’s ok. Show yourself some compassion and forgiveness for not being perfect. Being gentle with yourself is paramount to this practice.
When we approach our self-care routine using these four pillars, we increase the likelihood of having the relief and reprieve our practice gives us last far beyond the time we spend on it. We move from short-term results to long-term, sustainable peace.
Why practice self-care?
Self-care is the key to staying balanced and maintaining the physical, emotional, and spiritual energy we need to be our best selves in all areas of our lives. If we are not spending the necessary time cultivating this relationship, it’s like trying to draw water from a well that is slowly drying up.
Perhaps now, more than ever, self-care is important for maintaining our overall wellness. With the various ways in which this pandemic is affecting all of us, finding ways to care for ourselves holistically allows us to navigate these uncertain times with as much ease as is possible. While we’re certain to continue to face difficulties as the pandemic situation continues to play out, addressing our needs as they arise will help prevent us from finding ourselves completely depleted once it is over.
We’ll begin to see how by maintaining our personal self-care practices, we are better able to recover from our normal everyday stresses, as well as the unique things that are currently happening. By practicing self-care, we can help soothe our nervous systems and get out of the “fight, flight, freeze” mode that the hypervigilance we’re experiencing due to the pandemic has created. This will allow us to be more grounded and present in the moment, so that we can move through our days with more ease. When we compassionately hold ourselves accountable for caring for our own well-being, we can act from a place of connection, wholeness, and integrity.
Do you have favorite self-care techniques already? What are they, and how have they changed during the pandemic?
Before we get into the different ways we can practice self-care during the pandemic, Spend some time in self-reflection and consider where in your life you feel most troubled, and what would help ease that stress?
Keep in mind that in order for your self-care practice to be most effective, it's important to keep it consistent. Choosing 1 “small” thing to do regularly is often better than a handful of things you can't keep up with.
10 Easy Ways to Practice Self-Care During the Pandemic
- Move your body – this can be gentle stretching or full exercise routines. Even a leisurely walk can help get your energy flowing, bring your attention to the present, and help ease anxiety or restlessness.
- Breathwork helps stimulate the autonomic nervous system, allowing you to calm and control both your mind and body. This can be done by simply elongating your inhale and exhales, or by connecting movement with the breath through practices such as yoga, pranayama, or Tai Chi.
- Meditation and prayer are also excellent ways to support our nervous systems, as well as helping us connect to our Highest Self and/or Higher Power
- Connect with others – Although social interactions have changed quite a bit since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s still important to connect with friends and loved ones. Studies show that video calls (like our Sunday Services) are much more effective at giving us the connection we need, however, texting or emails is still a great way to keep connected.
- Eating foods that nourish our bodies is a great way to practice self-care because it allows our bodies to operate at their best. This isn’t to say that comfort foods should be eliminated, rather, that we should make eating healthier foods a priority and have the comfort foods be special treats.
- Get lost in a good book – Reading can be an excellent way to escape reality for a little while, and give ourselves a mental break from the stressors of everyday life. It also helps improve cognitive function and increase our vocabulary.
- Sing, dance, shake it out – or simply listen to uplifting music – Expressing ourselves with music helps relieve stress by allowing us a way to let go of stored emotions. Dancing or shaking out our stresses also helps get the energy moving which improves our mood. This is a fun thing to get the whole family involved in as a way to bond, too!
- Learn a new hobby or skill, or rekindle an old one – Since we’re all spending more time indoors, why not take the opportunity to learn a new hobby or skill? From crafting, to learning new languages or other special interests, investing in our own continued education will help us feel positively challenged and more fulfilled overall.
- Try journaling – Journaling has many benefits, such as improving writing skills, organizing our thoughts, and giving us a safe space to “let go” of the things that are bothering us. It also helps boost memory and inspires creativity.
- Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help or support from friends, family, or loved ones. The LPMT can support you at any time with whatever you may be struggling with by providing a sympathetic ear and helping you find resources if necessary. There is no shame in needing support, and we’re always here for you!
Now that you’ve learned a bit more about effective self-care, how are you going to start practicing more self-care during the pandemic? If you already practice self-care, what might you start to do differently?
We hope these tips and techniques have been helpful for you, and that you’ve gained some ideas to help you care for yourself during this difficult time.