As we all grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic I think it’s important to address self-care when we are ill or in recovery. In years past it was always a rush to get back to a typical schedule, pushing ourselves and our bodies back into full activity and agendas. Now that we are all being forced to slow down, to choose to care for ourselves physically may be the key to our continued health or recovery should we become ill. The goal however it not to get back to regular activity but to determine how we wish to engage going forward. How will we tend to ourselves and help our minds and bodies to heal?
Food – One of my favorite pastimes is sharing a good meal with people I love. Friends, family and good food belong together in my mind. I also love how food bridges the gaps between cultures and gives us all something we can share. Flavors, recipes, and cooking techniques are wonderful common ground we all share no matter our background. It is also necessary for health. As you ease back into you regular routine and start adding your preferred foods back into your diet, choose foods that sustain and nourish your body.
Body – Learn to honor your body’s needs. I am no longer one to push myself to accomplish the next goal or rush from one thing to another. There is no prize for pushing my body past its comfortable limits. I am realizing that for me to be my best self and operate at the level I wish to operate, I need to be well rested and comfortable. This includes making time to exercise and stretch – it feels good to get my body moving but also to let it rest when it is ready. I am being active without overextending myself beyond my body’s boundaries. Taking care of my physical self includes nurturing and noticing when my body is tired and needs more time to heal.
Sleep – Getting enough rest is always important – doctors recommend eight hours a night for most people. To learn more about the scientific impact of sleep less on your health check out this Ted Talk, Sleep is Your Super Power by Matt Walker. The most striking takeaway that stays with me, “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.”
Mental – Recovery from COVID, injury, or any illness requires mental investment. It is important to mentally prepare ourselves and create an environment for health and wellbeing. If we are hopeless, superstitious, or preemptively defeated we cannot face our challenges with the determination and grit they require. Mental endurance, recovery, and resolve are much like physical strength – we must train our muscles. This means visualizing ourselves well, remembering those that we are living and fighting for, and having hope that despite the challenges we face – illness like wellness is temporary. We are not going to be sick forever, though sometimes it does feel like it. We are going to get well and to do that we need to remember our mental health is part of our practice for healing.
When we are worn down we are all more susceptible to illness and fatigue. The best way to combat illness and take care of ourselves is to practice everyday wellness so that if we should be confronted with an injury or ailment we are ready to face the challenge with grace, optimism, and strength.
Preventative self-care may seem simple but as we’ve all been masked, socially distanced, and isolated for three years we can get tired of the routine and let our guard down. If you’re feeling worn out by the obligations of COVID and the proactive steps we’re all taking, just remember that you’ve made it this far and I’m proud of you. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taking care of ourselves is our most important work, you’re important to the world, we need you well – keep up the great work!