Upping your self-care game in 2021
By Anne Chambers, LCSW, Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program director
Even though we began the new year with renewed hope for a new normal, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt our day-to-day routines. Each of us — and those we serve — are being hit in differing ways. A February 2021 brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicated that four out of 10 American adults are reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression at this time, quadruple the rate before the pandemic, and substance use in young adults has doubled. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies signs of stress related to our current circumstances as fear and worry about our health and that of loved ones, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems, worsening of mental health conditions, and increased substance use.
Despite these challenges, most of us will ultimately do all right. Stepping up your self-care game during challenging circumstances is not easy. Here are some tips to help minimize stress and strengthen your resilience:
Cultivate positive emotions by planning a few small things to look forward to each day. Examples might include calling a friend, texting a loved one, sharing a favorite food with your family, or listening to your best playlist.
Practice detachment. Write out your worries and then walk away.
Practice random acts of kindness.
Connect yourself with social support.
Thoughts whirring? Try a few mindfulness or meditation exercises to soothe your mind.
Suffering from Zoom gloom? When you drift off, try shifting your perspective. Participating in Brady Bunch mode with your peers can make you feel part of a group. Watching in speaker mode directs your attention to the speaker and may minimize that sense of looking in a mirror. Chat function offers the opportunity to share thoughts or resources with everyone or reach out to one or two colleagues.
Stuck in a rut? Consider taking on a physical challenge to boost your fitness, a mental challenge to sharpen your mind, or a course to learn a new skill.
Overloaded by bad news? Try limiting your consumption of media.
Cut down behaviors such as excess alcohol use or overeating.
Set goals to emerge from this experience stronger.
Return to your roots and use coping skills that have worked well in the past.
Set aside a specific time each day for self-care.
Sweat out some of your stress by varying your exercise routine when it seems stale.
Bad day? In extraordinary times, it’s okay to not feel okay all the time. Give yourself some grace and reset tomorrow.
Concerned about your mental health? Reach out.
If you’d like to increase your optimism, consider completing a gratitude challenge for the next 30 days. Here are the steps recommended by Bree Buchanan, J.D., M.S.F., a pioneer in lawyer well-being movement:
- Write down 5 things that make your life enjoyable.
- Identify the most recent time something didn’t go your way, or you felt frustrated, irritated or upset. Briefly describe the situation in writing.
- List 3 things that can help you see the bright side.
- See what trends you notice.
If you see areas of well-being you would like to address, please consult the Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program at 1-800-688-7859 for free, confidential counseling to reach your goals.