6 Steps to a Self-Care Routine That’s Easy and Fun

Two weeks into the pandemic lock down, I could feel myself slipping.

The stress of so many big changes happening at once was overwhelming!

I needed to figure out immediately how I could continue to work with the many women in my practice who needed my support through their breast cancer treatment….

Our house had sold, but one day prior to closing escrow, the loan agency decided they could no longer fund the loan to the buyer because COVID had changed their requirements….

I had to put my house back on the market, now with the myriad of stringent requirements put in place by the real estate agency….

My daughter was living in Tijuana, Mexico, volunteering in a medical clinic for refugees. We were concerned about her exposure to the virus, and where would she quarantine for 2 weeks when she returned?

With so much on my plate, a couple of other things landed on my plate as well: sugar and gluten. Almost unconsciously, I started eating the two items I exclude from my diet religiously. Stressed out, unable to stick to my normal self-care routines, I was slipping into old, bad habits.

Two days later, I could feel  the results — muscle aches, joint pain in my fingers, headaches, irritability, and lots of GI discomfort!

We're struggling.

I’ve spoken to many of you throughout the last several months, and while everyone’s circumstances are not the same, I’ve noticed that everyone is struggling — physically and emotionally.

Of course we are; the mind and the body are intricately connected. We’re using comfort foods to make ourselves feel better. But, as I realized in the middle of the night, comfort foods don’t really provide comfort, they actually make you feel worse!

I needed to return to my usual self-care routine. So I did. And you can too.

6 steps to a self-care routine that’s easy and fun!

With so many adults and children at home due to the pandemic, it’s more important than ever for you and your household to function as smoothly as possible.

1. Re-establish your inner connection to the importance of your health

In order for a behavior to “stick,” we have to believe, truly and deeply, that this behavior will have real benefits. And as it takes time for those benefits to show when we start, it can take time for the detriments to show when we stop. At first, so many of us let things slide because we thought the pandemic was a short-term problem, or we treated it like a “special occasion” (a bad one, but still “special”) and gave ourselves “permission” to relax our healthy habits, just for now. 

But the pandemic has gone on for months, and it’s become apparent that things may be different for a while to come; it’s time to get back to taking care of yourself. 

Take some deep, cleansing breaths and remind yourself why you adopted those self-care habits initially and how much better you feel now than you did then. 

Don’t despair, you can do this! Reconnect with your body, recommit to your health, take a deep breath, and start now.

2. Set a schedule where your health comes first

With everyone home, it’s very easy to be pulled away from your center to attend to their needs first — breakfast, lunch, cleaning the kitchen, putting in a load of laundry — before you know it, the afternoon has passed by, and you haven't even taken one of your vitamins! 

Get everyone on a schedule, let everyone share in the chores that need to be done so you all have time to focus on yourselves. And as you and your family create that schedule, ink in (NOT pencil) time for you: time to walk, to meditate, to do yoga, whatever it is that calms your mind and gives you joy and vigor. Even a few minutes can make a huge difference in how you feel.

3. Prioritize your sleep

Staying up late, and binge-watching TV can be a distraction as well as a sign of depression. It leaves you feeling empty and upset with yourself that you’ll now be sleep-deprived the next morning! 

I’ve found the only way to break the cycle is to do something creative that will nourish you, such as reading a book, writing in your journal, drawing or other art, knitting…something peaceful and calming. 

Practice good sleep hygiene: Make sure your bedroom is free of clutter, open the windows during the day to bring clean and clear energy into the room. Stick to your bedtime and wake-up routines, even if you aren’t commuting right now. Eat well, exercise early, banish all screens from the bedroom, and keep the bedroom a little cool for good, nourishing sleep.

4. Remove all “offending foods” from your home

Everything from your pantry that is in a box needs to go: cereals, pastas, crackers, cookies, breadcrumbs, etc.…  Anything that contains gluten, sugar, additives, saturated fats, and pesticides.

Pre-prepared foods provide empty calories, lack the nutrients you need to repair and heal your cells, and create more work for your body to detox. 

A healing pantry consists mostly of organic dried herbs and spices, canned (in BPA-free cans) items such as coconut milk, beans, organic prepared soups, tomato products. 

Your healing pantry also has nuts or nut butters, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, vinegars such as balsamic, champagne and apple cider. This section will be small, but that’s all right: the majority of your healing diet comes from live, fresh food and vegetables.

5. Do a deep clean on your home

Your environment is an extension of your body! What you breathe, touch, taste, and consume all greatly influence your body’s metabolism and health. 

Spending most of your time at home presents a unique opportunity to turn your home into a truly healthy space and live in a toxin-free environment.

Products that you use for cleaning and “freshening” your home — dishwashing soap, laundry detergent, plug-in air fresheners, fabric sprays, etc., enter your body through your skin. 

Products that are applied to your body such as soap, deodorants, hair products, toothpaste, and make up can directly impact your estrogen metabolism and overall health.

Products used in your kitchen such as plastic containers and “easy-cook” non-stick skillets actually contain PFCs, or “Perfluorinated Chemicals.” Consisting of PFOAs (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOSs (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), this non-stick cookware contains chemicals which release an odorless gas. Upon absorption, this gas lingers in your body, wreaking havoc on the endocrine and immune systems.   

Ideally, it is best to gather all the products you use for cleaning, personal care products, and nonstick pots and pans which are not organic, and throw them out. If you can, replace them all with eco-products. 

If it’s not possible to replace everything at once, as the products you use age or empty, replace them with eco-products.

6. Connect with people who support your health and highest ambitions in life

“Cleansing your address book” can feel a little unkind. Friends are always good, right? The more the merrier?

No, not really. Unfortunately, like everything else in life, our relationships can nurture us or burden us, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell if someone is good for you, or really not.

Here’s a good test: When you’re done talking with someone, ask yourself, How do I feel? If you feel energized and positive about yourself, great! That person is a keeper — a positive influence in your life.

If you feel drained, heavy, and as if your energy has been sucked out of you, well… that person should be minimized in your life, if not removed entirely. Keep conversations with them brief and contained, and when you start feeling dragged down, it’s time to end the call. Even well-intended people can be a poor match for us at times.

These steps aren’t necessarily easy or quick fixes, I know, but the rewards are immense. 

Putting your health and wellness back in the center of your life is one of the most important things you can do right now.

COVID has disrupted our lives and presented us with many difficulties and challenges. The more you can hold on to your center, stick to your solid, healthy routines, the better you’ll handle the crisis, and the stronger and healthier you’ll emerge on the other side.

Be well!