Sunday, May 3, 2020

Self-Care Guide: 10 Daily Questions to Ask Yourself While Social Distancing

(Photo by Anthony Tran)

I’m a big proponent of self-care. We overwork, we're too hard on ourselves, and we move at paces that are often hard to keep up with emotionally. Good mental health is crucial to our overall well-being, but it’s especially important in a time of social distancing. For those of you who are caregivers or are caring for a loved one in quarantine, taking care of yourself is a must. Here’s a list of ten simple, but important questions that I’ve been asking myself every day in order to practice self-care, and in doing so, am better able to offer care to those around me who need it.

1. Am I hydrated?

This question might seem obvious, but I’m one of those people who forget to drink water. I forget, like, all the time. If I notice that I haven’t had a glass of water in a few hours, I’ll fill a jug, water bottle, or some other large container and place it at my work station to remind myself to stay hydrated.

2. Did I shower or bathe?

The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is take a shower. I prefer to shower in the morning because it not only wakes me up, but also helps me feel ready to tackle a long day. If you’re someone who showers at night, don’t skip this part of your routine. Showering is linked to increasing oxytocin (the cuddle hormone), reducing anxiety, and relaxing tense muscles, which can help you sleep better.

3. Have I eaten something substantial?

Sometimes, I experience random bouts of low-energy. It’s what I like to call mushy brain! For a quick fix, I’ll make myself a healthy snack. My go-to is Greek yogurt with honey, blueberries, and granola. If I need something more filling without too much prep work, I’ll make salmon, chicken teriyaki rice, or enhanced ramen (instant ramen with bok choy, enoki and shiitake mushrooms, shrimp or some other protein, tofu, and a raw egg).

4. Am I dressed?

I tend to stay in pajamas if I’m not seeing anyone or going outside. I’ve been especially lazy about getting dressed since I started working from home. However, I’ve found that working in the same outfit that I slept in the night before makes me feel less confident. If it’s been one or two days since I put on clean clothes that aren’t pajamas, I'll make sure to wear something special, like a nice dress or a comfy sweater.

5. Have I moved my body?

If I notice that I’m having difficulty focusing on a task or assignment at work, I'll walk around the house, play piano, do laundry, or stretch my arms and legs. If it’s a good day and there aren’t too many people outside, I’ll go on a walk or run. If it’s an especially good day, I’ll sing or dance to a song! Daily exercise can help increase productivity.

6. Did I listen to music, read, or create something?

I’ve seen so many people create while social distancing, and that’s because being creative is incredibly therapeutic. Listening to music, reading a book, drawing, playing a musical instrument, cooking, and engaging in other creative pursuits not only helps create a distraction, but also provides purpose. If there’s any good that comes out of this era of social distancing, maybe it’s that we improve ourselves, and finally create the thing we’ve always wanted to create, but never had time to before.

7. Do I feel useless, unattractive, or unproductive?

My inner self-critic is brutal, and she’s been awfully brutal this past month. Whenever I start to self-criticize, I'll stop, then actively try to replace my negative thoughts with realistic statements. For example, if I start thinking, “You did a terrible job running that meeting. Nobody wanted to be there,” a more realistic statement would be something like, “You ran the meeting as best as you could at the end of a long day.” Paying attention to your thoughts will help you balance self-improvement with self-acceptance.

8. Do I feel tired and have I taken a break?

Managing work-life balance while social distancing is tough, and it’s even more difficult for those who have kids or are full-time caregivers. A good method that I’ve been using to keep things balanced is developing a routine. First, I shower, then I make coffee or tea. Finally, I head to my workspace and write down all the tasks that I need to complete for the day. I’ve also found that taking lunch breaks in a different room and unplugging for at least a few hours at night helps stabilize my day. When you’re feeling overworked, take a 15-minute break and don’t feel bad about it.

9. Did I write in my journal?

I’ve been writing in journals since I was a kid, but it wasn’t a serious endeavor until the beginning of 2020, when I received this AM + PM Journal from Barnes & Noble as a gift. Journaling is probably the best method of self-care for me, because it allows me to be introspective, vent, and jot down all my thoughts in one place. I don’t start or end my day until I’ve written in my journal.

10. Have I smiled, laughed, or said something nice to someone?

This is the most important question I ask myself every day. There are a number of health benefits connected to smiling and laughing, including the release of endorphins (the happy hormone) and the reduction of cortisol (the stress hormone). Simply put, smiling and laughing makes us feel good and improves mental health. It’s easy to get consumed by my own thoughts and problems, but if I can bring joy to at least one person a day, I feel happier and hopeful that things will be okay.