Self-care is the topic of the hour as this global pandemic stretches on, causing feelings of being overwhelmed, uncertainty and worry for many of us. Whatever your circumstances, the lack of control and unseen dangers in our current situation may be causing you to wonder how you might better support yourself physically and mentally in times of stress.

I wish I was here to hand you a quick recipe for your soothing self-care cocktail, but it’s not that simple. “Self-care” is an umbrella term for the actions we take to nurture our well-being and promote satisfaction. Real, lasting self-care looks different for everyone. The bubble baths, nightly glass of wine and 5 a.m. gym sessions that help some folks stay sane are actually stress-inducing for people like me. If there’s one thing quarantine with two young children has taught me, it’s that eight hours of sleep, a short yoga practice and journaling are key for my ability to cope well.

You’ve probably heard that a self-care foundation begins with quality sleep, eating well, daily exercise and spending time in nature. Many of my friends and clients have adopted other activities into their regular self-care routines as well: talking to a trusted friend each week, practicing gratitude, meditation and learning to say “No” to extra obligations.

The biggest self-care action you can take today is to slow down, pay attention to your reactions and ask yourself what YOU need. How can you create lasting care and calm for yourself? It’s likely you’ll try some things that feel relaxing in the moment, but the second you walk back into the real world, all the stress and tension comes flooding back. That’s a sign that it’s time to try something new to help you step back onto your steady foundation again and again as you weather this storm. Revolutionary self-care provides you the support to stand strong even in the most volatile winds.

Pay attention to the activities, places and people that leave you feeling calm, collected, creative and confident. Create time in your schedule for one — or all — of those things every day if you can.

Notice which tasks, events or people cause feelings of self-judgment, doubt, fear or resentment. Go ahead and say no to, or reduce the amount of time you spend engaged, in stress-inducing situations that drain your energy.

It’s true that many of us are stuck dealing with less-than-ideal situations because the train of life is off the rails right now. There are so many things we cannot control, it has become even more important to learn about yourself and do the work of finding practices and people that support and energize you.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the barriers to self-care. I mean, if it was easy we would all be doing it, every day, right? The feeling that we don’t truly deserve ease and compassion is an even bigger roadblock than time and energy for most of us. So watch out for that inner voice of judgment that may be “shoulding” on you. Know that discovering your specific self-care needs is not selfish. When your cup is full, you’re able to give more freely, and what our communities need now more than ever are content, secure people supporting each other through tough times.

Petterson lives in Moscow with her husband and two children. She left public education to become a yoga instructor, birth doula, parent and mindful parenting educator. She can be contacted through her website www.kpettersonsleep.com.

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