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How to take care of yourself in 2020

2020 has brought us many challenges, one of which was to stay at home and be uncertain about everything.  Would we be able to meet both ends?  Would we survive the pandemic?  Would it ever end and many more questions that has crossed our minds.  To many it could cost them their sanity, so as things have started to come back to normal again with some uncertainties still in place, each one of us needs to take good care of ourselves and people around us.  So, let's take a look at a few of the things that we can do to keep us going.

Adapt:  As bizarre as it sounds, 2020 has made us realize that you can do everything while staying at your home.  Though the struggle is real, everyone is trying to adjust to a new normal: working from home, managing child care, worrying about older family members, and wondering what comes next.  We have all of these concerns ourselves, and then we have to also provide support as other people around us struggle with them too.

Many of us are juggling a career, family, children's extra-curricular activities, and often it seems impossible to go for a dinner with a friend you haven't seen in a long time, or simply take 20 minutes for yourself in the morning to read a good book before your kids erupt from their bedrooms.

What should be done is, whether you're a clinician, a researcher, or a educator, take care of yourself first, adapt to the new "normal" and start adjusting yourself around it.

Prioritize:  Make a plan of action by listing your work and personal priorities and then decide, complete the most important tasks first and see what can be postponed.  Make sure to add self-care to your schedule.  In stressful times, self-care can seem frivolous or selfish, but committing to self-care will preserve your ability to rise to the challenge of this time.  So do not ignore yourself and prioritize yourself every once in a while. 

Take a Break, if necessary:  I truly believe we cannot pour from an empty cup.  When we take care of ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically we are allowing ourselves the opportunity to be more productive, to live a healthier and happier life, and to maintain healthy relationships.  Most importantly, we are allowing ourselves to recharge, to fill our cups back up so we can perform at our optimal capacity.

Stick to a routine:  I know it is difficult to maintain a routine when the office is closed and no one has to go to school or gym etc.  But sticking to a routine is very important for the mental health as still doing those routines gives a sense of normalcy to the otherwise abnormal situation we're in.  Therefore, get up early in the morning, have coffee or tea, plan your day, and start acting on your plan.

Create a proper workspace:  Working from home can blur the boundaries between work and your personal life so that you feel you're working all the time.  Staying on the computer all the time will not only exhaust you more but will affect your productivity as well.  Therefore, set strict timings for work and ideally create a separate workspace if possible, even if that means setting up a desk in a corner of your living room.  Keep your sleeping area as personal space.  This will relieve your stress when you come back to your sleeping area and will make you more focused once you enter your work corner.

Eat Healthy:  Eating healthy food, getting enough sleep, and being active are foundations of good self-care.  If you can get outside, take a walk or go for a run it is the best thing possible, but if you can't there is plenty you can do inside.  People are posting workouts on social media and hosting exercise classes on Zoom or FaceTime.  Ask your gym or yoga studio if they're offering virtual sessions or look for workouts on YouTube. 

Stay connected:  While cutting excessive screen time is mandatory, online technologies like Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts are helping people stay connected despite being physically isolated.  It's such a breath of fresh air to be able to see your loved ones and laugh with them.  Share your feelings with them and you will be blown away by how social distancing can make a community come together. 

Limit watching the news: Checking the news or social media constantly or having the news on in the background only causes unnecessary distress.  Decide how much time you're going to devote to checking reliable sources and then stick to that limit, even if you have to ask a friend to serve as an accountability partner and check up on whether you followed through with your commitment.  That means spending five minutes scanning the news in the morning and another five minutes before doing bedtime relaxation exercises.

Beware:  You may be using alcohol or other substances to temporarily relieve boredom or stress but be mindful of the slippery slope.  Avoid it if you've had any problems in the past.  The same holds for eating.  When at home and doing almost nothing will be a good excuse for overeating.  A little ice cream feels good, but half or whole bucket will only increase the unnecessary weight.  Weight gain may also cause unwanted stress.

Practice mindfulness:  Mindfulness activities can help deal with anxiety.  Meditation, yoga, even deep breathing are ways to slow things down and there are plenty of free resources, including meditations on YouTube, and apps that are giving free meditation music, etc.  If you have never meditated before try it now as this is the best way to detox your mind of all the unnecessary things.

Learn new things:  Now is a good time to burnish your professional skills.  Build your skill set virtually, take an online abstract art course or script-writing course.  Use this time for continuing-education courses or other professional development.  These online resources are a good way to distract yourself from the news and keep yourself engaged in learning, says conception.  

Manage Stress:  In this time of Covid-19 when people are self isolating and practicing social distancing, it's especially important to take care of yourself.  Our mental health can be fragile at a time like this.  Anxiety and stress take a toll.  Therefore, do whatever you can to keep your sanity intact at this moment.  Meditate, yoga, exercise, clean deeply, or take an online dance class.  Soothe yourself however you can and above all, count your blessings.  You are one of the ones who are healthy and survived the biggest pandemic of your life.

Watch for signs of trouble:  Even after the crisis eases, you may be at risk of burnout or even post-traumatic stress disorder as once again picking up with the routine that you left would seem impossible.  So, stay attuned to your body.

Recognize the symptoms as many people first experience mental health symptoms as physical symptoms, such as muscle tension, a clenched jaw, increased heart rate, or chest pressure.  If you feel any of these realize that your body is trying to tell you something's wrong.  Other signs of burnout include irritability, a lack of empathy, or an inability to connect with patients, students, research participants, or others.  If you're experiencing warning signs of finding yourself unable to work or take care of yourself or your family, it may be time to seek help professionally.  Do not hesitate and reach out as soon as you feel yourself slipping.

Help Others:  Keep an eye on those who are struggling around you and let them know you're also struggling as a way or normalizing their reactions.  And find meaning in helping others.  There's not enough yoga in the world to deal with the magnitude of what we're coping with right now.  We have to think flexibly about self-care:  It's not only about taking care of ourselves but taking care of others.  By doing so you will also make yourself happy. 

Go easy on Yourself:  I suggest you all say YES to yourself for once, and NO to whatever does not bring you joy.  Start small, don't overwhelm yourself with big goals that will leave you feeling defeated.  And remember, less can truly become more.  If you are well, everything around will get better sooner or later, so before everyone and everything else make yourself a priority and take care of yourself.