While people are worrying about trying to care for kids home from school, whether they will have a job or a paycheck and trying to stay isolated and healthy, they may have let their own self-care fall to the wayside.
But that’s not a great idea, said Brooke Briggs, owner of Beautiful Wellness in Chehalis. For the past nine years, Briggs and her husband, Shelby, have offered massage therapy, Young Living Essential oils, and wellness classes and consultation, now completely online since March 22.
“I encourage you to take some steps during this time of crisis to care for yourself so that you can also care for others,” Briggs said. “One thing to remember is that you have to put your oxygen mask on first before anyone else’s.”
Finding ways to manage stress during difficult times is not just about a mental state, noted Christina Mae Wolf, owner of Embody Movement & Wellness Center, which opened seven years ago offering what Wolf calls “A community-centered model of connection, movement and holistic health and well-being”.
“How we care for ourselves literally affects every single aspect of our lives and the lives of everyone around us,” Wolf said. “So many people (including myself sometimes) push their own self-care to the bottom of the to-do list when it actually needs to be at the very top. I often share the quote that ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’.”
With a statewide order to shelter in place, with only essential workers reporting to work, taking care of our health becomes a little more difficult, but so much more important, noted Dr. Alicia Spalding, owner of the non-profit Nature Nurture Farmacy. Since July 2018, the Farmacy has been offering naturopathic health services, community health education classes on food and medicine and community garden efforts. Spalding noted that human beings are communal creatures, so isolation causes a stress on us.
“If you are not filling yourself up, or better yet, surrounded by support which helps to bring you up, then it is incredibly difficult to be there for others,” Spalding said. “When we all do our part to support our own health, it allows the same for others. Sometimes it is important to reach out to others to ask for help. Often, when people need ‘self-care’ the most, they are unable to do so. This is why being proactive about your health and preventing mental and physical burnout is so crucial for overall health.”
All of this stress can have a very negative affect not only on our mental wellbeing but also our physical health, noted Briggs. While we think of stress as being in our mind, it can manifest itself in everything from muscle tension to degenerative disk syndrome, she said.
“When a person begins to stress, the body increases cortisol production and in return raises blood pressure, heart rate and creates tension within the muscles which can lead to great injury, fatigue or pain,” Briggs said. “The most common result of stress in the body is tension.”
Wolf said when people hear the term self-care, they may envision luxuries like bubble baths or splurging on a manicure. While these are great ways to take care of ourselves, she said true self-care involves essential elements such as eating well, getting enough sleep and rest, drinking enough water and moving our bodies. True self-care, she explained, makes us feel better physically, mentally and emotionally, which helps us act better to ourselves and to our loved ones.
“Stress affects every aspect of your body, including your sleep, digestion, immune system, cognitive function and more,” Wolf said. “When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to experience muscle tension, tightness and pain, headaches and more. When your body is tense, tight and in pain, it’s difficult for your mind to think clearly and your emotions to stay calm and relaxed. It’s all connected. This is why in high-stress times such as these, it’s even more important to build self-care into your daily routine.”
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Embody offered about 35 classes each week to its nearly 200 members at its downtown Centralia studio. Sensing that Washingtonians might be ordered to shelter in place like in other states and countries, Wolf made the decision to take the studio live online March 14. She said the move was in an effort to give all of their members the ability to continue their daily practice without interruption.
“Our students have been so grateful for the opportunity to maintain their normal routine and see and connect with each other online before and after classes,” Wolf said.
True self-care is good for body, mind and soul, said Briggs. That is why tuning into self-care also involves taking care of our mental well-being, as well. Briggs noted that self-care does not have to involve a physical action, it can simply be a mental choice.
“We have heard this said and over the years many of us have ideas of what self-care looks like: often a bath, or a girls night out, a nice walk or a nap,” Briggs said. “All these are true but often self-care is something greater than that. It is learning what to say ‘no’ to and what to say ‘yes’ to, what to let go of and what to embrace, and this changes as life changes.”
What you put into your body in the form of food and supplements is also an important piece of self-care, especially during stressful times Spalding said. Nature Nurture Farmacy grows food and herbs in Winlock that are turned into salves, tinctures, teas and other items. Spalding also heads the Winlock Community Garden, which is a joint learning effort with the Winlock School District. With schools closed statewide, the Farmacy has been putting together seed kits that Winlock students can take home to keep learning about gardening. Even the simple act of growing nutritious food to put into your body is an act of self-care, she said.
“Your diet effects every part of your life. What we eat fuels our bodies,” Spalding said. “Eating a plant-based, whole foods diet, think eating mainly from the produce aisle, is crucial for physical and mental well-being. Food truly is medicine and adding health promoting foods to your diet can bring a state of health.”
But above all, whatever you choose for self-care is something that varies from individual to individual. Spalding said helps your mind feel calmer and more focused and should be easy to add into your routine.
“Honestly, sometimes stepping away from the internet and into a good book or a calming space is the best option,” Spalding said.