It’s hard to escape news and information about COVID-19, and many of us are especially worried about the virus’s potential effects on the people we love. Having a loved one who with an illness can be hard on the whole family, not just the sick person, which is why it is so important to practice self-care when someone you love is sick.
Practicing self-care while taking care of others can be challenging; however, if you have a self-care plan in place, you can weather the storm. This becomes even more essential when you need to take on caregiving duties for your loved one. That’s why it’s so important to take steps to preserve your own emotional and physical health when someone you love is ill.
Here are a few strategies that can help you navigate the stress brought on by a loved one’s illness:
Know your healthy coping strategies and use them
You can’t control the stress created by a loved one’s illness, but you can control how you deal with it. It’s important to know your go-to healthy coping strategies and use them. Maybe you keep a few coloring books or crossword puzzles on hand or watch a few episodes of your favorite sitcom on Netflix.
Engage in spiritual practices
Practices like daily prayer or meditation can help keep you calm in tense times. Even a simple 1-2 minute deep breathing exercise can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to shift you out of fight-or-flight mode. A sense of connection to something larger than yourself can also give you a healthy perspective on your current situation.
Our minds are designed to always be on guard for the worst case scenario, but that is unhelpful in times like these. Be aware when you are catastrophizing and remind yourself that you can’t possibly know what lies ahead. You don’t have a crystal ball! Instead, consciously visualize your loved one making a complete recovery.
Reach out for support
Talk to friends and other family members or anyone else who is an important source of support for you. If your stress feels overwhelming, consider working with a therapist to help you manage any mood symptoms that may develop.
Limit media consumption
When the vast majority of media coverage focuses on a pandemic, it can be easy to get carried away with worry and anxiety. For the time being, it may be helpful to limit your news consumption to 30-60 minutes a day. Also, be sure to verify any information you see online to make sure that it’s coming from a trusted source.
Take care of your body
In order to stay in good condition mentally, you need to be in good condition physically as well. Steer clear of the temptation to stress eat and focus your diet on nutritious healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats. Getting some form of daily exercise is valuable as well, as it helps you process the excess energy you have from being cooped up in the house.
Remember if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to take care of a loved one who falls ill. Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s smart.