While We Take Care of Others, We Need to Take Care of Ourselves

What are you doing to take care of yourself during the Covid-19 pandemic? Is self-care part of your coping strategy in these unprecedented times?

We all feel a need to stay in touch and in tune with others, particularly our loved ones. We miss our colleagues. Many of us are learning to work at home, and educators are very much feeling their responsibilities to students and parents. To boot, we are all developing a new appreciation for safely “hunting and gathering” food and other essentials.

So much to do. And yet, it’s also really important to devote some time to self-care.

After a particularly rough day, involving 5-6 zoom calls, I was exhausted and felt like a slug! And, while I had accomplished a good deal that day, my body didn’t seem to feel that way.

I realized something had to change. Reflecting on options, I first decided that I needed to take advantage of where I am sheltering in place – our lake cabin. I wanted to energize myself, focus on work, and also get my body moving a bit.

So I decided to take a 5-minute walk every hour, starting around 7:15 and ending at 4:00. My path involves walking up a steep driveway, back around the house, up a steep hill, and up to the backsteps. It just takes 5 minutes. I’m outside, looking at the sky, the lake, and I’m moving.

It’s made all the difference in the world to my work days. I feel energized and productive! And, I treat myself at the end of the day by taking a two-mile leisurely stroll.

Of course, there are times that I have to skip an hour if I’m on a Zoom call, or fudge a bit about the time, but I’m getting between 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day, and I’m feeling better!

What others are doing

During one of our ABPC staff zoom calls, I described my self-care strategy and asked assistant director Stoney Beavers and program coordinator Dakota Punzel to share what they are doing.

from Stoney:

For my “self-care” point, I would probably say that the best thing for me is getting outside in the morning and again in the afternoon. We are grilling out a lot and eating on the back porch. I’m working more in the yard, and we’ve planted a small garden and a pollinator flower garden. I dedicate most of Saturday to yardwork, and then we have a lazy afternoon playing games or watching another Star Wars episode, which Mckinley has really gotten into lately. Other than that, I am trying to get in a daily workout and a walk with the family in the afternoon. If I have time after all animals are fed, I do a short morning meditation or guided breathing exercise.

And from Dakota:

During the quarantine, I have taken measures to maintain a physically healthy lifestyle and it has maintained my mental health as well. My wife and I are active and tend to go to the gym several times a week. Once the quarantine hit, we decided we were not going to allow the closures to disrupt that routine. We invested in a few pieces of equipment and built a very basic home gym to continue working out.

The regular exercise, combined with maintaining a healthy diet, has staved off a lot of anxiety and depression that we might have experienced otherwise. While this is focused on fitness, I do not believe that the physical activity was the most important aspect. It has been our continuation of our shared routine and the driving towards an achievable goal that has really helped keep us centered during the quarantine.

Take a deep breath

Jackie Walsh and I kicked off our Concise Conversations podcast last month. In early May our guest was former financial trader Taylor Somerville, a specialist in “breath work” who lives in Memphis and has a small company called Symmetry. Taylor had been coaching Jackie remotely for some weeks when we invited him to this live session.

If teaching people to breathe seems odd, watch our podcast and explore Taylor’s website. It turns out that most people don’t breathe all that well – and when they learn to breathe purposefully (to relax, to improve athletic performance, to assure better health) they improve their physical and emotional well-being. If you’re curious, you might want to schedule an online learning experience with Taylor. Want a sample first? You can try out box breathing, a technique used in the military and by many athletes (and Jackie!) in this free audio session led by Taylor.

What are you doing to take care of yourself?

Please share at our Facebook post or on Twitter so we can “steal” each other’s ideas!

Here are a few more resources that might help.

Edutopia: Maintaining a Work-Life Balance During the Pandemic

PsychCentral: What Self-Care Is — and What It Isn’t

District Administration: How Educators Can Prioritize Self-Care Now

Psychology Today: Self-Care: 12 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself

Amplify: 20 self-care tips for educators right now (PDF)