The ABCs of Taking Care of Ourselves (and One Another) in a Pandemic

I’ll get right to the point.  There has never been a more important time for you to be taking care of yourself.  And looking after one another.

If you are a first responder or essential worker, the intensity of caring for Covid-19 infected patients or serving the public while worrying about becoming infected yourself imagesor passing it along to those you love has been stressful beyond belief.  If you have loved ones who have pre-existing vulnerabilities, wherever they are you’re worried about them. If you find yourself suddenly working from home or another remote location, you may be struggling to feel effective, let alone connected to those you serve and to your colleagues.  If you are a parent with young children at home, it undoubtedly feels like it’s all you all the time. Not to mention anyone worried about their economic future or the solvency of their organization.

In one conversation after another I have heard about the isolating impacts of these stresses on you and those around you.

Some of you have described things you are doing to support yourself during this time – strategies for your self-care and well-being.  Well done!  Stay with it!

If however you find that you’re wavering in your discipline around self-care, or aren’t quite sure where to begin, I encourage you to try on these ABCs for taking care of yourself and one another. They offer simple strategies for stepping through the sense of isolation that can set in when we are stretched and stressed:

Acknowledge what’s going on for you. Notice how you’re feeling and speak it aloud to yourself and ideally to trusted colleagues and loved ones. When you’re feeling badly, get comfortable saying what’s true: “Wow, I’m feeling really anxious.” or “I’m grumpy!” or “My spirits are really low right now.”  One nurse shared her practice of free writing when she’s feeling tied up inside.  She’s learned to grab a corner and freewrite about what she’s experiencing in her journal or on a scrap of paper.  It helps to untie the knot inside. Acknowledging what’s going on is about overcoming the isolation that stress can bring by coming home to ourselves and to another. Notice how you’re feeling and then speak it aloud.

Believe that this isn’t going to last forever and that even in the midst of it you can religiously do one or two things that support your well-being.  You know what these things are:  exercising, getting outdoors, prayer or meditation, working in your yard or garden, time with a friend or loved one, noticing your blessings and expressing your gratitudes. Whatever those one or two things are for you, go on record with yourself about the importance of regularly doing them.  Better still, go on record with someone who cares about you.

Connect with others. While the weight of the first two was on self-care that has payoff for others around you, the focus of this one is  around caring for others (which of course has payoff for you too).  Reach out to your colleagues or loved ones and check in with them, especially if you are worried about how they are doing. Approach them or pick up the phone or text them. Tell them, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about you. How are you holding up?” And then listen to what they tell you. You don’t have to fix anything. Simply ask and be present. If you see someone looking isolated, reach out and connect with them. And here’s a really interesting thing. This turns out to be one of the best strategies I know for overcoming our own isolation as well.  If you are feeling isolated, reach out to someone else and check in with them about how they are doing. All of a sudden they’re more connected and so are you.

Acknowledge, Believe and Connect. These simple things can make a big difference, and they’ve never been more important.

Among these ABCs for self-care, which feels most important to you these days? What might it look for you to do it? Will you?

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