Self-care critical in the time of COVID-19

Simple instructions to keep STEADY during stressful times.
By Helen Tarleton, MS Counselor

I was recently asked by someone why the concept of self-care is more important than ever right now. In the waterfall of information I’ve received about the pandemic and our experience of social distancing, I read an article suggesting the cues we are getting from most of our trusted sources are sometimes difficult to apply to the small decisions in our day that now have a life-or-death feeling about them.
Self-care is a cue to our nervous system that we matter and we can trust ourselves. Without reassurance of safety, this system is designed to activate and stay activated until we're safe again. Self-care allows us to have control over the "switch" — we can give ourselves the signals of safety in small ways throughout the day to mitigate against being in a state of perpetual stress.

My work in counseling has steadily migrated to a deeper understanding of how our experiences and emotions become embedded in our physiology. I’ve learned to become less dependent on language and more so on integrating the mental, emotional, and physical aspects of our experience. A few years ago, I had a set of cards made with the acronym STEADY on them. I give them to students to help them learn the power of self-care, first and foremost as a practice of stabilization. I share it here as a way of offering our wider community a tool for self-care, believing each and every one of us indeed deserves a signal that we matter.

S - Slow breathing: one long inhale, one long exhale

T -  Touch: wiggle toes and fingers, rub hands or arms

E - Eyes: notice 3-5 objects that stand out in your field of vision

A - Access the memory of a safe, calm place

D - Describe three things you notice there

Y - Yawn: stretch the muscles in your face
    • Middle School Counselor Helen Tarleton

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