The term “self-care” is a new-fangled way of saying “take care of yourself.” During the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it’s important for seniors to do just that. But in a quarantine, self-care can easily take a back seat to worry, anxiety or just plain lethargy. This can be especially debilitating for the elderly. To come through this pandemic happy and healthy, here are several ways to make self-care a part of each day.
Keep your normal routine. Whether working or retired, living alone, with a spouse or in a senior living community, everyone has routines. During the pandemic, keeping those routines is particularly important. Solid, healthful routines should include regular meals, physical and mental exercise, contact with friends and family, and working if that is part of your life.
It’s also important to fill all the new free time with new endeavors that provide something to look forward to. Some examples are learning to paint, knit, or sew; airplane or building a model ship; trying out new pandemic-perfect recipes; or reading those classic books that slipped through the cracks of time (check this list if you need ideas).
Redefine a healthy diet: Eating regular, healthy meals isn’t as easy as it sounds and during the pandemic, it can become even more challenging. But seniors need to pay attention so they don’t fall prey to processed foods, frozen microwave meals with high sodium content, or the temptation to just have a bowl of buttered popcorn for dinner, rather than a meal.
Start by comparing the foods in cupboards and the refrigerator/freezer with this list of healthy foods from the National Council for Aging Care in the article “Elderly Nutrition 101: Ten Foods to Keep You Healthy.” Next, make a shopping list of best food choices and use the recipes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ChooseMyPlate website to plan and cook meals that are actually good for you!
Take stock:One of the biggest concerns during the pandemic is running out of essentials. From paper products to batteries to soaps, detergents, and disinfecting supplies, keep a running list of stock on hand and include those that are dwindling in the next shopping trip or order.
Also keep in mind that over-the-counter medications (such as those for spring allergies) may be outdated, and doublecheck all prescription medications on hand and any pending refills. For a very extensive list of items to consider stocking up on, chainlinkresearch.com offers a downloadable pdf titled “Pandemic Flu-Family Supply List.”
Address anxiety: There’s no doubt about it, these are times that can try even the happiest and most secure of us. As the weeks of quarantine stretch on, anxiety may creep in, making it even harder to bear up under the pandemic strain. If anxiety is becoming an issue, there are ways to minimize it and learn to cope before it becomes unmanageable and impacts physical and mental well-being.
Among the many ways to curtail anxiety are doing things that make you happy like listening to music, flipping through family photo albums, working in a garden, or just talking to a dear friend or relative on the phone. Don’t let fear take control, find out more ways to manage pandemic anxiety in the AARP’s article, “Seven Ways to Cope With Anxiety During the Coronavirus Outbreak.”
Try journaling: Some of the best books ever written were based on the writings of people who lived through extraordinary times. Recall the tapestry of readings from letters and journals used by Ken Burns in his epic documentary “The Civil War.” Or the many books and articles written by Sir Winston Churchill defining life during both the first and second World Wars and how he managed to rally the world to defeat Hitler. Writing history as it happens can be a gift to researchers, but also to the writer. Writing has long been considered therapeutic and can help the writer gain a feeling of control and even understanding when life gets crazy.
So, why not write about how the pandemic is impacting life as each new day dawns? If journaling seems like a good idea, remember that journaling on a computer is easy and fast, but may be lost to future generations. Instead, use a notebook or even just sheets of paper and pen or pencil. Also, note that there are no rules except to write the truth as you see it, in as few or as many words as needed. Find out more about journaling as a form of therapy in the Positive Psychology.com article, “Writing Therapy: Using A Pen and Paper to Enhance Personal Growth.”
Even as experts cannot see an end in sight, we each need to take care of ourselves and do our best for the greater good. Taking simple, daily self-care steps will go a long way toward staying healthy for the pandemic-free future when it arrives. Stay home, stay safe!