Mifflin County Communities That Care
6 self-care steps for a pandemic — always important, now essential
Airline attendants say it well: if the plane hits turbulence and the oxygen masks come down, place a mask on yourself first before turning to help others. This is absolutely critical. If we don’t, we may not be able to help anyone.
Well, we’ve all hit the same turbulence, folks, and we all need to take good care of ourselves, our bodies, and our minds.
During a period when stress and fear are running high, these six strategies from my colleagues (in the Massachusetts General Hospital Healthy Lifestyle Program) can help.
Acknowledge the turbulence
Ben Crocker, MD, is the medical director of a large primary care practice and a healthy lifestyle advocate. “Social distancing and the loss of work and/or routine are tremendous pressures, both physically and psychologically,” he says. Check in, he urges. Mourn your losses. And check out, too. “Check in with yourself,” says Dr. Crocker. With so much news and instructions flying around about what to do and how to do it, take time to listen to what your body and mind need. During such frantic times we may tend to ignore acknowledging the loss of “the way things were.” We forget to mourn, or grieve, or simply express our sadness about not being able to socialize, see a close friend, attend a favorite exercise class, interact with neighbors and family, or worship collectively. Grant yourself the time and space to acknowledge your loss. This can help you stay grounded with the current state of life. “And allow yourself to physically, mentally, emotionally check out on a regular basis,” he adds. “Intentionally create ‘shutdown’ time in your schedule. This can be healthy time alone, for meditation and quietude.”
Fuel your body with healthy food
“In times such as these, nutrition and healthy eating can easily fall to the wayside,” says Helen Delichatsios, MD. “However, if anything, it is more important than ever to appropriately fuel our bodies and to do so in a mindful way. We have increased physical and mental stress, and healthy eating is vital in supporting our immune system to stave off illness and recuperate faster if we fall ill.” “We’re all eating at home more,” notes Anne Thorndike, MD. “This is a great time to explore new recipes you’ve been meaning to try.
Move your body
“We are all spending less time commuting, driving our kids around, and doing errands,” says Dr. Thorndike. “Use the extra time to take a walk or do some exercise at home. Even housework can be a way to be physically active!”
Our bodies need sufficient sleep in order to function. Me, I’ve been working hard to keep a schedule, setting my alarm for my usual early morning time, and going to bed just after my kids. This helps to ensure I get a solid eight hours of sleep, so that I’ll be at my best when I’m called into clinic. It can help to see the light — and dark (literally). “Spend time outside in nature,” Dr. Crocker suggests. “Exposure to the visible diurnal rhythms of the day/night is an added benefit.”
Find ways to connect socially
Dr. Delichatsios loves to cook at home and has been having virtual dinner parties.
Dr. Crocker has a great suggestion that can be a win-win for working parents and their relatives. “With school out, if you have kids and any extended family, invite the relative (grandparent, aunt, uncle) to teach an online lesson once a week on the same topic or a rotating topic. Allow that special bonding time between your child and their relative to unburden your time.”
Find ways to ease stress
Everything you’ve read to this point can help you manage stress and anxiety. Eating healthy, being active, and getting enough sleep all help us to mitigate the effects of stress and anxiety on our bodies.
One more technique is positive thinking.
Remembering and acknowledging the good in our lives is a powerfully positive action. “Practicing gratitude for what we still have — our health, our families, our homes, food, whatever it may be — rather than rehearsing the daily ‘loss’ of life and routine as we know it, is an important health practice,” notes Dr. Crocker.
Monique Tello, MD, MPH Contributor
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MIFFLIN COUNTY COMMUNITIES THAT CARE
Mission: Through community collaboration, CTC will provide positive prevention initiatives to engage youth and families in supporting a safe and healthy community.
Vision: Mifflin County will be a positive, healthy, thriving community for our youth and families.