2020 was a very challenging year in ways we could have never imagined. It knocked us off balance, tested our resolve and disrupted the rhythm of our day to day lives. Normally, a new year is a time for new beginnings and maybe a few resolutions, which are really just promises you make to yourself. While this year may look and feel a little different, making a promise or commitment to self-care in 2021 is one worth making.
What does self-care look like to you? An online article from PsychCentral defined self-care as, “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.” It seems simple enough – taking some time each day to care for yourself - but when you’re living under the dark cloud of a global pandemic, it may not be as easy as it sounds.
Without a doubt, the pandemic has impacted our daily routines including work, recreation and even our social lives. Perhaps you used to go to the gym after work or out for coffee with a friend on the weekend to care for your physical or mental health. If you’re retired, maybe you volunteered or spent time at the local senior centre to stay connected. When everything closed down, many of us felt cut off from the outside world and from all the ways we used to practice self-care. And perhaps most of all, we’ve missed being with each other.
Finding new and different ways to replenish your own internal well is more important now than ever before. A good self-care routine can help you cope with stress and anxiety as we navigate through these unprecedented times. And remember, self-care looks different for everyone – it can take the form of anything you need it to be! What soothes your soul might not work for someone else, but there is one common theme for everyone – taking care of yourself feels really good.
If you’re wondering how to incorporate self-care into your own routine, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) has a great Self-care and Resilience Booklet for COVID-19 that includes some helpful tips and a planning guide. Some of my personal self-care must haves both new and old - turning off the TV and turning on some music, getting enough sleep, trying new recipes, making gratitude lists, nature walks, silly dancing with my kids, a nice cup of tea, and a few cuddles a day with my dog! That’s what works for me and the guide can help you find what works for you. The self-care guide also includes a list of mental health resources by province.
If you’re caring for an older adult right now, carving out time for self-care can be even more difficult. Between worrying for a parent or grandparent’s safety and trying to balance work and family commitments, caregivers experience high levels of stress and feelings of isolation. Louise Bradley, the president of the Mental Health Commission, explains, “Caregivers are prone to putting their own mental wellness last. But no one can pour from an empty cup…caring for a loved one is noble, valuable work, but giving yourself the gift of self-care is priceless.”
Vicki Russenholt is quite familiar with the rewards and challenges of being a family caregiver to an older adult. She is the education facilitator at Victoria Lifeline and a caregiver for her mother-in-law. These past ten months have been very hard as many senior living facilities have been in and out of lockdown, but families like Vicki’s still need to provide care and emotional support to their loved one. “So many things are out of our control,” Vicki said, “I need to let go the control I normally have; the staff who are caring for her are doing their best. What I can do is call her every night to tell her how much we love her and to have sweet dreams.”
So, what does self-care look like for Vicki - how does she fill that empty cup? “One thing I do every day for my mental health is go for a walk, the fresh air and exercise are so beneficial in more ways than one. During this time, I reflect on the things I am grateful for that day. These are very stressful times, but I can always find something that is positive,” she said.
Vicki is also thankful for the peace of mind that Victoria Lifeline provides to both her and her mother-in-law. Knowing that they can’t be with her 24 hours a day, both Vicki and the rest of the family are so grateful that her mother-in-law has access to help around the clock at the push of a button. It helps everyone sleep a little easier at night knowing she is never alone with Victoria Lifeline. If you’d like to know more about how Lifeline can help your loved feel safe and connected, please Contact Us.
This article is meant to be informational in nature and should not replace the advice of a trained healthcare professional.
Krystal Stokes is the Communications Manager with Victoria Lifeline, a community service of the Victoria General Hospital Foundation.