This is a critical time for each of us to prioritize our mental health. 2020 has been a stress-filled year, and elections tend to bring additional uncertainty and anxiety. Taking even a few minutes to take care of yourself can be restorative, giving you the boost you need to continue to provide loving support to the young children in your care.
Here are some self-care approaches that can restore balance when stress threatens to become overwhelming:
1. Lean on friends, family, and support systems. Although it is difficult to connect with loved ones right now because of social distancing guidelines, a quick phone call or video call can help you to feel connected and supported. You can lean on your friends and family to talk about how you are doing, and exchange ideas for coping and managing stress.
2. Put on happy music. While it might seem silly, playing a happy song can really help to improve your mood. Turn on a happy song while you make dinner, while you take a shower, or even while you’re doing chores around the house. If you’re really looking to boost your mood, go ahead and dance or sing along!
An article from Very Well Mind shares tips and ideas for using music to relieve stress, noting “one of the great benefits of music as a stress reliever is that it can be used while you conduct your regular activities so it really doesn’t take time away from your busy schedule. Music provides a wonderful backdrop for your life and you can find increased enjoyment from what you’re doing while reducing stress from your day.”
3. Get Enough Sleep. Stress can really affect our sleep cycles, making it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Yet, sleep is especially important to our wellbeing during times of stress. Without enough sleep, our brains do not function as well as they do when they’re rested, making it even more difficult to get through the day. To help, sleep.org recommends avoiding screen time before bed, taking a hot shower or bath to help you relax, and drinking a soothing tea like chamomile.
4. Acknowledge Your Feelings. This year, everyone has struggled with unprecedented stress and challenges. From worries about finances and careers to our families and friends, everyone’s mental health has been put to the test. During these times, acknowledging your feelings, without judgement, is critically important. Your experiences are real and your emotions are valid. Allow yourself some time to process how you’re doing and to think about what has been particularly challenging. You can do this on your own or with a trusted friend. A few tips are included below:
5. Make a Gratitude List. In times of stress, it can feel as though everything is falling apart. This is when it is critically important to recenter yourself and remember the things that you still have and are appreciative of. These things do not have to be big, they can be small and simple. An article from the Shine App notes that “practicing gratitude helps rewire the brain and body to think and feel more positively. It is scientifically proven that gratitude reduces stress, anxiety, depression, pain, and builds an overall rapport of satisfaction with one’s life.”
And don’t forget to add self-gratitude to your list! It is easy to feel hard on ourselves during difficult times (I’m not being productive enough. I’m too emotional right now. I need to relax…etc.). But, these are the moments when it is especially necessary to be gentle with yourself, and remember that you are doing the best you can. A few examples of both kinds of gratitude are listed below.
I am grateful for…free time that I had yesterday to walk my dog, the beautiful weather today, the cup of coffee that my friend brought me this morning, my partner washing the dishes after dinner, the hike I enjoyed over the weekend…
I am proud of myself for…making it to work on time, cooking a healthy dinner for myself, going for a jog, crossing a few tasks off of my to-do list…