Emotional Fitness And Self-Care During Hard Times
By Dr. Shokooh Miry, Psychologist, Sigma (U of California, Berkley)
Throughout difficult times it is essential to continue to take really good care of yourself and find healthy ways to keep your emotions balanced. I am going to share four tips and tricks on how you can care for yourself during this time and my rule of 15 to help you make healthy changes in your life.
Grief and Acceptance
I want to encourage you to take time to consider that what you are feeling throughout this time might actually be grief. I say that not to make you feel worse but if you can grieve what you have lost than you can start to feel better. Some things are different, and some things truly have changed either temporarily or possibly even permanently. If you can identify it, if you can name it, then you are likely going to be able to take steps to change it.
In psychology, one thing we know for sure, is that validating a feeling is the first step toward understanding it and changing it. I encourage you to show yourself the same kindness that you would show a loved one and accept the feelings rather than fight them. If you think about grief, if someone you loved was going through grief you would be patient with them and offer support, kindness, validation and encourage them to take time until they feel differently. It turns out, all of that is true for you as well. If you frame this time as a time of grief you might be able to invite gentleness, emotional fitness and your best self.
Accepting your emotions is key to changing them. Remember, frame this as a time of loss so that you can understand why you are struggling, invite and accept support, identify and improve self-care. If you are patient with yourself and with others, you will get through this in a much easier way.
I Feel Terrible. Now What?
Now the hard part. I feel terrible and I have accepted that, now what do I do? Self-care is vital year-round, all of the time but it is especially important during hard times when we are more vulnerable to things like depression, intense sadness and loneliness. The first thing I want to encourage you to do is remember that there is such a thing as healthy distraction. In our culture, we often think as distraction as a negative thing. We say things like, “don’t get distracted or keep your focus” but during this crisis it is really important to recognize that thinking and worrying about the current situation 24 hours a day is not healthy for anyone. It is totally okay, in fact really healthy to distract yourself in healthy ways. One way you can do this is to sooth your body and your mind. Some people like listening to music, others like to call a friend and have a conversation or to watch a TV show that might shift your mood a little bit. All of these are great ways to take care of yourself. Remember that this can also be a powerful time to connect with your values and the people in your life that really matter to you. If there is something in your life that gives you a sense of meaning and purpose, I encourage you to use this time as a time to connect with it. To do that thing, to see those people (even virtually), and to keep repeating until time passes or your feel better or both. Remember to reach out for help if you need it.
Emotional fitness: I know when I feel bad and I am willing to do things to feel better
Emotional fitness is really about knowing when you feel bad and being willing to do the things that might make you feel better. Part of how I talk about this in my practice with patients is to think about values exploration. Who am I? When I look back on this time, in five years or ten years, what is the story I want to tell about how I managed it or how I handled it. Remember that a life of some structure and routine, not too much, don’t overwhelm yourself, but some structure and routine tend to lead to a healthier life. Remember that you feel better during hard times if you can do the things that take care of your mind as well as your body. I tell people to remember my rule of 15. If you are feeling bad or super vulnerable try to follow these rules of 15. Be patient and gentle with yourself until things feel better.
Dr. Miry’s Rule of 15
- Sleep 15 more minutes
- Spend 15 more minutes outdoors
- Move your body 15 more minutes a day
- Connect with a loved one 15 more minutes
- Drink 15% less
- Do this for 15 days then do it again for another 15
The last thing I want to share with you is a tip. Remember Ritual. Remember that whatever your core values are, that they are there for you whether times are easy, or times are hard. By tapping into those core values, you have a guide for how to treat yourself and others during this really difficult time.
I hope that these tips have proven helpful to you and I wish you all the best for health and wellness.