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The Importance of Self-Care During a Pandemic

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Self-care involves taking deliberate actions towards caring for your own health and wellbeing. It is an evidence-based stress management technique that can improve your energy, mood, and overall ability to cope with stress. As we navigate this pandemic period when stress and fear are running at an all-time high, self-care is more important than ever.

Self-Care isn’t Selfish

The term ‘self-care’ can carry some stigma, as it is often promoted as only for those with extra time to engage in activities that they otherwise wouldn’t, with a ‘treat yourself’ attitude. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a bubble bath or eating chocolate, and these can indeed be much-needed forms of relaxation and enjoyment. However, self-care is also about meeting our core needs for emotional and physical wellbeing with good sleep, regular physical movement, staying connected with others, and other acts of deliberate care-for-self.

Taking care of yourself is not a selfish act. In fact, without looking after ourselves, eventually it becomes very difficult to help others. Your wellbeing matters.

Each day in this long and winding pandemic can be a different experience, and it is normal to feel your energy levels, motivation, creativity, stress, and other aspects fluctuate during this challenging time. Try to bring an approach of self-compassion, and acknowledge that it is okay to notice these changes. It can help to consider a plan of how to care for yourself during the pandemic and set up some healthy habits for the long run too.

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Self-Care: Pandemic Planner

Listed below are several self-care domains, and how these needs can be met whilst you are living through a pandemic, whether that means you are physically distancing from others, in lockdown, self-isolating or simply looking to add some self-care practices to your routine.

Physical needsPrioritising rest and sleep (keeping regular sleep and wake times, despite changes to your routine), eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, moving your body, and creating a comfortable environment within your home.
Relax and regulateStress activates our nervous system, which can increase anxiety. Practice activities that help you relax. Mindfulness, slow breathing, listening to music, meditation, baths and showers, can all help. Healthy distraction activities such as watching TV, listening to audio books or music can also help us to relax.
Creative needsConsider creative outlets you enjoy e.g., cooking, painting, drawing, collaging, playing or listening to music, working on a new project or planning activities you will do after the pandemic ends.
Environmental needsIf you are spending more time at home, make simple changes to your space through light, furniture layout and artworks to bring novelty and visual interest to the environment. Spend time each day in the fresh air and sunlight and enjoy some time looking at/listening to nature, even if this is sitting by your window.
Structure and RoutineTry to create a routine that works for you (but don’t be too hard on yourself if this changes). Consider including some social connection, a little physical movement, and time to unwind/relax in each day.
Social ConnectionTry to stay connected through regular contact with friends, family, and colleagues where helpful. Choose a platform that suits you, perhaps a variety of video calls, brief check-in texts, and phone calls). Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional support, it is never too early to do so. 
Connecting to meaningStay connected to the activities that are goal-directed and meaningful to you, whether this is work, study, learning (e.g., reading about a topic of interest), or otherwise.
Taking time outTake breaks and keep healthy boundaries around topics/tasks that are more likely to cause you stress. E.g., place some daily limits on time spent reading the news, using social media, and keep healthy work boundaries if you are working from home.

We encourage you to consider your own strategies that you’ve used to look after yourself during other tough times, and how these could serve you now.

Please note: sometimes life can become overwhelming, even if you’ve been practising a self-care routine. If this is the case, it is important to reach out for professional help. If you are highly distressed, and feeling unsafe, please contact Emergency services on 000 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If you are in self-isolation right now you may find our Guide to Self-Care through Self-Isolation helpful. 

For more mental health support, take a look at our evidence-based Mental Health and Wellbeing courses 

Interested in learning more?

Free Online Tools for Coping with COVID-19

Access a suite of practical workbooks, an audioguide, and other useful materials to help you manage coronavirus stress and anxiety.

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