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Self-Care All the More Important During Pandemic Stress in the USVI

Self-Care All the More Important During Pandemic Stress in the USVI. (Nour Suid photo)

Are you loving and taking care of yourself during this pandemic? Are you a parent working, and has to find ways to assist your child at home with virtual learning? Are you someone who has lost their job, or had to make a change due to COVID? With the recent increase in cases of COVID-19 here in the US Virgin Islands, “self-care” is essential. Parents are exhausted juggling work while supervising kids doing distance learning. People have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Time management has been more challenging with changes in their normal day to day-to-day life.

“In my opinion self-care is more important during these difficult times of the ‘Covid 19 era’ than ever before. Not only are the everyday stressors in people’s lives still apparent, they are exacerbated by all the strain that COVID 19 has brought to every aspect of life. The fear towards contracting the disease and becoming fatally ill yourself, to the thought of bringing covid home to loved ones is anxiety inducing” said Rebekah Wheatley, a local mother of two.

“The loneliness that you begin to feel when the world has all but shut down so physical human interaction is at an all-time low. Schools closing forcing parents to make difficult decisions regarding their children’s care,” she added.

Widely-cited medical ethicists Beauchamp and Childress described self-care as providing adequate attention to one’s own physical and psychological wellness. Clinical Social Worker Maria Baratta wrote in Psychology Today, “I often refer to self-care as a huge part of what’s missing in the life of someone who’s busy and stressed. So what is self-care? Self-care in essence is the mindful taking of time to pay attention to you.”

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To build resilience towards the stressors of our daily lives, practicing self-care is vital. There are different forms of self-care, including physical, social, mental, spiritual, and emotional. “With the constant changes that covid seems to bring to our lives, I think it’s so important to recognize when we’re feeling overwhelmed and take a step back. Not only do I find ways to adapt and be flexible but I also find time for the things I enjoy and can still do. Going to the beach and spending time with those I’m closest to are my best self-care practices” said Brittanie Sibilly, a Pre-K teacher at Antilles School.

“One way I take time for myself is by going for a walk or short run to help get my endorphins pumping. Since the completion of the waterfront walkway, I have really enjoyed getting some exercise, accompanied by an amazing view. The different hues of the sky during the sunset, the sea providing a nice cool breeze, and my skin soaking in the sun helps me to unwind and let go of the stresses life can bring. This is fun, free, and good for your health. Sometimes the hardest part is forcing myself to get up and out the door but then once I am out of the house and get in some movement, I am always happy that I went” said Wheatley.

Many tend to forget that there is a powerful connection between the body and mind. Being physically healthy includes:

• Getting enough sleep.
• Fuelling your body with the best nutrients.
• Exercising.
• Taking care of your health.
• and taking prescribed medications.

“Self-care for me is doing anything that makes me feel good. It can be as simple as eating my favorite dessert or watching your favorite show. My favorite self-care is indulging in monthly massages and, in addition to treating myself to a night out for dinner” said Atoya, the office manager at Mind/Body Health & Psychology. “I like to create a morning and/or night time routine. At either end of the day, start with setting aside 20 minutes for myself. That means free of family, friends and kids. You can fill this time with sitting in silence, meditation, reading, exercise, etc. The time is there for you to fill your cup so you can fill others” said Ali Prazak, a realtor at Sea Glass Properties and a health and wellness coach.

With social distancing, it is understandable that social self-care may be the most challenging. In social self-care, one should have face-to-face interaction. You can still practice social self-care in today’s normal by calling and checking in on your friends and family. Share your thoughts and feelings. If possible, meet up with them for face-to-face interaction,. “When I had a long week at work, I like to do something simple and relaxing for myself to unwind. I love going to Magen’s beach with my family and friends. The beach is another form of self-care I tend to do often” said Atoya.

Your mental health is just as, if not more important than, your physical health. What you think is as important as what you eat. Below are practices you can do to love yourself and become more resilient as you deal with changes and uncertainties:

• Negative thoughts can be replaced with positive thoughts to help the mind cope with stress, anxiety, overwhelm, and even burnout.
• Practicing gratitude, which is recognizing life’s blessings and speaking thank you’d aloud, help to express more love and kindness for our lives and the good in our lives.
• Saying affirmations to yourself daily are crucial to expand our abilities to believe in ourselves in times of distress and overwhelming moments that can truly make the difference. Positive affirmations may sound like, “I am worthy,” “I am loved and cared for,” “I am beautiful” “I am strong,” “I deserve happiness,” “I am enough,” “I deserve peace,” “I matter,” and “I will get through this.” Saying these statements in the mirror every day until it’s routine helps to remind you to believe in yourself and your abilities and remove self-doubt.
• Don’t spend too much time on electronics. For some people, cutting out social media is a type of self-care. Others will stop watching the news.
• Reach out for help

An article written by the proprietors of the wellness blog VeryWell Mind mentions research shows individuals who practice a lifestyle that includes religion or spirituality actually live a healthier lifestyle. When was the last time you said a prayer, went to church/synagogue/masjid, or even practiced meditation? For me personally, I know I feel at ease when I take time out of my day to pray. I also love listening to the Quran, especially when it is my dad’s or older brother’s voice reciting it.

There is a stigma in our community surrounding seeking professional mental health assistance. It is so important for the people of our community to understand that being able to talk to someone, knowing you are not alone, knowing that there will always be someone to take the time to help and listen is an asset, not a debt. We all have lives with ups and downs, hardships, happiness, strengths, and weaknesses and unless we are willing to stop and express these feelings openly, we will never be able to grow – not individually or as a society.

Mental health care is available in abundance in our community. It does no good to hold in emotions. There are local professionals who are available and willing to help our community and provide tools and coping skills to thrive personally, in relationships, in work, with others, and with troubles of the past. “Self-care requires daily attention. My self-care practice starts with spiritual fitness, physical fitness and mental wellness. Daily practices of chanting Nichiren Buddhism, walking the hills around my home and using social media to remain connected with family and friends are the building blocks of my self-care wellness plan” said Rita Dudley-Grant, a licensed clinical psychologist on St. Croix.

“Self-care is not secondary. It’s the primary ingredient in maintaining a healthy and balanced life. So show yourself the love you deserve, in whatever way you need it” said Kayla Egger, a lifelong practitioner of self-care on St. Thomas. “Since you are the person you’ll have the longest relationship within your life, it’s worth making it a good one. Imagine if you treated yourself like someone you really loved” said Anne Nayer, a licensed Social Worker, Psychotherapist and Life Coach on St. Thomas.

Editor’s Note: Nour Z. Suid was born and raised in the Virgin Islands. She graduated with a doctorate in clinical psychology and a doctorate in naturopathic medicine. Nour Suid is also the secretary of the Association of the Virgin Islands Psychologists.

 

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