We have all heard that self-care is important – but what does that really mean?  Especially during the time of COVID-19, what does self-care even look like? More quiet time? More cups of afternoon tea? More FaceTime with friends and family? Perhaps self-care during COVID-19 is less of something: less self-criticism, less perfectionism, less caffeine. Regardless, we are wise to take care of ourselves during this exceedingly difficult time of change, loss and uncertainty.

It can be helpful to start with reality:  COVID is here. We feel stressed and scared.  We have suffered losses of those close to us. We have lost the sense of predictability and control.  Our lives look and feel very different.  It is important to acknowledge these realities and to be patient with ourselves as we move forward. Yes, we can move forward, even when we don’t know what to expect.

Treating ourselves with kindness, in our thoughts and actions, is a form of self-care.  Are we feeling angry because of the losses we have suffered, the sudden disruption of our lives? Are we grieving? Are we feeling lonely?  We can care for ourselves by remembering we are not alone in this. Honestly, everyone around us is experiencing some type of loss right now.  Can we say to ourselves, “I get it.  I understand your feelings and they are okay”? I suggest this is the first step of self-care during COVID:  allowing our feelings to be what they are.

Related to this, regarding yourself as you would a dear friend is a way of treating yourself with kindness.  If your friend is suffering, what would you say to help them through?  Rather than beating ourselves up with harsh internal dialogue as we go through a hard time, we can be kind and gentle, showing ourselves compassion and friendship. Sometimes affirmations are helpful.  Something like, “I may be suffering, but I will get through this.”

Of course, there are also concrete steps we can take to practice self-care during COVID:  Following the advice to wear face masks, to wash hands frequently and to keep a safe physical distance from others.  We can get enough sleep, eat a (mostly) healthy diet and get active.  We are not going for perfection here – now is not the time to be rigid with ourselves. We can join with others through video calls, phone and text.  These things can help boost our feeling of connectedness and physical well-being and are important components of self-care.

Stay tuned for more techniques as we continue to explore other forms of self-care during COVID.  A benefit of learning self-care skills now is that they will be with you for the long haul.  Learning to treat yourself with kindness during COVID will not only help you in the present moment, but it will also help others as we all move into the future.

Author: Elisabeth Hargrove, LCSW

Elisabeth Hargrove, MPH, LCSW, is a clinical social worker with over 20 years of experience with a diverse client population in the Triangle area.  Elisabeth’s passion is helping clients find their inner strength and resiliency.  Her approach is warm, collaborative and non-judgmental. She uses short-term solution focused therapy, motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral techniques to address a range of concerns including anxiety, depression and anger management. Elisabeth has experience working with young children, teens and adults around family issues, behavioral concerns and trauma. She speaks Spanish and has many years of experience working with and advocating for the local Latino community.

Elisabeth believes that life is worth living and that each of us has inherent worth and dignity.  She finds it a privilege to help clients uncover their own strength and optimism about life.  Life is hard.  It can help to have a safe place to bring feelings of stress however they manifest: anxiety, depression, disordered eating, insomnia or chronic health conditions.  Elisabeth has experience in Behavioral Health Integration and is keenly aware of the relationship between mental and physical health.

Elisabeth has lived in the Triangle for 30 years, having graduated with a B.A. in English from Davidson College and an M.P.H. and an M.S.W. from UNC Chapel Hill.  She loves to spend time with her family and friends, being outside in nature, listening to music and practicing meditation.

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