- Katie Nave is freelance writer, advocate, and nonprofit communications specialist based in Brooklyn, New York.
- At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, she moved in with her ex-husband so they could safely co-parent their 5-year-old daughter.
- In an aim to improve her mental health, she developed self-care morning and evening routines to carve out quiet time for meditation, journaling, and reading.
- Nave also says that burning incense and candles, reading tarot cards, and shutting off her phone an hour before bed have helped improve her headspace and sleep habits.
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Like many people, my life in quarantine is chaos. Back in March, my daughter’s school closed, I moved back in with my ex-husband to safely co-parent, and my freelance work began to dry up. Like most everyone, my daily routine and creature comforts were completely gone, and I felt like a mess.
I’ve never been the Gywneth Paltrow, glowy, goddess-of-perfection-and-wellness type, but in the past, self-care meant getting to an exercise class in the morning or meeting up with friends for dinner. Without access to these, at the start of quarantine, I became a person who was always reaching for my phone, obsessively reading the latest news alerts and living in a constant state of fear.
After completely losing my cool with my daughter one night, I knew that something had to give. I felt I’d lost myself, and it was taking a toll on those closest to me. I needed to find a way to feel grounded again. I thought of my former methods of self-care, considered my therapist’s (often ignored) suggestions, and did a little research. Then, I came up with a ritual to better start and end my day.
I’ve started waking up earlier for alone time to prepare for the day.
For someone coping with anxiety or depression, simply facing the day can be overwhelming, but studies show that maintaining a consistent daily routine can greatly benefit your mental health. I have certainly seen the results firsthand.
I wake up around 6 a.m. to ensure that I’m up before my daughter has a chance to barge in with an array of nuanced questions about sea animals. Sure, sleeping in for a few extra hours can be rejuvenating, but if I wake up and am immediately thrown into the madness of the day, I feel perpetually behind. Instead, taking about 20 minutes total for myself has helped to increase my productivity, energy, and overall mood.
Before anyone needs my attention, I go to my dedicated space and get still.
I’ve found it helpful to sit in the same spot in the corner of my bedroom each morning, light incense or a candle, and say a quick prayer or simply listen to my breath. I bought my floor cushion from a woman I met in Mexico, but there are similar cushions available online that can ship almost anywhere. For me, this isn’t a religious practice or a formal meditation. It is simply a way to get still, get quiet, and get centered.
I’ve also started pulling tarot cards each morning to help inspire reflection and direction. While this is likely not for everyone, I got inspired to do so after spending a weekend with my wonderfully witchy friend who walked me through how to do a simple tarot spread. HausWitch hosts virtual workshops online where you can learn all about it.
Opening the curtains and letting natural light in is energising and I immediately feel lighter when the fresh air hits my face.
Writing in a journal helps me get out all of my feelings.
I’ve always been a person with big feelings. Ideally, before starting the day, I’ll take a few minutes to jot down my thoughts, purge my fears, and create a gratitude list. Getting super granular about specific areas of gratitude is a great anecdote for stress. A list may simply include my healthy lungs, my daughter’s soft snores, a thoughtful text from a friend, or my cup of coffee.
I keep a stack of simple journals from Paper Source next to my bed that I try to write in each day. Revisiting journal entries from days and weeks back has also proven helpful in gaining perspective, especially as I become more and more desensitised to the pandemic. No matter what happens, I see that my feelings are like weather, always coming and going.
After this quiet time and a few gentle stretches, I’m ready to start my day.
In the evening, I carve out time to unwind and unplug.
While living in quarantine, I’ve spent many nights going down social media rabbit holes, glass of wine in-hand. I’m not alone in this, as studies show that the pandemic has led to a large increase in cell phone usage. We’re all feeling bored, lonely, and seeking pleasure. However, each time we pick up our phones, the flood of alerts can cause stress hormones to go through the roof.
Putting my phone away about an hour before bed and taking space to decompress from the day has helped me to feel more calm and has drastically improved my sleep.
A simple meditation practice at night helps me to sleep better.
I’ve always been resistant to meditation. I get itchy, bored, or simply fall asleep while attempting a long, formal practice. It annoyed the shit out of me when my ex discovered transcendental meditation, so it’s likely that I’m still holding a personal grudge. Still, studies show that meditation is highly beneficial to one’s mental and physical health, so I’ve stopped trying to fight it.
I’ve recently embraced the practice of sitting still, listening to my breath, and clearing my mind for a few minutes each night. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll rub calming essential oils, like lavender or chamomile, and light a candle. Before putting my phone away for the night, I’ll sometimes use the Calm app. They have daily 10 minute guided meditations, and more in-depth options, that I love.
Reading also offers me a therapeutic escape.
Since childhood, reading has always provided me with a much-needed escape from reality. Whether I’m absorbed in a fiction novel or diving into a nonfiction topic of fascination, books help me to get outside of myself. They force me to stop multitasking, be still, and focus on the page in front of me.
Sharing book recommendations with friends in quarantine has also been a small way to add human connection and stay in touch with those that I miss. While I had trouble focusing early in quarantine, I’m now back in the reading game and have enjoyed “Women Talking” by Miriam Toews, “Big Friendship” by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, “There There” by Tommy Orange, and “Little Weirds” by Jenny Slate.
My self-care rituals are far from perfect, but they have made a big difference for my mental health during this time.
As normal routines have been completely rocked, establishing regular touchpoints each morning and night has become my anchor. I’m still scared, sad, and anxious quite often, but this has helped me to feel a little more at ease each day.
Katie Nave is a freelance writer, advocate, and nonprofit communications specialist living in Brooklyn, New York. Learn more on her website.
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