The year 2020 rang in with a mighty siren. From the crisis that resulted from the Coronavirus pandemic, to the outcry of injustice and racism, the mourning of the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others– this year has been one teeming with emotional work, exhaustion, and stress for many. There are many in our country who are dealing with unemployment, job loss, health issues, family issues, and more.
When faced with difficult times, taking care of ourselves often falls by the wayside. It’s important to remember that one cannot take care of others without first taking care of oneself. Here are some gentle but effective ways to take care of yourself during times of high, chronic stress:
Often it is hard to express our thoughts adequately, especially when we struggle to find the right words. Thought-dumping, one method for journaling, is a great way to help you process without judgment. You simply write everything that comes to mind, without filtering or trying to make sense of it. Some people find this is enough.
However, others have found it helpful to then look through their thoughts and circle the things they have control over, and choose to focus on those things.
Also, gratitude journals– the practice of listing at least three things you are grateful for daily– have also been shown to improve mood and re-center your thoughts.
Moving our bodies releases built-up tension, anger, hurt, and stress. Taking care of our bodies in this way benefits our immune system. It even helps our mental health because of its effects on depression, anxiety, and stress. Simply taking a walk outside and getting fresh air, or choosing something more intense like kickboxing, can all be great ways to release endorphins, improve your mindset, and help you gain clarity.
3. Stay Mindful through Meditation or Prayer
Meditation looks different for many people, and some people prefer to sit in quiet prayer as opposed to chanting. Find a way that works best for you. Focus on your breathing. Notice your thoughts as they come, but don’t dwell on them. Let them pass by you. Focus your thoughts on one word, mantra, or prayer.
This moment of silence and reflection has been proven to help manage stress, anxiety, and even blood pressure! A common meditation practice can even help battles with insomnia.
4. EFT or Grounding Techniques
EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Tapping. Through the exploration of EFT, one can re-center themselves and bring themselves back into their present body. Youtube has many walkthroughs on EFT, as well as other grounding techniques. These practices allow you to hone in on your body and battle the “fight or flight” mode the body is in during overwhelming emotion and anxiety.
5. Explore and Define Your Self-Care Practice
Understanding what form of self-care works best for you is crucial. How do you show yourself that you care for you? Maybe that looks like taking a bath, getting more sleep, eating healthier, or taking a break from social media in favor of face-to-face conversations. Self-care doesn’t have to be glamorous. It can be as simple as making sure you are eating your three meals a day and drinking enough water.
Find the routines and lifestyle choices that bring you peace.
This is not to say we run away from our problems or dealing with current events, but rather we take time to give ourselves a chance to rest and heal before we carry on with the work we are doing.
6. Join a Support Group
Often talking to people who have shared the same experiences as you provide much-needed validity that unfortunately, we lack sometimes. Having a safe space to talk and process emotions allow us to feel less alone. Mental Health America is a great resource to start your search for support groups or you can even start one with your community by reaching out for members on your social media platforms! If you are looking for solidarity, you are likely not alone.
7. Talk to a Professional
For dealing with deep emotional distress, it is recommended to speak to a mental health professional. Many insurance companies are waiving co-pays for counseling, making it more accessible, and professionals are also using telehealth services during COVID-19. These individuals are trained to deal with diverse and complex issues and can serve as guidance and support.
The Bottom Line
This list is by no means exhaustive, but we want to support you all in any way we can. Please reach out with any comments or concerns. We are here to support our community and would love to hear what has helped you during these times.