What self-care looks like during stressful times (like lockdown)

self-care during lockdown

I’ve noticed during lockdown you can go through stages of eagerly wanting to learn new recipes, take up new at-home hobbies and going for walks every single day followed by stages of over-sleeping, rolling out of bed just before work and getting lost in a spiral of over-thinking and mindless scrolling through social media.

These are the ups and downs of lockdown.

Living in Melbourne, like many others, I have experienced these ups and downs numerous times over the last year and a half. I wanted to know more about why this happens and how to look after yourself during these uncertain times when motivation levels are quite often at a zero. One thing I’ve noticed is while it’s more important now than ever to look after yourself, what self-care looks like can differ during stressful times.

With some research, I found a few tips that help to look after yourself during tough times, like a lockdown.

  1. Create routines to help alleviate stress and anxiety

When times are uncertain and unpredictable it can feel frustrating not being able to control what is going on around you. Routines help relieve that stress and anxiety about the unknown because you gain a sense of certainty and control through a routine you create. It also gives structure and purpose to your day when you know you have things to get up for and do.

Simple routines can be achieved through the little day-to-day tasks like setting an alarm to wake up a certain time, completing chores, work tasks and cooking. You can also set time to do things for yourself like doing yoga, having some alone time, or watching a movie.

2. Set small, achievable goals that are realistic for you right now

walking

When you’re feeling stressed and defeated, getting out a bed to even start the day can be a task. Finding motivation is much harder to do when your body is under stress. Then the lack of motivation can cause more stress if you’re feeling down on yourself for not achieving what you had set out to do. And, then you’re in this viscous cycle of stress.

One way to overcome that is to cut yourself some slack, lower your expectations during tough times and set more achievable goals that are realistic to your circumstances at the time. Set small attainable goals and focus on one at a time. Maybe leaving the house for a walk is your only goal on a tough day and that will be an accomplishment.

3. Develop good sleep habits

Feeling tired and experiencing poor sleep during lockdown seems to be quite common and it can be triggered by the extra stress and emotional exhaustion of this pandemic. There is actually a term for this, and it’s called ‘lockdown fatigue’.

One reason we feel so tired is because we are spending more time indoors and this can disrupt our circadian rhythm (it’s like our body clock that regulates when we sleep and wake up). This sleep-wake cycle is heavily regulated by light and relies on more light during waking hours and less during sleeping hours. The amount of light detected by your body & brain triggers the release of the sleep hormone melatonin. When less light is detected, melatonin is released to make us drowsy and prepare us for sleep.

This is the science behind why devices and bright lights are not recommended an hour before bed – they are delaying your release of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. This also explains why getting outdoors each day and exposing yourself to more light during the day, even when indoors, can help to better regulate your sleep.

4. Keep moving  

online yoga

We all know exercise helps to keep you physically fit and healthy. It is also important for your mental health. Some research suggests feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin are released when we exercise. Others show that exercise helps deal with stress because putting the body under temporary physical stress helps teach the body and brain how to manage the stress response in other situations.

Movement like yoga is also great for your mental health because it teaches you how to use your breath to self-regulate so you can use this tool during times of stress and anxiety. With deep breathing you can learn to use your breath to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest one, as opposed to the sympathetic nervous system that activates the fight-flight stress response response).

With access to online exercise and yoga classes (like mine) you can ensure you are still keeping your body and brain healthy during these stressful and more sedentary times like a lockdown.