It's no secret to anyone that 2020 has been a challenging year. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, the election, even the weather, it's been a roller coaster of stress and emotions for many people.
That's why it's important to give yourself a break.
UCare Chief Medical Director Dr. Julia Joseph-DiCaprio says daily self-care is important. She recommends setting aside a block of "me" time every day.
"During that time do what calms you, what takes you out of your head, what makes you laugh, what energizes you or what gives you a boost," Dr. Joseph-DiCaprio said.
Dr. Joseph-DiCaprio had three main recommendations:
- Prioritize you. "The better able you are to manage your stress, and stay centered and balanced, the better able you’ll be to do your work and take care of others," Dr. Joseph-DiCaprio said.
- Daily self care is a daily practice. "Schedule at least 30 minutes of self-care into your day," she suggested. "If you are now working at home, take the time you would have been commuting or dressing up for work for your self-care time."
- Take a break include taking technology and news breaks every day.
Dr. Julia’s self-care checklist includes: Schedule; Move; Breathe; and, Learn.
Dr. Julia says the best way to practice daily self-care is to schedule time for it. Set aside 30 minutes every day for “me time”. Find an area in your home where you can limit noise and distractions. Take technology breaks. That may mean putting your phones or tablets in a different room while you take time for yourself.
Exercise releases endorphins. Those are chemicals in your brain that produce feelings of well-being. Do what moves you. While the weather permits, take a walk outside. A quick Google search will connect you with free exercise videos, podcasts, or apps. Join a Zoom yoga or fitness class. Work out with homemade weights like soup cans or water-filled milk jugs. Again, Dr. Julia says the key to a home workout routine is scheduling time in your day to do it.
Breathing is part of the autonomic nervous system. These are body functions that work automatically. Put simply, you don’t have to ‘think’ to breathe. Your body just does it. It rare for most people to consciously think about inhaling and exhaling.
During the chaotic upheaval of 2020, controlled breathing is one daily self-care tool that Dr. Julia says will help you cope during troubled times. Controlled breathing is often combined with meditation or spiritual focus. Setting aside 20-30 minutes each day for deep breathing and meditation will help you maintain focus throughout the day and may even help you sleep better at night.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institute of Health, controlled breathing and meditation increase calmness, improves psychological balance, aids with healing from illness, and enhances overall well-being.
Mindful.org offers a seven-stop process for how to get started with this daily practice.
When you take on a new mental challenge, you steer your mind away from the other matters that may be weighing on it. Dr. Julia suggests trying to cook a new recipe. Learn a new language. Pick up that musical instrument you’ve neglected for months (years?) Try a new hobby like knitting. Read an actual book instead of online blogs, social media posts, or news reports. Try out a coloring book --- it worked great in grade school.
The focus you put on learning can provide some much-needed mental relief --- or at least a temporary distraction from what’s bothering you.