Self Care in the Midst of Pandemic
This post is written by Reb Duke who is a clinical counselor and also a pastor who works with Urban Skye. Reb is also one of our DYWC Field Team members. Crazy times, right? This is a time that will go down in history and will be referred to for the rest of our lifetimes. It seems to have come out of nowhere and has changed our lives for the foreseeable future. This is a time that can spark all kinds of anxiety and if you are feeling any of that, I want you to know that you are not alone. I also want to encourage you, no matter what your circumstances, to take time (we all have a little bit more than normal right now, right?) to take good care of yourself. Most of you reading this are pastors or in some form of helping profession and we are taking care of lots of people, albeit mostly virtually, through this. I know you hear it all the time, but it is more important now than ever. I will list a few thoughts below about some ways to engage in self care, but most of all, know that YOU know yourself the best, so maybe take a moment to ask yourself, “What do I need today?” or “What will bring me life/energy/connection/rest today?” and then give yourself the gift of meeting that need. Breathe. Good news! Literally everyone can do this one! Take some long, deep, nourishing breaths for a few moments. Breathing is one of the most surefire ways to actually slow your heart rate and physiologically calm yourself. Perhaps breathe in a mantra like “I am ok” or “I am loved” or try breathing in and out Yahweh (a name of God, meant to be breathed rather than spoken — read more HERE [insert hyperlink https://theshalomcenter.org/content/why-yahyhwh] if you’re interested.) Limit your news intake. It is wise to be attuned to what is going on in the world, as Karl Barth said, we should pray “with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” So please do pay attention and pray for our world, but try not to go too far down the rabbit hole of dark news stories about COVID-19. Read a little, maybe limit yourself to 15 minutes a day, pray, and then go on with your day. Find ways to connect with friends and loved ones. Technology is truly one of our greatest gifts right now when we are social distancing and sheltering in place. Set up a Zoom gathering with friends or a Google hangout. You can also watch movies together and play games together with various online platforms. Find ways to connect with people who encourage and inspire you—we need it now more than ever. Drink water and eat nutritious foods. These are some of our most basic needs and it feels silly to even mention them, but I have found this easy to neglect. Our bodies and brains run on fuel and how we eat impacts our mood, energy levels, and much more. Love yourself well and eat some broccoli, or you know, whatever sounds good to you. Exercise. (Commence collective eye roll.) I know, they’re always telling us to exercise, and it’s important now too. You know all the good things about it—it releases feel-good chemicals in our brains and helps us sleep better and, and, and….there are lots of free workout videos online or maybe even just go outside for a walk. I’ve been amazed at how helpful it has been when I have been able to get outside the house and walk—I return with renewed energy and fresh perspective. Practice gratitude. While this is a very difficult time, there are always things we can be grateful for and it can help us cope with anxiety and stress. Here is another article that gives some great suggestions on how to practice gratefulness in seasons of stress or conflict. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201211/the-grateful-brain). Another thought....perhaps try a “Rampage of Gratitude” where you start a timer for 5 minutes and start writing down everything you can think of that you are grateful for. Be gentle with yourself. There are days when you put on pants and days when you don’t. Sometimes you eat veggies and sometimes you eat cookies. Some hours and days are highly productive while others are highly distracted. In all of it, give yourself lots of grace, patience, and love. You are doing the best you can. We all are. Hang in there and be kind to yourself.