Evidence-based self-care

26 March 2020

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This is a short list of ideas for self-care during stressful times, which is by no means exhaustive. Many of these ideas you will already know and use. Much of it is common knowledge. Some ideas work, some of the times, for some people, but we are all very different so the most important thing is to be kind to yourself, have a variety of strategies, and do what you know works for you.

There’s good evidence for the link between emotional wellbeing and:

  1. Social connection – for example, getting lots of family time where this is nourishing, using Facetime, WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype, phone-calls or at the very least listening to the radio (obvious health warning on social media and news channels right now)
  2. Sufficient sleep – ideally with a regular bedtime and waking up time
  3. Exercise – whatever works for you (and is within physical distancing requirements)
  4. Meditation especially mindful meditation – this means the kind of meditation where you are encouraged to notice thoughts wandering across your field of attention during meditation but pulling yourself back to focus on the central meditative theme. This is not the same as relaxation – see below
  5. A varied diet which maximises your healthy gut microbiota – so as many different fruit and veg as you can find

The five points above provide a good foundation of emotional wellbeing but there are other ideas too…..

  1. Citizenship – this means helping others (through neighbourliness, charitable giving, volunteering, etc.) but not at the expense of your own wellbeing
  2. Journalling – either before you go to sleep as a way to download your brain, or ideally when you first wake up when your brain is in a transition state and can access your unconscious a little more readily. First thing in the morning can also be a time when mood is lowest so the things you need to get off your chest may be more accessible.
  3. Establishing a flexible routine – especially helpful for kids

Other very good ideas include:

  1. Music – listening, playing or singing it. Now is the time to create that playlist that rocked when you were 17 or dust off that oboe (not if you live in a block of flats though). Repetitive, rhythmical activity that involves both sides of the body, like drumming, dancing and running have known positive impacts on emotional processing in the brain.
  2. Choosing who you give your time to – avoiding your more negative or draining friends for now
  3. Scheduling – making a timetable that includes all your self-care needs as equal priorities for whatever else you have to get done, or just helps you feel like your days have a structure
  4. Creative and learning projects – especially if you can include a sensory element to the creativity or learning – and smell and touch are particularly helpful here.
  5. Massage, yoga and other bodily relaxation activities including gardening

There are loads of other things people use to help keep themselves buoyant on choppy seas, but if you’re feeling a bit deflated, you might find these resources useful:

https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/mental-wellbeing/stress/breathing-and-relaxation-exercises-for-stress

‘Well, this isn’t normal’ podcast especially for our coronavirus times

https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/

https://www.verywellmind.com/different-meditation-techniques-for-relaxation-3144696

And for talking to children about Coronavirus

https://www.bps.org.uk/sites/www.bps.org.uk/files/Policy/Policy%20-%20Files/Talking%20to%20children%20about%20Coronavirus.pdf

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