Caroline Quintanilla, LCSW

Prior to when all of this started, many of us found ourselves in need of a break. We were overwhelmed, and going to work for long hours, trying to tend to the needs of our friends and families, staying active and making “good” choices with food, cooking, cleaning, and commuting, all while trying to find time for “fun.” During that time, we were encouraged to slow down… to take the time we needed to prioritize time spent with our families, giving in to “lazy” or “self-indulgent” urges… staying in instead of going out, eating cookies and ice cream on the couch, or doing facemasks whenever we could catch a second of a break. Now, things look a little different. Instead of living our hustle and bustle lifestyles, we are confined and limited in terms of what we can utilize for self-care, how we can utilize self-care, and who we can utilize it with.

It’s my personal belief that self-care has received a hugely over-cushy reputation due to media representation —  it’s not all butterflies and rainbows. Right now it’s crucial that we keep in mind that self-care is innately a balancing act requiring us to do what we need to do in order to keep us happily functioning, and the truth is that no one knows what that is except for you

Although there is a misconception that self-care is making the choice that you “want” to make, it’s often instead of the choice that we need to make in order to feel stabilized. This is the reason that, although you might have not wanted to go out with friends at the end of the long week due to feelings of fatigue pre-quarantine, it might have been a more self-care-oriented decision to recognize that the friends you were seeing were the type of people that would build you up and leave you more energized after a night of connection with them. So you make the choice to go. Or, realizing that eating that pint of double fudge brownie ice cream on the couch, although gratifying in the moment, might leave you with stomach gurgles galore for the next five hours. There is never a wrong choice when it comes to self-care, but recognizing the benefits before, during, and after, is a crucial judgment call to make when it comes to discerning decisions in our best interests. 

My favorite way to conceptualize self-care is within the Self Care Wheel (Phoenix). The Self Care Wheel divides self-care into six categories which are said to promote life balance: Personal, Professional, Physical, Psychological, Emotional, and Spiritual.

 I encourage you to consider these categories in your own analysis of what you are needing during this time. 

The categories are holistic in nature. Personal is meant to foster your own personal identity, things like creating vision boards or building personal hobbies; this period of isolation won’t last forever, and we must remember that our lives will go on eventually — there are things to look forward to. Professional is meant to give you peace in your work or school life, like taking a walk at lunchtime versus laying on the couch, or learning to set limits around the hours of your workday. Physical means giving your physical body the nourishment it needs by way of maintaining hygiene during this time (perhaps with a nice smelling body wash), maintaining your regular medical care, or asking your loved one for a massage. Psychological means tending to your psyche by way of reflection, like in journaling, reading a book on a self-help topic, or practicing asking for help if you need it. Emotional means allowing yourself a good cry or watching a funny movie for a guaranteed laugh. Spiritually means tending to your spiritual needs, either by way of exploration of the spiritual realm, attending a virtual church sermon, or setting aside time in nature, a moment of silence, or prayer (Phoenix).

Right now, it’s also important to conceptualize self-care in the context of our day-to-day. Many people that I speak with tell me how important it is for them to establish structure in their daily lives via regular wake up and bedtimes, consistent meals, and advanced planning (so as to limit daytime naps, feelings of loss of productivity, and to keep life moving). However, what also might be self-care, could be acknowledging that right now days can be monotonous and we might be needing to create some variety and add some things into our days that can be considered different or more exciting, which could mean an occasional virtual happy hour with friends, reading a new genre of books, or painting with your significant other. Listen to your needs. Remember how important it is to tend to yourself during this time.

Connect with Symmetry Counseling to arrange an appointment for therapy in Chicago to learn more tools to help you practice self-care during quarantine, social distancing, and beyond.

Reference:

Self Care Wheel concept adapted from “Self-Care Assessment Worksheet” from Transforming the Pain: A Workbook on Vicarious Traumatization by Saakvitne, Pearlman & Sta- of TSI/CAAP (Norton, 1996). Created by Olga Phoenix Project: Healing for Social Change (2013).