I had years of experience with social distancing before COVID-19 hit. My first-hand knowledge of being isolated, however, resulted from a mental disorder rather than a contagious virus. Anxiety and fear led me to over-exercise, under-eat, and study alone. I wasn’t motivated to manage my hygiene or value my body when I was sick. My access to products was also limited.
I’m in a different place today, and self-care has played a significant role in my recovery. The term itself means different things to different women. For me, self-care is an expression of respect for my body that keeps me close to the Earth. It’s crucial that I take care of my body because I spent a long time neglecting it. And I need to feel grounded because I know what it’s like to lose touch with reality.
My do-it-yourself approach to looking and feeling better has increased my confidence and helped me gain momentum socially. Nothing has done more to bring me out of my shell than the time I invest every day in self-care. I’m establishing myself as a mental health advocate and playing an active role in alumni affairs at American University, where I graduated in May 2019 with an M.S. in health promotion management.
The routines I developed to support my personal development have become much more relevant for others now that so many health and beauty businesses have had to close their doors until the U.S. economy reopens. That’s what prompts me to share two self-taught techniques and lifestyle recommendations to inspire change.
Awaken your body.
I suggest picking your favorite activity below or a combination and taking 15 minutes to awaken your body daily. Ideally, you can take 15 minutes at least twice a day to practice awakening your body, or work in longer chunks of time, for a total of 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Dance/Music. There is no need for your self-care area to be perfectly organized and clean – just good enough to let go. Dancing is free, besides the cost of music. My wireless headphones and music subscription are essential to all of my self-care, so I don’t have to be insecure about bothering others or worry about anyone interrupting my experience. I energize myself by listening to my favorite songs and sometimes singing along to help me let go of the stress of self-isolating.
Self-Massage. Keep a large bottle of lotion made with your favorite essential oil, which are plant compounds with scents such as rose and eucalyptus. The cost is around $12 for a 32-ounce bottle and lasts months. Over time, you may accumulate body lotions if you enjoy them.
Take one or two pumps of lotion at a time. I perform my massage while standing up moving around. Begin with your hands, fingers, and wrists. Massage the front and back of each hand using circular motions and use your thumbs to get deeper. Practice non-judgment as you mindfully perform massage of your arms, and maybe your shoulders and neck. Incorporate stretches for the triceps to alleviate computer pain.
Foam Rolling. To enhance your dance and self-massage, engage your mind and body in foam rolling. I recommend getting started with a thick fitness mat where you can experiment with different kinds of foam rollers. There are hard, soft, textured, and vibrating foam rollers of varying shapes and sizes available online.
The most important area to foam roll is your entire back, focusing on awareness of your spine. Always let your breathing be natural. I maneuver my shoulders to open my chest while supporting my neck with my hands.
Build up to bigger stretches and practice counter-exercises to strengthen your core and support your structure. Experiment with balance, inversions, and pointing or flexing your feet as you feel comfortable. Integrate yoga twists when you need a break from foam rolling.
My first-hand knowledge of being isolated, however, resulted from a mental disorder rather than a contagious virus.
Look your best.
One place to start is with skincare. Many people find morning and nighttime routines calming. They’re an opportunity to add structure to the day, especially during times of extreme uncertainty. If you’re looking for somewhere to start, here’s a routine to work from.
Step 1 is cleansing. Cleanser removes impurities from the skin and prevents your pores from getting clogged, which creates acne. Start by pouring a little cleanser in your palm then rub your hands together. I prefer to do steps 1 and 2 in a hot shower to help me relax and take in the steam and oils. I recommend at least 30 seconds for face cleansing in the morning.
Step 2 is scrubbing. Using scrub, or exfoliating, eliminates dead skin cells. A little goes a long way. Don’t exfoliate every time you cleanse, but try for several times a week. Do what feels good, without creating dryness. Try to spend at least 2 minutes massaging the scrub on your face, legs, underarms, and groin area in the shower.
Step 3 is misting or toning. After getting out of the shower, spray on facial mist or apply toner with cotton pads. The purpose is to provide refreshment, so use throughout the day.
Step 4 is skin-enhancing liquid or gel. Pour a small amount in the palm of your hand and rub together before massaging on skin. Trace your eyes/forehead; rub around in the areas of your nose, cheeks and chin; approach your neckline with big and circular movements keeping your jaw open. Serum is critical to improving your skin’s elasticity and making it shine.
Step 5 is moisturizing. Moisturizer is nourishing and provides a finished look. As part of moisturizing, you can apply under-eye cream and lip balm if you want, and then use liquid BB cream with minerals for tint and make-up after as desired.
In the evening, shower again or use facial towelettes to cleanse. Then, spray mist or apply toner and massage on your favorite night cream. If you’re looking to pamper yourself, or need a good excuse to de-stress for 15 minutes, buy face masks at the drugstore or order some online. I prefer single-use beauty masks for hydrating or clarifying one to three times a week.
Skincare can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are affordable, non-comedogenic options for most products. However, if you’re looking to indulge, you can take things up a notch with facial steamers, aromatherapy diffusers, and other tools that can help make your body and environment feel refreshed.
ASMR Skincare Routine
Relax and unwind with Alexandra as she performs her daily routine.
Support self-care with your lifestyle.
Some aspects of wellbeing aren’t regimented. Everybody has different tastes, but there are two critical lifestyle choices I’ve made that have helped me during COVID-19.
I practice open communication. I keep in touch with family members, colleagues, and friends. I talk to these people throughout the day on the phone or via text to ease feelings of being cooped up and reach out for help when I need it. Every day, I widen my social and professional circle through networking and virtual meetings.
I listen to my body. For me, this means nourishing myself with smaller, frequent meals and varying what I eat to enjoy new tastes. I let myself sleep when I am tired. For comfort and sustainability, I look for antimicrobial materials like bamboo or organic cotton for my bedding (which includes a weighted blanket) and clothing. I keep the lights on dim and use salt lamps to set a friendly mood through the day.
Self-care may not be a substitute for going to a salon, gym, or studio, but I hope you will consider trying the techniques that have worked for me. Self-care isn’t an alternative to therapy or medication if you need it, but has helped me preserve my wellbeing while protecting others during social distancing.