In a few short weeks, everything that was once easy and familiar has changed. Our routines. Our social activities. Even our ways of entertaining ourselves. The pandemic reminds us that unexpected things can and do happen – things we aren’t always prepared for. The world has become a very different place and it can leave you feeling out of control and off-balance. 

They say, this too shall pass. And, surely, it will. In the meantime, how do you deal with the uncertainty and disruption? What can you do to ensure that you are caring for yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually?

What you do now will determine where you’ll be when the world emerges on the other side. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recommend being proactive in managing stress and practicing good self-care. In fact, the act of caring for yourself and others is a proven stress reliever even in exceptionally trying times.

One of the most important things you can do during stressful times is to focus on what you can control as opposed to what you cannot. You cannot control the coronavirus. You cannot control when the pandemic will be over. What you can control are your thoughts and actions. You can control how you manage your health and wellness during this time. 

Not sure where to start? Here are seven ways you can take control and take care of you. 

Find Your Rhythm

We are creatures of habit. We have a daily rhythm and we like it. When that rhythm gets interrupted, it can throw you completely off track. One of the most effective things you can do is to get yourself on a new schedule. Get up, get dressed and participate in your day. Whether you’re going to be home for a few weeks or even longer, a schedule helps you to rise each day with purpose and get into a new pattern of action. 

  • Establish times for waking up and getting to bed
  • Establish a daily task/work schedule
  • Set mealtimes
  • Schedule some time for relaxation/destressing (ex., yoga, meditation, journaling)
  • Set a time for exercise/movement
  • Make time for social connections and family time 

Find A Reason to Move

It’s tempting to sit on the couch and lament all the things you can’t do right now. Resist that temptation. Intentional movement has a positive effect on both your physical and your emotional well-being, helping to reduce stress naturally. It reduces levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. At the same time, exercise boosts the production of endorphins – those feel-good chemicals in the brain that elevate mood and can reduce pain. What can you do at home? 

  • Exercise videos – You can find tons of free workouts on YouTube. So many fitness pros and companies are offering free online workouts. Look for something you love or something you’ve wanted to try.
  • Dance in your living room
  • Take a walk outside if it’s safe for you to do so. You might even have a dog who would love to walk with you!
  • Take a bike ride if it’s safe for you to do so.
  • Stretch.

Nourish Your Body

When we are stressed, it’s tempting to snack or eat foods that comfort us. While the occasional indulgence is ok, routinely eating foods that are nutritionally limited leaves us feeling lethargic and unsatisfied. Instead, take this time to nourish your body. Allow yourself to choose foods that provide you with the nutrition you need to stay healthy and strong. Stay hydrated. A sound diet also has positive effects on your emotional well-being. 

Social Connection In A Time of Social Distancing 

We are social beings by nature. We need social connection. Social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t socially connect but it has changed the way in which we socialize. Thankfully, technology makes it easy when we can’t be near family or friends. Make time each day to connect with friends and loved ones, even if it has to be by Skype or Zoom or Facetime, etc. Share a laugh, share a small victory or just enjoy spending time. Connecting with others helps us to feel loved and supported. It helps to maintain those bonds of family and friendship that are so important to our emotional well-being. 

Make Room for Laughter

In these difficult times, finding something to laugh about can feel impossible. It can feel inappropriate even. It’s ok to laugh. It’s ok to feel happy. And, it turns out, laughter is good for you. Laughter has lots of benefits:

  • Improves oxygen supply to the organs
  • Stimulates the release of endorphins
  • Improves immune system functioning
  • Improves mood
  • Reduces muscle tension

Laughter can make dealing with difficult situations just a little bit easier.  

Go to “Happy Hour”

Not that “happy hour” but an hour where you can set your cares aside for a bit and just enjoy doing something you love. It might be spending time with the kids. It might be taking a bubble bath. It might even be just enjoying a soothing cup of tea on your back porch. Whatever your “happy” is, make time to indulge yourself just a bit. Nourishing your soul is just as important as nourishing your body.


Of all the things you can do to care for yourself, sleep is probably the most important and yet the hardest. When you sleep, your brain is hard at work. It is during sleep that the brain is processing the day’s information and replenishing its energy stores. Sleep also allows us to handle stressors and challenges better. Lack of sleep has been associated with decreased immune efficiency, higher levels of the stress-hormone cortisol and a number of health issues.

Having trouble sleeping? Practicing good sleep hygiene can help:

  • Have a set bedtime that you stick to every night
  • Make sure your room is cool, dark and comfortable
  • Sleep in comfortable clothing
  • Turn off electronics about 45 minutes to an hour before bed to minimize blue light and allow your brain to prepare for sleep
  • Be mindful of caffeine during the day if you’re sensitive to it
  • Establish a bedtime ritual – spend time journaling or meditating or some other quiet activity to end your day.

Extra Support

If you find yourself struggling during this time, don’t struggle alone. No one is ever really prepared for a situation like we are facing now. It’s ok to ask for help.

Reach out to family or friends for support. Talk about how you’re feeling. Let them support you. 

Talking with a therapist can also be helpful. A therapist can help yo u to understand what you’re feeling and put things in perspective. You can also learn effective ways to cope with your feelings. 

During a time of stress, it’s important to keep things in perspective. This situation will pass and you will be able to go back to the things you love. In the meantime, take control of the things you can and take care of you. When you take care of you, you are able to cope more effectively and be there for the ones you love. You want to come through this experience whole, healthy and ready to move ahead. We will get through this.

Until the next Opening the Doors post.

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