Self-care has become the new going out. When the world seemed to come to a standstill with the pandemic lurking in every corner, people took to prioritising themselves. It was all about self-preservation. This year will see a lot more of it. Routinising small daily rituals adds to overall well-being. “Scheduling daily activities that one can look forward to makes people consistent and productive. It’s one of the easiest ways of taking charge of your health,”says Pune-based psychotherapist Urmila Dogra.
People stayed home and discovered unique ways to find solace. Some started a gratitude diary while others learnt the art of de-cluttering. “I started cooking at least one meal a day. It’s made me mindful of what I put into my body. I prepare everything for it from start to finish. I even pick vegetables mindfully. It’s the best kind of me-time,” says Gurugram-based Geeta Johari.
These tiny acts of self-consideration add up to stable bodies and steady minds. It has helped many cope with the pandemic turbulence. The best part is that it doesn’t take much time. It only demands a bit of commitment. “I have been asking everybody I meet to get 10 minutes of sun every day. While you do that, don’t distract yourself with electronic devices. Just chin up and take the warmth in,” she says.
These little deliberate everyday acts of self-care change brain chemistry, according to Dogra, thus their significance shouldn’t be undervalued. By doing so, new neural pathways are cultivated that push us towards happiness and satisfaction over time. “It leads to the release of dopamine, the chemical responsible for joyfulness and excitement,” she says.
Decreased contact with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours due to isolation did nobody any good. But with the consistent practice of self-care, people began developing a positive relationship with themselves. “Pessimists and sceptics shed their negative thinking patterns and learnt to love themselves and spend time on taking care of their needs,” says Purabh Joshi, a Mumbai-based life coach.
When in May, Rahul Kumar, an engineering student from Manipal, met Joshi over a video consultation to treat his dissociative disorder, a condition in which a person experiences disconnection between their memories, experiences, identity and thoughts, he outrightly rejected Joshi’s suggestion of writing a ‘yay! list’, a form of journaling that describes the best moments of the day. “He thought I was crazy to say something like this but thankfully Kumar gave it a shot. By the third session, there was a marked improvement in his demeanour. Sometimes this is as little as it takes. Channelising your happy feelings empowers you,” he says.
It could even be something as simple as cloud-watching. Ask Bengaluru-based Sunita Pillai, a homemaker who discovered the benefits of this seemingly trivial activity when she had an emotional meltdown with tending to the care needs of her twin toddlers after her helpers left when the pandemic struck. “I remember running manically up the stairs to the terrace, bawling. I was exhausted. I just threw myself to the floor. When I opened my eyes, I began gazing at the big fluffy clouds. As they drifted across the skyscape, I went into a trance-like state. It soothed me. Since then, I don’t wait for the tipping point. I come up every day for 15 minutes and watch the clouds in silence,” she says.
You can also try something Gaurav Mishra calls ‘deliberate tasking’. As a Delhi-based Kundalini yoga practitioner, he found tremendous peace in the act of doing a simple task with complete attention. It could be making a cup of tea or watering the plants, or even taking a walk... just stay in the moment. “It’s about taking one routine activity and spending 10 minutes extra doing it. Watch every step, notice your thoughts, breathe deeply as you do it and be completely aware of your movements while undertaking it,” says Mishra.
Observing silence is another simple yet great way to care for yourself, experts say. Sit in silence for five minutes five times a day, says Mishra, and you’ll begin to notice a difference in your temperament.
Self-massage is known to have long-term benefits. Locate areas of tension and move your fingers in a circular motion over it. Do it consistently. No matter what you do, make sure to take small steps towards these little changes. They’ll reap big results.
Simple things you can do for your well-being
• Make a compliments diary and write a compliment for yourself every day, describing it in detail
• Burn a therapeutic candle, while reading a page of your favourite book for 15 minutes each day
• Buy fresh flowers and place them in your room. It’s a simple way of brightening your day.
• Find a private spot in your home and laugh for a few minutes. As you do so, you may start weeping.
Let it come out. Those are suppressed emotions finding a way out.
• Go on a ‘no-destination’ drive a couple of times a week
• Stretch every day. It will keep your muscles flexible and maintain good range of motion.
As you do this regularly, you’ll notice your body opening up, making you fitter and happier.
• Create a new positive habit everyday, even if it’s tiny
• Two-minute meditation a few times in a dayworks wonders