It’s Okay to Not Feel Okay: Self-Care Tips from a Psychotherapist and Healthworks Fitness Instructor

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Over the past few weeks, we’ve felt and seen the tension burst with the death of George Floyd and immediate protests, rallies  and looting (a lá 1992’s Rodney King trial and LA Riots). All of this unrest followed the killing (and #IRunWithAhmaud campaign) of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, among others. And of course, to top it all off, we are all trying to survive a global health crisis, this pandemic, and the enormous financial and surmounting mental health crisis. 

How does one even keep afloat during this time? How does one keep a healthy mind, heart and perspective with oneself, and with the relationships around you, especially the ones in your community to the ones you are in quarantine with? As someone who is also trying to survive, keep a level head on my shoulders, and do something in this time of social unrest, I wanted to share my tips on how to nourish and care for the heart, mind, body and soul during this difficult and unprecedented time.  

  1. Limit/balance your time on social media: I can’t say this enough, but be mindful of how much screen time you’re having. Maybe set a timer; one hour a day, or 30 minutes in the AM or PM is a great target. Before the 1980s, computers and smartphones were non-existent and we got the news and world’s happenings through other people, the radio and the TV. It’s important to be aware of how much you are reading/watching, and remember a lot of these mediums want you to click (“click bait”) and take you down the rabbit hole, especially on social media. Media posts are ‘performative’ and video clips are meant to agitate (Facebook’s algorithms highlight those posts with the most emojis – aka those that can trigger and anger people). Pay attention to the weekly “screen time” summary set by your phones.
  2. Posture/ergonomics: Acute or chronic pain can exacerbate feelings and emotions of sadness, frustration, anger, irritation and a lack of appreciation. Be mindful of your posture, especially while we’re all working from home and when you look down at your smartphone (hint: try not to have your neck tilted downward for extended lengths of time). If you’re seated, allow for some stretching breaks and consider taking calls while walking or standing. Make sure you make an appointment for yourself to stretch, take a virtual class, do some yoga movements and/or see a chiropractor. 
  3. Volunteer, contribute, protest: Disadvantaged communities around the city and country need our support, especially the Black community. Now is the time to reach out, educate yourself and take action. Donate time, funds, goods, skills and do your part – this will enrich your soul and help those in need who have less of a voice.
  4. Talk it out: Whether it’s a  friend, sibling, mother, religious leader, your therapist or your local, friendly café owner, connection is key during a time of crisis, anguish, depression and anger. Connection is one of the top factors to living longer and having an overall healthier and happier mindset.
  5. Mind/body check-up: It’s important to check in with yourself when you’re feeling down or low. Have you been drinking enough water, sleeping enough, keeping tabs on how much processed sugar you’ve been eating?  Have you set a solid, realistic routine for yourself or are you finding yourself sleeping later and later and waking up later and later? A lot of my clients discover that they’ve been vitamin D deficient (from a medical check-up) and symptoms include fatigue/restlessness, depression, body aches and back pain. Make sure you’re keeping your body moving and getting enough sun, nature and Vitamin D.
  6. Gratitude: Science has backed the long lasting benefits of gratitude and thankfulness. Just as some of the yoga enthusiasts practice before class, set a positive intention for the day, before you get out of bed, and see how it interweaves with your day. For example, recognize the ways nature helps in times of stress, or notice how your body does not fail you, but rather helps you through the day. Be thankful for helpers in your life, for a voice, for action, for a choice and for the health/fitness communities around us, keeping us on our toes to stay healthy in body, mind and spirit.

Remember there is no right or wrong for how you practice self-care in times of stress, and it’s okay to not feel okay. A lot of us don’t feel okay in the moment; we’re surrounded by repression, anger, frustration, fear, entrapment, anxiety and conflict. Realize that so many of us are feeling these moments of complete uselessness, and then feelings of calm, paralleled with moments of breakdown and then level-headedness. This is why it is utterly important to connect with others, check-in and talk to someone who might be able to help you. In this time of uncertainty, recognize that this time is not forever and find coping skills and distractions that will help you to feel even momentarily less stressed, and know that we are all feeling these feelings. 

Written contribution by Sandra M. Kim, a POC, Healthworks studio instructor, mother, daughter, sister, college consultant, and now psychotherapist, trying to survive and keep afloat during these times. For more information, please feel free to email Sandra at talktherapytuebingen@gmail.com and follow her on Facebook.

At Healthworks Group, we stand in solidarity with the Black community near and far against systemic racism and injustice. 

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