During this time of the pandemic and social unrest, it is vital that we take care of ourselves so that we can show up for our community—our family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and anyone else who is connected to us in important ways.
When we’re struggling to stay afloat in stressful times, many different coping strategies can help. The most effective ones will be dependent on the specific situations we are facing. It’s important to build healthy self-care routines, seek support when it’s needed, and stay tuned in to our sense of wellness.
At a foundational level, a few basic necessities can do a lot to help us manage stress and stay grounded in the face of a crisis.
#1: An Unshakeable Foundation
One of the most meaningful questions that we can ask ourselves right now is: “What is my unshakeable foundation?”
It can feel like everything around us is changing, and we may be grasping for a sense of stability. When you think about your foundation, what comes to mind first? For some it's the meaning that they derive from their work. For others, it's their family, or spirituality, or a variety of other things.
Pause and think about your foundation—the thing that anchors you, the thing that you can turn to at any time when everything else is uncertain. Then keep that foundation front and center. Maybe incorporate it into a daily ritual so that it’s engrained in your mind even more. It can give you a deep sense of peace, so that even while waves crash at the shore, it helps you to maintain a sense of calm in the depths of the ocean.
#2: An Evolved Support System
Another important strategy right now is to take inventory of, and to frequently turn to, your support system. Pre-pandemic, this network may have been different—made up of people you frequently spent time with in-person. Now, it may look different based on the circumstances of your living situation.
Perhaps you’ve gotten to know your neighbors a lot better, perhaps you’ve started seeing a therapist or your individual therapy has turned into couple’s therapy. Maybe you’ve joined virtual groups of people with shared interests or struggles. It’s healthy to allow your support system to grow and change with the course of your life.
But wellness goes beyond simply recognizing your support system, of course: You must also take steps to be vulnerable, reach out to them, and lean on them. This opens the door for them to do the same with you, and everyone benefits from a greater sense of community and connection.
Who is a part of your support system, and how are you connecting with them in meaningful ways?
#3: An Act of Self-compassion
Every morning at 8:00 a.m., a notification appears on my phone to remind me to practice self-compassion. I take 30 seconds to pause, reflect on how I’m feeling, and to think about what I need in order to have a good day. It allows me to have more awareness of my own state, rather than charging into the day on autopilot.
If you can take some time to check in with yourself in the morning, it can really impact the quality of your day. It doesn't have to be meditation or journaling or anything formal—just a 30-second pause to ask, “What am I feeling?” and “What do I need today?”
Every day is unique, and we need different things at different times to help us through. One day, it may binge-watching a favorite tv show. Another day, it may be a socially distanced visit with family. Let that flow be okay, don’t judge yourself, and don’t expect that every day has to look the same. We must give that kindness and compassion to ourselves first before we can extend it to others.
We are each forging our own unique path as we journey through this difficult year. If any of these ideas resonate with you, please give them a try. They don’t cost anything, and they take very little time, which is even more precious these days.
First and foremost, remember that it is okay to be struggling right now. It is okay to feel lost and overwhelmed at times.
Perhaps thinking of your unshakeable foundation can help you to find your way back. Perhaps reaching out to a trusted friend and venting can alleviate the pressure of stressors that have been bottled up. And perhaps starting your morning by acknowledging your feelings and understanding your needs can help make the rest of the day just a tad bit easier. Find what is most effective for you and remember that you’re not alone. We are all in this together.