Funny that although we have been quarantined for 3 months, many people still have difficulty finding time to take care of themselves. It would seem that a lack of commute for those working from home (or reduced traffic for those who still commute), fewer opportunities for distraction, stores and restaurants with reduced hours and capacity, and most events cancelled more people would have the time to take better care of themselves.
Certainly there are those who have embraced exercise and followed along with online classes, started a walking program or tuned up their bike and started riding again. I have seen more people walking than ever before and know many who have worked on improving their mental and/or spiritual health while forced to shelter in place.
Unfortunately, there are still a great number of people who haven't made their health a priority. I still hear "I don't have time" or "I don't know where to start" in online comments and discussions. There are quite a few people who have been overwhelmed by added work due to the virus - children had to be home schooled, a work-from-home schedule had to be determined or extra precautions undertaken to are for a loved one. But nearly everyone I have spoken to who has told me they don't have time actually do. They have just chosen to use that time for something other than self-care.
In fact, American adults have about 5 hours a day of free time (source). The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes per day of exercise for health maintenance, along with 2 strength training session per week. Sadly, more than 80% of adults fail to meet these minimum recommendations (source). With close to 300 minutes of free time per day, less than 20% are meeting the minimum for physical activity.
One study that surveyed 32,000 Americans found:
On average, people reported having more than 300 minutes (over five hours) of free time per day. Of that free time, most of it was spent as screen time. Men spent an average of 211 minutes (over three and a half hours) of their free time looking at screens, while women spent 175 minutes (almost three hours) (source)
no gender or economic group spending even 7% of their free time on physical activity (source).
Physical activity is only one component of good health. In my own small sampling, I have discovered most people have spent very little time on any form of self-care during this quarantine. Instead of focusing on adding to their own health and improving their lives, most found solace through hours of social media and binge-watching their favorite (or even not-so-favorite) shows while over-consuming their processed comfort foods.
There are many ways to improve your health, boost your energy and practice self-care. Many require very little time yet offer great benefits.
Can you make yourself important for just 10 minutes per day?
Here are a few ways to get started:
Meditate - reduces stress and anxiety, provides relaxation, gives a sense of peace and calm, can improve circulation through more efficient breathing.
Stretch - Get up off the couch or out of your chair and do some simple stretches. The longer we sit, the worse our posture becomes as we hunch over our desk, phone or tablet. Stretching can help maintain proper balance between muscle groups, improve flexibility and range of motion, reduce muscle tension, promote circulation and decrease the risk of low back pain.
Drink water - proper hydration is necessary for the efficient functioning of all of our body's systems. Even mild dehydration can lead to headaches, low energy, irritability and muscle weakness.
Write a letter - Certainly you could shoot off a quick email or text a friend, but why not write a letter? Letter writing is a lost art that should be rediscovered. Most of us get plenty of junk mail - whether in our inbox or our PO box. When was the last time you were excited to check your mail? Imagine the person who receives your letter - won't she/he be thrilled to hear from you? A letter still seems so much more personal and gives you the opportunity to express and ask more than you would in a text. A win-win.
Memorize your favorite poem, verse or quote - this is a great way to train your brain but also can serve as a quick diversion to relieve stress or deal with a challenging situation. Just as someone might say a quick prayer (and yes, you could do that), reciting a poem, verse or quote to yourself when you need some emotional support might just do the trick.
Do push ups, squats and lunges - these are basic movements every one should do. Modify as needed based on your own fitness level and set a goal for improvement. Maybe you have to do push ups against the wall to start; after 2 weeks, see if you can do them against a counter. Improve a little each day and you will be stronger in no time!
Go outside, get a little sun on your skin and listen to the sounds of Mother Nature. Get some sun exposure to increase your body's natural Vitamin D production. It doesn't take much, just a few minutes per day for many people (depending on skin tone, time of day, etc). Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of osteoporosis and fractures and has been linked to colon, breast and other cancers. If you are worried about skin cancer, talk to your doctor, but generally most agree that the small amount of sun exposure necessary for optimal Vitamin D levels is safe.
Put your feet up and have a cup of green tea for an energizing afternoon boost
Walk for 5 minutes, turn around and walk back
Do some breath work - spend a few minutes paying attention to your breathing. Just breathe normally, following your inhale and exhale with your mind. After 2-3 minutes, begin lengthening your breaths. Try counting to 4 on your inhale, pause, then exhale on a count of 4, pause and begin again. Once your are able to lengthen the inhale/exhale, see if you can lengthen the pause.
Square breathing, or box breathing, is a great technique to reduce stress and increase focus. Slowly and gently breathe in through your nose on a 4-count, hold for a count of four, exhale through your mouth on a 4-count, then pause for a 4-count. Maintain a steady pace for a few minutes to refresh your mind and calm your body. If you struggle with the 4-count begin with 2 or 3 and slowly increase when you feel comfortable.
Everyone is impacted differently by this virus and the safety measures that have been put into place. We all, however, have been impacted somehow and our health has been brought into focus as we take steps to reduce our risk of contracting or spreading Covid-19.
We wash our hands, wear our masks and maintain 6-feet social distancing yet forget about other aspects of our health. We have focused so much attention on avoidance that we have forgotten how to cultivate wellness and good health within ourselves.
Look closely and honestly at your day and how you spend your time. Don't you deserve at least 10 minutes of it? Take charge and take some time for you!
Thanks for reading. I hope I have inspired you to take a few minutes for your own self-care. Times are tough, but you are tougher. Stay strong, stay safe and take care of yourself!
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Peace and good health to you!