Self-care is good for your immune system
We’re in the middle of a global crisis and I am on deadline to write for this beautiful website dedicated to kindness, love and compassion. I’ve started and stopped countless times.
Amidst such a clamor of voices out there, amidst all of the uncertainty and fear, what is there to say right now that is necessary, calm and helpful? This is the question on my mind right now.
I’m sheltering in place in my San Francisco home, which everyone in my city has been doing for a week already. California’s governor issued a state-wide order for shelter-in-place. I’m guessing many more cities and states will soon be issuing similar orders. In any case, most everyone, everywhere is hunkered down to some degree or another.
Many people are scared. People are dying. People are lonely. People are worried about jobs, retirement accounts, their children, their food supplies. There is a loss of life. There is a loss of health. There is loss of income. There is a loss of daily living as we know it.
But here is what I know: Even though we cannot control most of what is happening around us, we can control our response to it. We can control whether we get lost in panic or if we are able to stay calm and centered. We can control whether we are curled up on the couch day after day watching television or if we choose to exercise. We can control whether we feel lonely and isolated or whether we dedicate ourselves to connecting with everyone we love. We can control whether we focus on fear or instead, if we coach ourselves to put our attention on love.
That feels like the place I can be most helpful right now. As someone who has practiced mindfulness for thirty years, and who is also a high performance coach, I am blessed to have a whole toolkit filled with practices and habits that help me approach life with positivity, strength, engagement, compassion and a strong sense of possibility.
This past week, I started interviewing my fellow Certified High-Performance Coaches. I talked to them about how they are practicing self-care right now and ways they are showing up for their clients this time of crisis. These Facebook Live conversations have been a way to share coaching tools with anyone who is listening. I’ve experienced for myself how energizing and empowering it is when I am in these conversations. I feel the willingness to have more courage and to be more creative in ways I can show up with love and kindness. This is what I want for you.
This is a crucial time for us all to be surrounded by people who are supporting us to stay positive and strong. I know that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a life coach or a circle of friends who are coaches; so I want to share some tips on coaching yourself.
Self-coaching tips to help you stay positive during Covid-19:
1. Form a support squad
Part of self-coaching is surrounding ourselves with messages that support us, uplift us and inspire us. Humans are vulnerable creatures and we soak in the energy of others with whom we interact.
Who are some of the most positive people you know? Make a list.
They can be people you know, or simply people you know about: friends, family, colleagues, authors, influencers on social media, athletes, etc. Intentionally connect with these people daily. For the ones you know, set up regular phone calls or video chats. If they are celebrities or online personalities, make a list of where to find them online and set aside some time every day or throughout the day to read their posts or watch their videos.
2. Make a morning routine
Please do not wake up and immediately turn on the news, scroll through social media or read your emails.
Start your day with an intention to connect with YOU before anything else.
That means meditation, yoga, prayer, inspirational readings, a walk in nature, some dance, a bicycle ride or anything else that gives you a chance to get grounded and centered. Having a morning routine is a way to deliberately choose to set the tone for your day – and thus, as days turn into weeks, which turn into months, you are setting the tone for your entire life.
3. Stick to the schedule
A lot of people resist having a schedule. They think they are freer without one. They think they will let themselves choose in any given moment what to do or what is a priority.
Unfortunately for most of us, when we’re faced with a blank slate, we go into overwhelm. Our minds go blank. Typically, an anxious or uncertain part of us shows up in that moment of “freedom” and it ends up unfocused, unproductive and full of self-reproach.
Try this for just one day: First thing in the morning, after you’ve completed your morning centering routine, let your best, most vibrant, self create a schedule for the day. Consider what three things you must do – work goals, family goals, personal needs. Schedule those things to be completed by lunch time. Then schedule in some other things in the afternoon. Maybe some creative block time for bigger projects or long-term goals. Maybe your social media time. Maybe responding to emails.
Having a schedule of when you will work on business and personal needs also allows you to make time for exercise, learning, cooking and other things that are important to you. Your “free” time will not be fraught with worry about what else you should be doing because it will already be done! Watch how good it feels to keep your word to yourself and do the things that will make a big difference in your life.
4. Connect daily with friends and family
Part of self-coaching is supporting oneself in giving and receiving love. This means as much as possible not isolating. During difficult times the apathy and exhaustion can snowball as much as love and action can.
Every day commit to connecting with at least three people in your life. This connection can be as simple as an “I’m thinking of you.” text. It could also be a voice memo, a video call or writing an old-fashioned letter. (Check out my Kind Over Matter article “Letter Perfect.” https://kindovermatter.com/2020/01/letter-perfect.html)
Don’t let the simplicity of this fool you. Reaching out to people you love is a huge form of self -care. (And caring for others, too!)
5. Learn something new
Most of us have a lot more time right now. In the absence of social events, meetings and other activities – what if you committed to learning something new? I’ve been watching YouTube tutorial videos and playing along with my pink ukulele – something I’ve wanted to learn for years but never seemed to find the time for.
What is calling to you? Whatever it is, it is very likely there are online classes to teach you! YouTube is filled with free trainings. There are also countless online classes you can buy. Think about whether you want to learn something new for fun (like me and the uke) or whether you want to learn a new skill that will help your career or further personal growth.
My guidance is to have a set time every day, or several times a week, in which you “go” to this class – just as if it were an in-person class with others. You could team up with a buddy or two (from your support squad!) and take the class “together” by logging in at the same time!
6. Talk kindly to yourself
My Zen teacher, Cheri Huber, taught us all a practice of making (and listening to!) audio recordings for ourselves. Most people say they don’t like the sound of their own voice, but believe me, this passes quickly. In truth, our own voices can be very powerful healing vehicles for ourselves.
Record yourself reading inspirational passages from books. Record yourself telling a story about when you felt courageous or generous. Record yourself listening to music you love and tell yourself why you are so awesome. Record yourself talking about the dreams you have for the future and how you will help yourself reach those goals.
This is one of the most powerful ways to coach yourself – by listening to your own positivity and wisdom.
7. Clean house
This time of quarantine offers much more space in our lives to ask “What is no longer serving me?”
You could consider this question in terms of physical clutter in the house, digital clutter on your computer, outdated beliefs, unsupportive habits or negative mindsets.
Pause and let yourself get clarity about what needs to go. Then, put it on your schedule – and do it!
8. Celebrate daily
I saved the best for last: celebrate!
When coaching yourself out of fear, one essential thing to do is to celebrate yourself, your life, your accomplishments and the things you try. Celebrate the people you love. Celebrate the experiences you have. Celebrate that you are able to read this article and commit to creating the next level of “good life” for yourself.
Celebration comes in many forms. It might be making an audio recording for yourself at the end of the day in which you list all the ways you were kind. It might be raising a glass at dinner and toasting to your family, noting something special you love about each one as you look around the table. It might be drawing a hot bath with eucalyptus bubbles and allowing yourself to soak as you listen to classical music and think about ten favorite moments of your lifetime.
If you want to coach yourself, make sure you write “celebrate” on your schedule every single day and find ways to bring it into your life.
I hope these self-coaching tips support you in living with more positivity and strength during these difficult times. If you try any of these, or have your own tips to add, please post in the comments below!