Over the past month, many of us have found our regular routines disrupted. Whether working remotely (or losing a job), missing out on gym visits, or being cut off from friends and church community, these changes have big implications when it comes to our physical and mental health.
I don’t know about you, but I’m still struggling to find my new rhythm and fill the void of what’s missing. I wish I could say I’ve taken up a new hobby, started exercising more, learned to cook gourmet meals, read through the Bible and cleaned out my closet. But the truth is, I’ve felt disoriented, discouraged and demotivated, and my go-tos have been entertainment (there is an incredible number of options!), social media and Oreos.
Getting right side up
Experts warn that millennials are at high risk for mental health issues during this season of social distancing and self-isolation. (In fact, if you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, Focus on the Family offers help here.) Many of us are worried about our parents’ health, our own health, employment issues and financial security. On top of that, we’re more socially cut off than ever before.
These factors can create a downward spiral of loneliness, confusion and anxiety. But Rob Jackson, a licensed counselor with Focus on the Family, says self-care can help. “When motivated by the Holy Spirit, self-care is an act of stewardship,” he says. “With His help, we care for ourselves in ways that protect and promote our unity with God.”
Here are six acts of self-care to practice during quarantine.
1. Read the Bible.
God’s truth renews our minds and gives us a biblical view of the events taking place in the world around us. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Quarantine is an excellent opportunity to establish a habit of reading God’s Word daily. (Check out “How to Grow in God’s Word Today” for some great basics to getting started.)
Getting your blood pumping releases “feel good” chemicals in the brain (endorphins) that have been shown to curb mild depression. Right now you can find tons of great exercise classes and workout plans online. But if starting something new is stressing you out, start super-simple. Take a 15-minute walk or use a stationary bike or lift light weights while you watch a 30-minute show. Even stretching can relieve pain and make you feel more relaxed.
3. Drink water.
I love drinking coffee, and when I’m under stress (and stuck at home) my consumption goes up. But drinking water (ideally 64 oz. per day) offers many health benefits including greater delivery of oxygen to cells, the flushing out of waste, and greater immune system function.
4. Eat well.
While my Oreos may be a comfort food right now, a steady diet of them won’t improve my mental health (or my figure!). Now is a great time to focus on eating a simple, clean diet — high-nutrition foods such as veggies, fruit, healthy proteins and whole grains that fuel your body and brain. Even if you follow the “80/20 rule” — eating healthy 80 percent of the time and enjoying indulgences 20 percent of the time — your emotions are likely to benefit.
With all the exciting entertainment options — free movies, TV series and even musicals streaming online — I can find myself bingeing till a rather late bedtime. Then I wake up feeling exhausted and not emotionally equipped to face another day of my new reality.
Experts suggest protecting your sleep by stopping screen time a few hours before bed and trying to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Picking a consistent time to both go to sleep and get up in the morning also helps.
6. Prioritize relationships.
During the last month, I’ve participated in a record number of FaceTime calls and Google hangouts with family members, friends and even my Bible study. While social media can be alluring for a quick fix of people contact, it’s not truly relational. Try to connect with a real person once a day through a phone call or video conference.
One single woman I know has been using video conferencing to set up “dinner dates” with her friends. Another works puzzles with a former housemate over FaceTime (they each have their own, obviously). I meet with my small group and Bible study once a week through video conferencing. And I reach out to family members often. These interactions, while not as awesome as in-person get-togethers, do help to quell loneliness and create socially-distanced community.
Self-care as stewardship
Incorporating these six habits will help you be happier and healthier in this season of upheaval. Give yourself grace, too. I don’t think many of us would say these weeks haven’t been difficult. But now is the time to make self-care a priority. “Spiritual practice, exercise, nutrition and rest all support you being your best self,” Jackson says. “By addressing the spirit, mind, and body, you care for the whole person.”
Focusing on physical and mental health allows you to stand against spiritual attack and be ready for whatever the future holds. One day, when COVID-19 and all the havoc it wreaked is in the rearview, God will have new opportunities and relationships for you to step into. Prioritize your health now so you will be ready to embrace them.
Copyright 2020 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.