Self-Care as an Antidote to Coronavirus Anxiety

Guest Blogger, Deb Vilas, Originally posted on PediaPlay

When The Caregiver Needs Help

We are all facing personal and professional fears regarding the coronavirus. Everywhere we turn, we are saturated by information, much of it needed, some unnecessary, some sought, some dropped in our laps without our consent. As a dear friend said to me today, there is a lot of noise but not a lot of guidance. We are doing our best to stay calm so that we can care for the children and families in our midst, as well as for our own families.

The question is, what do we do to calm our own nerves, so that we don’t unwittingly increase anxiety around us? How do we keep from contributing to the growing hysteria, while still remaining prepared and logical? A piece of the answer lies in self-care.

Self-care is certainly something that child life specialists know a lot about. But sometimes we need to remind ourselves to reach for it, especially in times of challenge.  I want to share with you all what I am doing for myself, and then list some added suggestions that might be helpful to you.

My Self-Care Regimen

1. When I awake and fall asleep, I practice gratitude, going over those things, large and small, that I am grateful for. Sometimes I am noting the most basic things, that I have running water and food for the day. Gratitude is an antidote to fear.
2. I pray every morning in the shower. I specifically practice loving-kindness meditation, which gets me centered on a feeling of usefulness and connection with the larger world. I want to give a shout out to agnostics and atheists here – sometimes secular meditation can have some of the same benefits as prayer.
3. I play tug of war with my dog each morning before taking her on a mile and a half walk around the Reservoir in Central Park.
4. I read daily devotional readings, only a paragraph or two each, before I practice meditation for ten minutes, in a quiet place, breathing deeply.
5. I journal. Writing clears my brain.
6. I see a therapist – I hadn’t done this in years, but when my anxiety went up several notches recently, I knew it was time for a “tune-up”.
7. I am finding myself searching for a spiritual community, trying out different places of worship as I do not belong to one now. I have found that many places of worship offer candlelit prayer services in the evenings.
8. I am trying to reach for my creativity and sense of humor. Sending funny memes to friends, making jokes about us all being in the same boat (not a CRUISE SHIP!!), and singing my favorite songs out loud while washing my hands, even in public, helps. The Phantom of the Opera and Bruce Springsteen are my muses as of late. The song, “This Little Light of Mine” is also a goody.
9. I am spending as much time as possible with good friends and loved ones.
10. I watch stupid TV, the Batchelor and Survivor are great for mindless escapism.
11. I practice restorative yoga and yoga Nidra, which not only recalibrates my nervous system but also helps me fall asleep.

Child Life Activities

Now, these are things that may seem simple. But we child lifers have additional secret weapons. Consider these added activities:

1. Beads of courage. Why the heck shouldn’t we create our own beads of stressors and coping strategies, making an interwoven chain of our challenges and our strengths? A visit to a local bead store can set you along this path.
2. Make and throw some toilet paper targets. Getting your feelings out of your body and laughing are two great side effects of toilet paper targets. Just hang a large piece of chart paper on your bathroom wall or outside where you can make a mess. Draw all the things on it that are making you anxious. Then, take huge wads of TP, dip them in water, DON’T wring them out and chuck them with all your might at the paper.
3. Make a volcano out of play dough.. Put all your worries inside it. Blast off!
4. Purchase a worry eater.
5. Use loose parts to create your version of the coronavirus. Do this with your team at work or with your family.
6. Make up funny handwashing songs. Have a contest between you and your colleagues and friends.
7. Make your own cloth face masks and decorate them in creative and wild ways.

Other Considerations

1. If you haven’t considered therapy, now is a great time to do so.

2. Think about whether anti-anxiety medication might be helpful for you. Speak to a mental health provider about psychopharm help if needed.

3. Try to limit your exposure to social media. Or at least choose a certain time of day to check in rather than ingesting a constant stream.

4. Use screentime to your advantage by downloading some great apps, such as Calm, Insight Timer, Breethe, Headspace, Anxiety Relief, and iChill.

I would like to invite each and every one of you to take a photo of your own self-care activity and share it on a reply to this blog. I think that it would really help us shine a light on our collective courage.

Be Well. Be Safe and Shine your Light!

Thoughts?