Self-Care During a Pandemic

Just like the rest of the world, all of us are experiencing life during a pandemic for the first time. And for many of us, it has been challenging. Some of us are learning how to navigate a job during this new time, some of us are figuring out how to teach distance learning to students or some of us are parents and attempting to figure out the best schooling for their children. And some of us are doing all three.

While we’ve all likely missed opportunities, had to cancel or change plans, have been separated by loved ones, or maybe even lost loved ones, the last thing we’re thinking of is taking care of ourselves. But in the same way a parent is told to put on their oxygen mask on a plane before assisting their child, we should be making self-care a priority. But what does that look like during a pandemic, when places and events are closed and when we’re practicing social distancing and kids are home doing distance learning school? You’re likely not even getting alone time, never mind self-care.

A few weeks into the pandemic, after the five of us had been crammed in the house, working from home, doing school from home, restaurants closed, church closed, sporting events, and concerts canceled, I realized this wasn’t going to end anytime soon. And instead of taking it a day at a time and hoping for the end, barely finding the joy in the small things, I had to change my thought process. I decided to focus on what I still had and what I was getting in return, rather than thinking of what was being taken from me as a result of the pandemic. For my family, it meant creative meals at home, movie series binging, music dance party nights, and VR gaming challenges. With three teenagers and one graduating and going off to college this fall, we realized quickly, that we were given the gift of time as a family.

While I’ll likely always treasure the additional family time, there was still something missing. Something BIG. Something I was lacking. Self-care. It’s the one thing I always put on the back burner but I knew I needed to make it a priority. For me, one of the best self-care things I can do is alone time. But how was I going to get that when I was always home surrounded by people? Just thinking and dreaming about alone time made my mental health even worse. Because I knew it was unlikely I would get this anytime soon. At least not unless I made it a priority. Here are some things I have been trying. I hope they help you. And I’d love to hear some of your ideas or things you’ve tried that have worked. Please comment below 🙂

Self-Care Tips That Worked For Me:

  • Invest in noise canceling headphones
  • Separate yourself from the rest of the family–even if it’s a different room, or outdoors, or even a closet–it can do wonders
  • Take a hot bath or shower in the evening
  • Listen to music
  • Get outdoors–even if it’s not great weather, a few minutes outside breathing fresh air is so good for the body and mind
  • Cuddle with your pet
  • Drink a hot soothing beverage in the evening
  • FaceTime a friend or family member you’ve been separated from
  • Read a familiar, favorite, comfort book
  • Watch a familiar, favorite, comfort movie
  • Go for a drive–even better if there’s no destination
  • Journal–either making a gratitude list or a bucket list
  • Try a new workout routine
  • Unplug from social media
  • Order take-out for dinner
  • Set boundaries during this new normal
  • If all else fails, demand some alone time from your family, (if you have littles, put on a movie and don’t feel the mom-guilt) and take it!
Here’s me with my son’s VR Oculus headset on playing Beat Saber. I was super focused! Ha!

Where To Find Inspiration

Since I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember, sometimes it can be difficult for me to notice just where my inspiration comes from. At times, a full-blown plot idea will manifest out of nowhere. Other times, it’s bits and pieces that come while I’m working the day job, taking a shower, or in the car. When my mind seems to be busy on something completely unrelated to writing or story telling, that’s usually when an ideal strikes.

What I do know is, when I’m facing writer’s block or feeling uninspired, there are things that I try that sometimes help. If you’re new to writing and want to stretch yourself by trying your hand at writing fiction or a short story, or if you’re feeling uninspired lately or facing writer’s block, maybe these ideas will help you.

-Listen to music: Sometimes, just listening to a certain genre or song can help inspire me to write. It can either help me figure out a plot or inspire a new character. Country music usually does the trick for me. Their ability to write a song that tells a story in about 3 1/2 is pretty inspiring.

-Read a book: Often, new writers think reading a book will confuse or interfere with their own writing. Most of the time, when I’m reading a book, it triggers and fuels my own creativity. I can pinpoint where the shift in the character arc is. It can show me what works with my own writing and maybe what doesn’t.

-Take a walk: Getting outside and breathing in fresh air is great for the brain. It gives you oxygen and energizes the soul. Stepping out into nature is rejuvenating, triggering your creative mind to feel rested and ready to develop that plot or flesh out those characters.

-Watch a movie: Watching a movie can be so helpful for plot flow and character arcs. I pay attention to plot holes and slow burn romances. Looking for the humor, the heart, what triggers natural emotions.

-Write by hand: When I write by hand, it takes me back to when I first started writing. It can feel fresh and raw.

-Journal: Taking a step away from writing fiction and writing in a journal about your thoughts and feelings and your day can get you in the flow of writing again if you’ve been dealing with writer’s block.

-Do something else creative: Spending time on another hobby can get your writing creative juices flowing. If you enjoy drawing, painting, knitting, or something else, honing that craft can possibly help you in honing your writing.

I hope some of these ideas help inspire your writing or get you out of your writer’s block. What helps inspire your writing?

How Does Anxiety Fit Into Writing

A few posts ago I said I’d write about anxiety. So here goes.

Living with anxiety is different for everyone. For me, it shows itself in various ways. At times, it sneaks up on me while I’m not expecting it and it can cause either an accelerated heartbeat, shortness of breath, an inability to concentrate, and irrational, (though not to my brain) thoughts and fears. Other times, it can send me into a full fledged panic attack. Sometimes anxiety hits me when there’s too much on my To-Do list, not enough time, and I’m sleep deprived.

In whichever form anxiety hits me, if it lingers, writing sometimes has to take a backseat. Either by choice or not. Anxiety can cause me to spiral, making it so my brain is unable to either form the words and sentences I want to write or making it so I believe my words don’t matter or I’m not good enough to write this story. When anxiety causes lack of concentration, I’m unable to stick to a plot or fully form relationships or dialogue. When anxiety is stemmed from busyness or too many balls being juggled, I have no choice but set my writing aside. The only problem with that, is that writing is a form of self care for me. So if I’m so busy I can’t find the time to write, it makes me irritable and can even cause a form of anxiety as well.

Leading from that; writing as a form of “self care”. When I become too anxious or irritable, I have to step away from my adult responsibilities for a few hours. I usually take an evening. My husband and kids are super supportive and they actually are good about noticing when I need to shut myself away by myself to write. When I do this, there are times when I’m able to pick up my current manuscript and add to my word count no problem. Other times, when my brain is foggy from anxiety, I spend time either journaling or writing poetry. While those are a similar type of creative outlet as writing fiction, they’re a bit different. I find journaling and writing poetry therapeutic. An added bonus? There’s been times when I’ve gone back and read some of those poems or journal entries and have been able to incorporate them in a story. I feel like anytime I can use this cursing disorder to my advantage, I’m sort of winning.

How does anxiety affect your writing?