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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Matthews

Self-care during Covid-19

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

Today is the first day of South Africa’s lockdown in response to flattening the Covid-19 curve. Running up to this day I have been on a bit of a rollercoaster with uncertainty and fear driving the twists and bends of my fairground ride.

Covid-19 emotional rollercoaster

A friend and colleague said they were looking forward to the lockdown as a way to embrace some form on certainty and structure in these uncertain times. I completely resonated with this and went to sleep last night with a sense of letting go a long-held breath. I slept soundly and woke up feeling lighter.

Looking back at the past few weeks I have noticed times of getting on the rollercoaster and times of consciously stepping off the ride. I have been curious as to what this is about, and it has significantly highlighted my need to purposefully update how I do selfcare during these uncertain times.

Friends and family have been checking in as to how and what their lockdowns will look like which made it very clear that each of our lockdown situations stand unique to each other’s. I have moved in with my mom, who is an at-risk person, to ensure supplies are available and risk of exposure is mitigated as much as possible. A friend lives alone and is in solo lockdown while working from home. Another friend has the kids and hubby at home along with visiting in-laws. It can be tempting to compare, but this process usually results in some form of winner and looser. The truth is that we are each having to deal with our own unique lockdown situation. During this time, it is essential to have clarity of what our own versions of the rollercoaster may be and we each have the responsibility for our self-care.

With these new lenses I am starting to see the nuances of the stories shared locally and especially by our global compatriots who are well versed in lockdown. Each of them individual within their individual country’s context within the global pandemic.

Looking at these some of the stories that have hit home for me and in hindsight what has invited me to step off the rollercoaster some tactics rise to the surface. These are what I’m holding as my 6 top tips to Cover-19 lockdown self-care:

  1. Have some structure

  2. Get enough rest and movement

  3. Limit your media intake

  4. Check your expectations

  5. Try something new

  6. Connect with those around you

Have some structure:

Most of us have had tried and tested daily, weekly and monthly structure which is being disrupted. Structure is surprisingly important to our wellbeing and is a level of personal and social boundaries that keep us safe and aligned in our life and with those around us.

Be honest with yourself, your structure has changed, and it will take time to update. Engage with it purposefully and actively create something that truly works for you and your unique lockdown context.

Get enough rest and movement:

Sleep is essential to our physical and mental wellbeing and is completely linked to structure. It is so tempting to get lost in the intoxicating world of streaming content and watching one more episode on Netflix. It is geared to hook you with being able to skip intros and miss the credits to deliver another hit of dopamine. This is just one of the temptations when structure is challenged.

In the The Happiness Lab Episode 4: Sleep Right Arianna Huffington shares her story on the vital importance of getting enough sleep.

Exercise is something we all know is important in some shape or form. In South Africa we are not allowed to leave or homes for a walk or run, whereas else where the context allows for this. There are loads of free online resources and even daily challenges to play with, I find Pinterest to be a great source of inspiration. Alternatively, there are loads of virtual classes becoming available, my sister-in-law’s Pilates class is now being offered via Zoom. My friend and strength coach Elsabe Hunter is a great example. She offers online basic fitness classes through a closed group on Facebook. You can find some form of movement that suits you and your available space easily.

Limit your media intake:

This was made very clear for me when connecting with a friend on how we were doing. I shared that it felt like with all the newsfeeds, newsletters, banners on websites and discussion, it felt like I was being forced to swallow whole a mentality or dogma around this virus. He shared that is was almost like brainwashing and highlighted how newsfeeds were sensationalising valuable facts which exacerbates the issue.

From this I am trying to be conscientious of how much Covid-19 media I expose myself to and rather curate trusted sources of information to keep myself informed.

Check your expectations:

This is something highlighted for me by the book “Solve for Happy” by Mo Gawdat. I shared this in What is Happiness? where Mo proposes his Happiness equation which is: Happiness is greater/equal to your perception/experience of an event less your expectations of how the event would have been.

What I find quite tricky are my unconscious expectations of myself and of others. I am playing with some success on noticing them earlier and reality checking them before they have an opportunity to undermine my experiences. This can be especially valuable when you are sharing your lockdown with others.

Try something new:

Finally, this was highlighted by my sister. In a previous role, her boss new that there was going to be a slower time in their business and challenged the team to read a selection of books and take part in online learning. This turned a time of uncertainty into a time of growth.

There are so many options to look at with ranges of investment (time and financial). Here is what I am concentrating on:

  • Podcasts, this is a wonderful way to find screen-free entertainment and a plethora of topics, content and genres, it’s just a short Google search away. The Happiness Lab is top of my podcast list!

  • eLearning: there are many online platforms that facilitate this. I am re-energising a photography course through Udemy. They offer many options often with discounts,

  • Reading: I carted a stack of books with me and have a few ebooks waiting. Many of us have a reading list that we haven’t gotten around to and with ebooks the whole literary world is at your fingertips. Top tip, using Kindle you can get free samples of books to better decide what to spend time and money on.

Connect with those around you:

We are social beings, even the most extreme introverts need some form of connection. I have heard many heart-warming stories from other counties that are deep into their lockdowns that this has been an opportunity to nurture connections with those near and far.

Linking with points 1 and 4, creating new ways of nurturing relationships will take time and investment from all parties. Start the conversation with your nearest and dearest on how to try this out and find your best way of connecting.

In the TED talk “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness” by Dr Waldinger captures the resounding message from the now 80+ year study as “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”. I certainly want more of this!

I hope you are able to keep yourselves safe and engage with updating your selfcare. A metaphor that comes to mind is this is a kind of oxygen masks on an aeroplane, make sure you fit yours first before trying to help those around you.

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