Self-Care for Stressful Times

The events of 2020 have brought on new levels of stress and anxiety for many of us. Here are some tips to help you take care of your mental and physical wellbeing.

The events of 2020 have brought on new levels of stress and anxiety for many of us. Our routines have been upended, we can't spend time with family and friends in the ways we would like, and many of us are still working from home. As we continue to deal the effects of a major health crisis and a sharp economic downturn, as well as widespread efforts to work toward racial justice, it is extremely important to take care of our mental and physical wellbeing.image of Scrabble titles spelling out

When some people think of self-care, they picture face masks and long bubble baths. Those are great ways to relax, but true self-care needs go further, experts say. As this uncertain and anxious time stretches on, here are some tips to help you keep up your mental and physical health.


Get Enough Sleep

Our bodies need sufficient sleep in order to function well, studies show. Getting enough sleep has many health benefits. It keeps your immune system running strong, helps your heart and cardiovascular system, and is essential for various brain functions, including cognition and memory. To help get a better sleep, experts suggest that you maintain a consistent bedtime, stop looking at screens at least half an hour before bed, limit caffeine in the afternoon, and avoid big meals at night. Regular exercise can also help you improve your sleep.


Create Work-Home Boundaries

Many Americans have been working from home since March, and a number of employees will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. When your home doubles as your office, it is important to create boundaries. Skillcrush, an online company, advises anyone working remotely to create (and use) a dedicated space in your home where you work, set clear work hours and stick to them, and take your days off seriously. It's important to have at least one day a week where you are completely disconnected and unplugged from work.


Stay Physically Active

Keeping physically active is extremely important in these times, experts say. The American Heart Association advises adults to get at least 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity (running, hiking, swimming laps) combined with 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week (gardening, water aerobics, low impact bike riding, doubles tennis). But if that level is not possible, do what is comfortable and possible for you. Even a short, 10-minute walk is good for your body and can help lift your mood. If you are new to exercise, start with small amounts and gradually increase the duration and frequency over time.


Engage in Activities You Enjoy

Do you like to paint? Have you been wanting to start an indoor garden? There is no time like the present, so keep your spirits up by participating in hobbies and activities that bring you pleasure. With social distancing measures still in place and limits on public gatherings, this is a good time to learn a new skill or get better at doing something that makes you happy.


Maintain Connections and Support

Make a habit of connecting regularly with family and friends during this time, advises the World Health Organization. With social distancing measures still in place throughout the country, it's important to stay in touch with people you care about through phone calls, texting, video chats, and social media. With so many people in need of support right now, it's also good to check in on neighbors and community members and spend some time volunteering to help others if you can.


Monitor News Consumption

Doomscrolling, the act of continually scrolling through one's apps and social media to seek out bad news, has become an activity many people are engaging in regularly. Experts say it's very important to be mindful of when and how you are consuming news. It's best to limit it at night, especially right before you go to sleep, and first thing in the morning. Ann Murphy, a public health professional at Rutgers University, suggests that people limit their daily news crawls to a few sources, check information at a specific time of day, and only look at news once or twice a day.


Take Care of Your Emotions

Treat yourself with compassion. These are unprecedented times and now more than ever, no one knows what the future will bring. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), everyone reacts differently during a crisis, and it's important to notice and accept how you feel. Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Talk about your feelings with someone you trust, and use calming self-talk ("I can do this" and "One day at a time.")


Reach Out for Help

If you often feel tense, depressed, angry, or are having regular panic attacks, you should seek help from a support group or mental health professional. Organizations such as Alcohol Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are holding support groups remotely to help people in recovery from substance or alcohol abuse. Many mental health counselors are providing virtual services. You can call the national hotline for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) at 1-800-662-HELP. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor at the Crisis Text Line. NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has regional support groups and a helpline. For more information, go to

Melanie Kletter is an educator and freelance writer and editor.  

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