EPIC’s Clinical Director, Sara Rutan, has researched self-care strategies from various trauma resources. The current pandemic has conditions that can place us in a space to feel out of control and unable to predict the future which affects our well-being. The information below is gleaned from psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk who studies the effects of trauma and also provides tips for dealing with uncontrollable factors.
Environmental conditions affecting our self-care:
Lack of Predictability: We need routines, schedules and planned activities so we are able to predict our lives. This often comes from our external world (i.e. work schedules, school, sports schedules, etc.) which are shifting or non-existent in current times.
To counter this:
- Our self-care would be to continue to schedule our days with what we can do, make plans with others to join (by video) in activities to continue our connectedness to one another.
- Keep up with routines like when we wake up, eat and go to sleep which helps to having a sense of predictability, of sameness.
- Limit time watching news reports and use valid sites when seeking to inform yourself. Constant changes in advice and questioning of information erodes our sense of being able to predict future outcomes.
Immobility: While being restricted from things we may normally do to be active, it is important to find ways to move our bodies. Due to our natural sense of fight or flight, our bodies want to do something to change the situation.
What to do:
- Plan for physical activity – walking, gardening, making meals, joining online exercise platforms.
- Along with physical activity, it is also important to practice an activity with a focus on self-regulation which can include mindfulness/breathing exercises, yoga or tai chi. These help build self-management skills for calming and regulating our physiological reactions to the current stressors.
Loss of Connection: We don’t feel well without connection to others. Interaction with others and being in synchronicity with others is fundamentally who we are.
What to do:
- It’s important to make visual connections with others because our expressions and movements give a complete sense of connection. Plan for video meets with loved ones and supportive persons in your life while there are restrictions for in-person gatherings.
- With those you live with, plan for meals together, playing games, singing or other group activity to secure a sense of connectedness.
Numbing out: During times when we feel overwhelmed, numbing out is a way to escape and shut down from the world around us. The opposite is to Check In with ourselves and notice the feelings and tensions we are holding in our bodies.
What to do:
- Use mindfulness, prayer or mediation with self-compassion to allow ourselves to experience our internal life without judgement and begin to notice what helps you allow for a release of internal tension.
- Work to feel alive in your body by doing activities and being in synch with others by connecting are ways to check in with yourself rather than be numbed out or shut down.
Safety: Using all of our senses to ground us is important to our sense of safety.
What to do:
- Staying connected and noticing all your senses while connecting with others or while active will help build a sense of internal safety. Your actions and connections will help to build a sense of what is familiar and predictable in your world when you are unable to seek this in the outside world.
- Practice using all your senses in everyday activities like making a meal, washing dishes, taking a walk, etc. This practice can ground you to a sense of place in the world.
If you feel the need to talk with someone, EPIC is open during this crisis and we are seeing people via telehealth and telephonic services. We are here for you. Please call (904) 829-2273 and press Option 1 to learn more.
Additional resources/information to help you take care of yourself and others during COVID-19:
1. Staying Happy during Social Distancing
2. Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty
3. Managing Stress & Anxiety about COVID-19
4. COVID-19 and Mental Illness
5. 10 Ideas for Coping with Loneliness During Social Distancing
6. Healthy Parenting During COVID-19
7. That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief
8. Parenting During COVID-19