Written by Tiffany Fearon & Cathleen Edwards
March 26, 2020.
We understand many families are going through immense change with the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic and newly implemented procedures to protect those in long-term care. Physical distancing and visitor restrictions have been implemented across the province to flatten the curve and decrease the amount of community transmission. This period will certainly have an impact on individuals accustomed to a schedule that includes visiting and caring for loved ones in long-term care. With that being said, being mindful of our wellbeing and happiness is crucial when encountered with stressful circumstances beyond our control. Self-care is a practice Family Councils Ontario often emphasizes in programming, resources, and presentations. As we navigate this unprecedented time, our team thought it was imperative to share strategies for self-care while practicing physical distancing.
Set boundaries with your electronics
With the onset of physical distancing from peers, colleagues, and loved ones, time with electronics has increased for many households. Tuning into news updates and passing the time binge watching series has become the norm. Even though picking up the phone, tablet, or TV remote seems to be the easiest option, setting a limit on screen time is a great way to practice self-care. Spending too much time looking at the screen creates added strain on both our bodies and minds. Stepping away to read a good book, practice knitting skills, and meditating are all activities we can engage in once we allow ourselves to unplug. During this time, we can get to know ourselves, reflect, and recalibrate as needed.
Try new recipes
Why not pass the time trying out a new recipe? With more time to spare indoors, you can no longer use the excuse of limited time to whip something up. Beyond the financial benefit, attempting a new dish is a creative way to keep cognitive function up. Making a meal involves multiple processes which keeps the brain stimulated. Cooking is a great outlet to help us plan and control goal-directed actions and thoughts which in turn nurtures our wellbeing.
Establish a New Routine
The sudden change to our routine triggers a range of emotions. To help ease the transition in your lifestyle, think of ways to modify your routine to reflect the practice of physical distancing. Don’t adjust your alarm and continue the practice of waking up and going to bed at the same time. When planning your outfit for the next day, continue to dress the way that you would to go to work, school, or visiting your loved ones. If going to the gym or participating in a community group (i.e. band, dance group) continue your work out or rehearsal at the same time in your own house.
Single person puzzles and activities
One player games that requires pen to paper are a great way to keep yourself cognitively engaged. Purchasing a small book full of crossword puzzles, word searches, and Sudoku are a great alternative to using electronics regularly. Many websites also offer printable versions of word activities. Putting a jigsaw puzzle together never goes out of style and often brings a sense of accomplishment once completed. Research has shown that solving puzzles is a great method for improving short-term memory (source: Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience) Exercising the connections and signals in our brains with puzzles and activities is certainly a strategy of self-care we can do in the comfort of our homes.
To learn more about the impact of puzzles on cognitive functions, check out this article from Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2018.00299/full)
If working from home, find a dedicated work space
With the current circumstances and many companies now asking employees to work remotely, choosing the appropriate area to be efficient and motivated takes some thought. Many individuals who work from home benefit from having a comfortable dedicated work space. Creating an environment that is suitable entails tapping into physical, emotional, and social needs. Everyone has different styles; some may enjoy being in close proximity to family members to converse, while others prioritize being in a secluded area for peace and quiet. Choosing between a comfy couch and a desk and chair with ample back support may turn out to be a bigger decision than one though. All in all, the work space chosen is dependent on what each individual sees as a necessity to enhance their wellbeing as they fulfill their professional roles/
Join a Virtual Forum
It is definitely frustrating being restricted from partaking in day to day activities. A lot of companies and organizations have converted their programming to be accessible with technology. Joining virtual forums is a great way to stay in touch and connect with both people and interesting content. To avoid feelings of despondency and isolation, finding support through virtual group chats, webinars, and online tutorials is a positive approach to maintaining self-care. Family Councils Ontario is dedicated to keeping families informed and connected through a Virtual Family Forum. This forum will provide a platform for individuals to share concerns, discuss experiences, and ask questions to FCO staff about the impact of COVID-19 on residents in long-term care. For more information or to register, visit our website!
Call and facetime loved ones
There are emotions that just can’t be conveyed through text. It’s responsible to put limits on screen time, but within reason, a call or video chat goes a long way to help combat isolation and loneliness. Hearing someone’s voice and laugh, or getting to see their expression with a video call helps us feel like we’re in close proximity. If you miss someone, reach out!
Learn something new
Prior to COVID-19, many post-secondary institutions offered free online courses. Referred to as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) these courses are aimed at a broad audience on a range of topics including Dinosaurs, Mountains, computer programming, and The Science of Happiness. Check out the MOOCS offered by the University of Alberta (https://www.ualberta.ca/admissions-programs/online-courses/index.html), the University of British Columbia (https://www.edx.org/school/ubcx), UC Berkley (https://www.edx.org/course/the-science-of-happiness-3). If you have a specific topic of interest in mind, check out community organizations focused on that topic as they often offer free online learning opportunities. If you want to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, sign up for Dementia 101 (http://www.alzeducate.ca/course/index.php?categoryid=3). If you want to connect with other caregivers, check out the SCALE Program (Support for Caregiver Awareness, Learning & Empowerment) from the Ontario Caregivers Organization (https://ontariocaregiver.ca/resources/scale-program/).
Take a Virtual Tour
If you have always enjoyed visiting museums or art galleries, many organizations offer virtual tours. You can explore the collections at the Guggenheim, The Art Institute of Chicago, visit Machu Pichu or the Palace of Versailles. Here is one way to start exploring from the comfort of your home (https://www.buzzfeed.com/andyneuenschwander/13-museums-you-can-visit-online-during-your-quarant). If you love spending time enjoying the aquarium, zoos or gardens, here are some virtual tours you can also enjoy (https://people.com/travel/stuck-at-home-you-can-visit-these-world-famous-sites-from-your-couch-for-free/). There are also exciting new evidence based apps out there like Art on the Brain (https://www.artonthebrain.org/user).
While you can’t go to the gym to enjoy a workout, and you can’t get together with your walking/running group it’s still important to keep moving. If you haven’t had time to focus on your own fitness, now’s a great time to get started. Start your morning off with some stretches or yoga poses to get your blood circulating. Taking a short walk around your property or up and down the street (while keeping a safe distance from others) will give you the fresh air and exercise you’re looking for. Need some motivation? Join in on the 60 minute gentle exercise challenge and follow along with this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkDlpZ3Musw&feature=youtu.be). You can also follow along with this quick arm workout video from the Abilities Centre (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rh3B1C8lNag).
Give yourself permission to do as much or as little as you want
Some days are going to be easier to manage than others. With that being said, it’s alright to give yourself the opportunity to take breaks and days off to rejuvenate your spirit. The worst thing we could do now is burn ourselves out. Give yourself permission to do everything or absolutely nothing when you feel like it.
Below are a few more ideas to pass the time while nurturing your well being
- Start an art project
- Listen to podcasts
- Get an early start on gardening and yard work
- Learn a new language
- Rearrange furniture for a new layout or paint a room in your home
- Take an online dance class
- Start a private journal or write a short story
- Put on your favourite record and dance like no one’s watching
- Practice knitting, sewing, and crochet techniques
- Pamper yourself with a spa day
- Find an online stretching, yoga, or Pilates routine to try
COVID-19 has influenced a total shift in many of our lives leaving the current state of things and the future very unpredictable.We hope these strategies will provide you with ideas for maintaining your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. Self-care is a job that will never stop being essential, so let’s not forget about it!
Photos via unsplah by Jade Stephens