Up Front and Personal

Self-Care in the Age of COVID and the Election

By Dr. Kate Walsh-Soucheray

Self-care for all Americans is on the top of our minds, especially as we approach the holidays. We are told we must not isolate ourselves because it’s not good for our mental health, and yet gathering together can be detrimental to our physical health. Navigating this time well is difficult and can seem like an impossibility.

As Catholics, we believe God has a plan for us. His ways may be obscured from our view, but we are encouraged to have faith that good things will come from whatever is currently transpiring.

Our faith calls us to remember that before Easter Sunday, we will have a Good Friday, and we must trust that positive things will come from the trials we face.

As adults trying to make sense of all that has happened in the past nine months, we may be low on stamina and optimism and high on anxiety and uncertainty.

Finding a positive angle through this time is challenging in our already overly-busy, overly-committed culture. When we add COVID and an unsettled election to the mix, it’s easy to see how we can become overwhelmed.

We hear about the importance of self-care, which is vital at all times, but especially at this time.

To the extent that we do not care for ourselves, we will be unable to care for others.

The adage of “we can only give what we have” is applicable in this case and indicates that if we do not engage in self-care, we will have little to give to those who need us most.

We can begin by attending to eating healthfully. This is not to say, “go on a diet,” but rather, eat nutritiously-balanced meals and snacks and drink water at appropriate times of the day so we are able to function well.

We must get enough good sleep each night to reset our circadian rhythms so we can respond calmly to something that may activate us. We must try to exercise as often as we can and be comfortable with whatever we can accomplish.

Take the steps because it helps our heart stay healthy.

Put on a video and move to the music, accepting this is what we will have to do until we can go back to the gym or outside for a walk.

We must be sure to take the vitamins our doctor has recommended, and if we are taking medication, stay on it. Thinking positive thoughts and limiting our time on newsfeeds and the Internet will benefit our strength narrative. Whenever possible, it is good to be with healthy people in safe ways, using masks and observing social distancing.

We also must remember to use prayer liberally and offer gratitude for the small treasures of each day. If we have the opportunity to return to Mass, do so safely.

We will find benefits from creating time in our day for prayer, whether that is to say the Rosary, read the Scriptures, or say simple prayers to God and the saints for protection.

These calming practices provide fortitude and perspective for us.

Believing we will get through this time, acknowledging all we have done to maintain good mental health, and looking forward with optimism to a brighter future, will help us develop resiliency and greater inner strength.

Opening ourselves to the gifts and the lessons this time has to teach will make us stronger.

Dr. Walsh-Soucheray is a licensed marriage and family therapist and is on the board of the Catholic Psychotherapy Association.