S’s of Self Care During Quarantine
By: Elizabeth Yang
A few months ago, our world was plagued with a mysterious virus. Immediately, we were taught to wear masks, practice social distancing, self-quarantine, and wash our hands frequently. However, what most of us weren’t informed upon was how to properly care for ourselves, especially mentally. As the number of cases proliferate day by day, a plethora of emotions can overwhelm us, whether it be anxiety or the feeling of helplessness. During these unprecedented times, it is exceptionally important to remember to practice self-care.
Self-care varies for everybody; your friend could see it as going to the gym every day at 6:00 a.m., while another could perceive it as reading a book for twenty minutes every so often. Regardless of how you feel, taking the time to make sure that you are mindful of the following S’s will keep your mind feeling refreshed while you’re stuck at home.
The first S to be mindful of is Sustenance, or proper nourishment. A balanced diet of fruits and vegetables has been connected to decreases in depression and/or symptoms of anxiety when maintained successfully. Keep in mind: this doesn’t mean that you must scrap all sugary foods! There are plenty of healthier alternatives you can consider that will still satisfy your sweet tooth. Nuts, seeds, and extra-virgin olive/coconut oil are great examples of plant-based fats that can be used to craft delicious foods: walnut bread, blueberry scones, and so much more!
Next is Socializing. Although we have access to the world of the internet at our fingertips, this does not mean that we should neglect the simple act of reaching out to people, catching up with them via facetime or asking what they’ve been up to on a day-to-day basis. Especially during these times of isolation, it is important to stay connected with others more than ever. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, the lack of social interactions heightens health risks including depression, impaired decision-making skills, anxiety, and poor sleep quality because human beings are social creatures by nature. While liking your friends’ posts on social media is a form of communicative appreciation, giving them a call or video-chatting them will make socializing so much more personal, and it’s all just one tap away!
Whether you’re back on campus or doing school virtually, piled-up school assignments and approaching exams can make you forget to go outside in the Sun for some fresh air and fulfilling warmth. Such outside experiences, in addition to taking supplements and eating foods including fatty fish and mushrooms, are the best ways to take-in enough vitamin D. Multiple studies have shown that insufficient exposure to vitamin D can lead to depression; the supplement plays a vital role in the brain by producing nerve growth factors (NGF) and reducing the amount of neuronal calcium that could lead to various mental illnesses. Aside from your body’s production of the vitamin, exposure to sunlight also triggers the brain’s release of serotonin, which is a hormone associated with boosting mood and relaxation. In such unprecedented times, it is best to plan a routine of outdoor activities with your family members, i.e. picnic or yoga, so that both you and your loved ones can get some fresh air while keeping your minds healthy!
One of the most difficult S’s for anyone to accomplish is Serve. You may be wondering: how does completing such acts of kindness provide any mental health benefits? Well, when carefully considered, the opportunity to express one’s personal interests in projects, learn new skills, and apply them to future tasks is what makes volunteering so special. Serving one’s community can play an important role in counteracting mental effects related to anxiety, stress, and anger; creating long-lasting impacts on others can significantly impact your psychological well-being and self-confidence. To get started, simply search “online volunteering opportunities” on the internet or start your own NGO (non-governmental organization) on a topic that you’re passionate about!
As we return to the rhythm of school life and levels of anxiety increase, we want to remind you that Stress can be properly managed! At the comfort of our homes, doing the little things you enjoy, such as watching movies or baking cookies, are easy ways to manage your stress. If you’re feeling stuck, try taking a break from your work or reaching out to someone who makes you feel understood. Aside from talking to your close ones, remember to maintain a healthy diet and not overwork yourself too much.
After a long day of socializing, serving, stress managing, spending time under the sun, and turning to healthier sustenances, it is time for the last and most important S: Sleep! Most teenagers tend to neglect the importance of sleep nowadays as they prioritize their schoolwork over their personal health. According to studies conducted by the Harvard Medical School, inadequate amounts of sleep may lead to the development of mental illnesses including depression, insomnia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and even ADHD. In general, people who get enough sleep are in an overall better mental state than those who are sleep-deprived, and this comes with no surprise. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try exercising during the day and/or creating a proper sleep schedule to prevent unhealthy sleep habits. Even though school and extracurricular activities seem to overcrowd our schedules, it is important to be mindful of our body’s well-being and give ourselves plenty of time to rest and recharge.
Performing proper self-care has clear physical benefits, but it does a great deal in keeping your mind flourishing as well. These S’s of Self Care are just rough ideas of what you could be doing to keep yourself content, but, more importantly, your mind content. 2020 has been a year marked by frenzy, but despite everything that is going on in the world, your body and your mental health should always be of utmost priority.