I have heard so many people say they felt their lives suddenly turned on a dime when sheltering at home and social distancing became a mainstay for both navigating health and wellness and containing the spread of COVID-19. The changes brought on by the current pandemic are ones that most of us have not seen or experienced in our lifetime. The fact that this virus has no boundaries leaves us feeling both vulnerable regarding our personal safety, but also joined in a collective with all people in the experience that we are truly in this together.
This has also been a time of increased stress, worry, anxiety and even death. And there is so much we do not know related to the arc, scope and the ultimate, hopeful eradication of the virus.
So, at such a time, how do we truly care for ourselves, support our well-being and resiliency and continue to live with meaning and a moral, ethical compass at the center of our actions?
I will offer some ideas and practices you can consider to support your authentic self so that your well-being and resiliency are nurtured. They can encourage your ability to be effective and adaptive, and also keep open your capacity for awe, joy, love and compassion. And hopefully you will feel more confident to access your courage and act with creativity in the face of the current stressors and fears.
I feel the best way to maintain and foster well-being and resiliency is to have practices that address your whole self- mind, body, heart and spirit. Here are some ideas for your self-care to consider as you navigate this unique time.
Angeles Arrien, cultural anthropologist, author, teacher, and international speaker suggests that finding meaning rooted in our heart’s values is essential to living fully. She suggests starting and ending each day with a set of intentional exercises. These exercises can be a wholesome way to bookend your day. Routines are very good for providing structure and grounding whenever times become challenging.
Arrien suggests starting each day by setting a daily intention; naming daily gratitude for your blessings- keeping your heart open, and taking actions that are life-affirming. These actions could be anonymous acts of lovingkindness, integrity acts, or even compassionate actions aimed at alleviating the suffering of others. (Arrien, 1993.)
Practicing daily gratitude helps orient the mind toward what is positive and rich with blessing. An open heart is one that dissolves the walls that bitterness, fear and hatred can construct and thus constrict emotional and spiritual well-being. Actions that affirm life encourage social engagement/relationship, community building, generosity, and deep satisfaction. Feelings of wholesomeness, well-being and agency are naturally fostered in the process and even safeguarded.
At the end of the day Arrien suggests asking yourself three questions: What made me happy? Where did I experience comfort, security and peace? And, what inspired me today? (Arrien, 1993.)
Key ingredients to staying connected to your values and that moral compass inside, as well as your authenticity include being in touch with what brings you delight, what soothes and creates safety for you, and of course what inspires your mind, your heart and your being. This knowledge will orient you toward becoming more conscious of the deeper calling of your life and move you closer to taking action. Being aligned with yourself will help you bring forth the best version of you.
This is an especially important time to keep your body engaged. Embodiment is paramount for encouraging vitality, staying grounded and being able to be truly present and responsive to yourself and others. Try to keep a balance of movement in your days. If you can, take walks in nature. If you have access to a yard, gardening at this time of year can be fun, grounding and a creative endeavor that generates beauty. Dance at home to your favorite music. Practice some yoga. It is a wonderful way to stretch, breath, and move with grace and ease. Keep it simple and light-hearted. You might even consider basic Qi Gong or Tai Chi movements that support the flow of energy into your internal organs, clearing the body of old, used energies that are not supportive of health and well-being while promoting structural integrity and mindful breathing. Embodiment activates the mind-body connection, increases breath/energy flow, invites more access to happiness, encourages mindful, self-attunement, and brings you into the present moment. All of these factors support resiliency and the capacity for healthy, choice-filled living.
Make room for fun in your life. Allow time and create space to play and laugh. Have you noticed all the different ways that both creativity and humor are emerging on-line? Consider turning to any of the arts to express yourself and with your loved ones. Creativity is a natural response that lightens the heart, makes meaning, and expresses the deeper yearnings of the soul. Play more games. Paint, draw, sing, sew, knit, crochet, play an instrument, compose, write, read, cook, sculpt, build things. The lists are endless. Encourage your spontaneity, problem-solving and allow your own unique expressions.
Mindfulness practices are another rich component of well-being that can be very supportive during this time. Try to take a little time each day for a mindfulness meditation. Compassion meditation practices can also help when tempers get short or when your own inner judge becomes too loud and pervasive. Meditative walks, meditative movement like authentic movement, and even mindful drawing, writing or journaling can allow for a deeper dwelling within yourself, encourage creativity and soothe the nervous system. Mindfulness practices are inherently healing and support self- love and self- care. Devotional readings, inspirational works, and poetry are sources that can nurture the inner life and calm stress when taken in with mindful presence. Mindfulness practices strengthen your capacity for empathy, slow down your reactivity, increase your emotional regulation, and are good for your brain! Over time and practiced with consistency, mindfulness helps bring about more feelings of happiness and well-being.
This is an important time to stay socially connected. While we have to cope with physical distancing, you can still stay connected to the ones you love. Take advantage of zoom groups with friends, family members and your own group affiliations- secular and spiritual. Utilize telemedicine for appointments with physicians, counselors, and dieticians so that you can meet your physical and mental health needs. Find out which support groups are available for you online and register to join. It is amazing to see how electronics are being utilized to keep society connected during this pandemic.
And lastly, remember to find ways to connect with love. Love is the nature of our being. Love is what heals. Love is why we are here and what we are here to do, in all the myriad forms and ways we can give. Love is also what we need to receive. Love nurtures generosity, grows gratitude, cultivates compassion, and ushers forth forgiveness and grace. Through the exchange of both giving and receiving love we grow, we change, we heal and we can strengthen our resiliency and our resolve. And this encourages others to do the same. Love is the dance of our lives.
The poet Rumi said, “Let the Beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” (Barks, 1997, p. 31) I offer this as a reminder that there are many possibilities for safeguarding and nurturing your well-being and resiliency when confronted with challenging times. I hope that some of the ideas I have presented will help you to support your authentic self in wholesomeness and live with harmony, vitality, resiliency and well-being.