By Michelle O’Rourke
Living and working through the pandemic has affected us deeply, and often we can’t quite put our finger on why we are not feeling like we used to. For the most part, this ‘heaviness’ we feel at times is an accumulation of stressors and challenges, with a myriad of causes, including:
- Grief and loss – the loss of life as we knew it, and the losses of those we loved and cared for
- Worry/anxiety – with many unknowns including if/when we will return to ‘normal’
- Frustration/anger – loss of control over how we move, work and live our lives
- Continuous change – new rules, lockdowns, decisions – made by others
- Physical, emotional and mental exhaustion – with no downtime to recover and no reserve
- Challenges of providing care during the pandemic – using PPE; fewer resources and the effects of visitor restrictions to name a few
Increasing our capacity for resilience can help us to cope as well as ‘bounce back’ from life’s challenges, supporting our health and wellbeing. Resilience can be strengthened with attention to self-care, an increased self-awareness, and decreasing some of our chronic stressors.
I often hear people say that “I don’t have time to take care of myself, because I am too busy taking care of everyone else”. If that is the case, it won’t be long before fatigue and burnout become an issue for you. Self-care is not something we add on to our already full ‘to-do’ list. It is an intentional way of living, where our values, attitudes and actions are integrated into our daily routines. What is it that nourishes and refreshes you? You are the only one who knows that – and you must be convinced that taking care of yourself is worthwhile and essential, because only you can do it for yourself! Paying attention to your whole self – body, mind and spirit – is part of this. It doesn’t take ‘extra’ work, just an attention to how you are treating yourself, and doing what you need to stay healthy without feeling guilty. Some ideas include:
Body – am I eating healthy, going for a walk now and then, taking breaks and getting enough rest?
Mind – looking at what is on my plate – since I probably always add more to it without taking anything off! Don’t be afraid to prioritize, delegate and simplify responsibilities. Find some quiet time everyday, and learn the words ‘no’ and ‘enough’. Engage in hobbies and activities you enjoy.
Spirit – enjoy nature and the arts; identify what refreshes you and build it in to your schedule; spend time with loved ones; find inspirational things to reflect on; practice gratitude; tend to your own spiritual needs and cultivate an inner life. Basically, find out what feeds your heart and your soul and seek that out!
Increasing self-awareness involves reflecting on the day; checking in with how you are doing inside and out, and exercising self-compassion. We are often hard on ourselves, and it is important to keep our expectations realistic for the time we are living in. Mindfulness is also key – trying to take a deep breath now and then to focus on the moment – not obsessing with how things used to be or what the future holds. One day, one decision at a time.
There is only one you! You are no good to yourself, your loved ones or your clients if you crash and burn. Make the commitment today, to take care of yourselves as you take care of others!