One Easy Self-Care Activity for the Post-COVID 19 World
Ask yourself a question, when was the last time you were outside? What is your last memory of time spent in a green space? It wouldn’t surprise me if your answer goes back to a time before this lockdown and all the stress that came with it. The world has radically changed in a short time, and we have all felt the stress.
But now that restrictions are slowly being released, you can take this opportunity to do something for yourself. For so long you have been focused on surviving, it’s time to work on building back up your depleted energy reserves. Self-care isn’t selfish; it is medicine for your mental and physical health.
Step One: spend 30 minutes outside in a green space, three times each week.
We have all spent more time inside than before because of the lockdown. Removed from nature, we haven’t been able to experience the sensory adventures we typically feel when we spend outside. Nature can help us remove our focus on our inward ruminations and gives us something outside ourselves to observe and consider. A change in our environment can also give us a fresh perspective.
A study conducted in 2015 found that walking for 90 minutes outside helps reduce activity in our prefrontal cortex. This link is important because activity in the prefrontal cortex is connected to gloomy feelings fed by repeated thoughts. Negative emotions themselves are not bad; without them, we would not have the fullness of human experience. But constantly dwelling on them can overwhelm your energy and raise your stress levels. Going on a walk can help reduce this rumination and help put these negative emotions in their place.
It is important that when you go for that walk though, don’t put pressure on yourself to walk very far or very fast. The primary goal is to clear your mind and to fill up your emotional tank.
An activity you can do while you are outside, especially when you are stressed, is sensory grounding. One of the techniques for sensory grounding is the 5-4-3-2-1 method. While on your walk, or when you find a moment to sit down outside, take the time to go through each of your senses.
5- Name five things you see
4- Name four things you feel
3- Name three things you hear
2- Name two things you smell
1- Name one thing you taste
This technique is an easy one to remember that can be used anywhere. If you would like a more guided exploration, specifically for your time in nature, you can follow the nature sensory exploration outlined below:
Lift up your face to the sun. Feel the warmth pouring into your skin, soaking into your muscles, veins, and bones.
Close your eyes. Listen to the leaves flutter in the wind. Feel the gentle touch of the wind as it skates by your shoulders and skips down the path.
Do you hear the birds right now? The squirrels rustling in the trees? Hear how they go about their business day to day, gathering food, building a family, and preparing for winter.
Open your eyes again. Look up to the trees, to the clouds. What do you see? Name three forms that the trees or the clouds take that you can identify.
Reach out and touch something (just make sure it’s not poison ivy). What is the texture? Describe it using four adjectives. What do you smell right now? Does it remind you of anything?
Finally, find a place where you can sit or stand. Plant yourself there. Extend your imaginary roots down into the earth, and exhale slowly five times.
I hope that this helped you to ground yourself in the moment, to step away from your thoughts, and enjoy your outdoor environment. Don't be afraid to make this a new habit for yourself; more challenges are on the horizon for each of us. Self-care strategies are the first line of defense to help us rise up and meet those challenges.