Skip to main content

Holistic Self-Care During a Crisis

Apr 30, 2020 ● By Carrie Jackson

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

by Carrie Jackson

Unprecedented. Challenging. Pandemic. Crisis. However you hear it described, it’s true that we are universally facing a time of change and uncertainty which can trigger feelings such as anxiety and fear. With procedures and precautions rapidly shifting, it’s more important than ever to cultivate peace within and practice radical self-care. We asked leading holistic professionals in our area to share their favorite tools for taking care of ourselves during this crisis.

Cultivate Calm and Health at Home with Feng Shui

“As we shelter in place, there are two areas of the home according to Feng Shui guidelines that can help remain calm and stay healthy. The area on the front, right side of your home, known as the Helpful People area, brings Helpful People into your life, but also relates to the head.  So, during a time of anxiety, tension, and fear, this is the place to create a peaceful, calming feeling. Add a fountain, play music with sounds of calming water or waves, sit and meditate, or simply draw a picture of a big smile face looking right back at you. The second area is in the Center of your home, the Health area, and is a perfect place to create balance. Grab a blanket, gather the family, dogs, cats and sit in the center of your home. Children and animals are especially aware of vibrational energy and will love being included! Begin clapping to raise the energy. Smiles and laughter will erupt as you clap faster and faster. Then, ask everyone to quietly place their hands in prayer position in front of their hearts. Take a deep breath, close the eyes, and release the breath as you say a long and loud ‘Ohhhhmmm.’” Repeat a .few times to raise the energy and create good health! - Laurie Pawli, director of the Feng Shui School of Chicago .

Meditate to Calm the Mind

“Peace of mind is priceless, especially now when our life and world are so uncertain, and it can be enhanced and stabilized with regular meditation practice. Take two to 10 minutes to focus steadily on the sensation of your breathing—or until your mind calms down a bit—and then deeply enjoy your own peace of mind, no matter how small it may feel. This is not a luxury, but a reliable, effective protection from difficult emotions and negative thinking, and an authentic foundation for genuine kindness, patience and empathy. Then, in daily life, instead of dwelling on the waves of difficult emotions or negative thinking you may experience, recall and reconnect to the feeling of peace from meditation and anchor your mind to it. With practice, your mind can remain calm no matter how difficult life becomes.” - Gen Kelsang Zamlin, Buddhist monk and resident teacher at Kadampa Meditation Center Chicago.

Listen to Your Body

“Everyone always has a healing impulse at work in their body, all the time. To access it, just ask yourself, ‘Where is there a place in my body that feels great?’ And see what part of your body captures your attention. Try to describe for yourself the way that part of your body feels. Breathe deeply into your whole body, but especially breathe into the area that feels good. As you exhale, allow the good feeling to travel through your body, like the breath carries it along to the rest of your body. Keep breathing into that feeling and help it spread for a few minutes, at least 10 to 20 breaths in and out.” - Steve Rogne, director, Zen Chicago.

Organize Your Home Space

“Organizing reconnects you with your home and gives a feeling of control over your life at a time when things might feel out of control. Our homes are working hard for us right now. When we leave them for limited reasons right now, we can return to them with a sense of gratitude. Take 20 seconds as you return to thank your home, out loud or in your head. Identify a few keywords to describe how you want to feel in your space right now, and use them as a guide as you make any decisions about what to keep in your space. Tackle small projects, like a junk drawer that overflows, a cabinet that doesn’t close properly or a linen closet that could use some attention. Empty these spaces, set a timer and get to work by grouping like items with each other. You may find some items need to be relocated or you are ready to let go of them. Since donation centers are closed, putting them aside in a car trunk or garage might be an option. Whatever you end up doing, keep gratitude and joy for what we do have at the center of your thoughts, and enjoy whatever it is in your space that makes it special to you.” - Megan Spillman, professional organizer and founder of Peace & Tidy.

Enhance Wellness in Body, Mind and Spirit

“Anything that is unfamiliar, out of place or presents a discrepancy will trigger our autonomic nervous system to start producing stress hormones and adrenaline. It is possible to mindfully neutralize the impact of our body’s natural defense system. Let yourself sink into this moment, taking a break from thinking about anything in particular, for 20 to 30 seconds, and then notice how your body feels inside. Pause every once in a while, several times a day, and relax into the moment. Stop and gently take notice of something beautiful—something you love to look at in your house like a photo, a candle or art object, or curl up with a blanket, hang out with a pet, or gaze out the window and take in the contours of a branch, a cloud or even a patch of grass outside your window. Take breaks to slowly stretch your neck, shoulders or your whole body. Avoid ‘futurizing’, which is our main source of anxiety. Remind yourself that your brilliant, resilient and resourceful mind will be there to handle the future—in the future! Let go, for now.” - Ellen Katz, MS, LMFT, clinical director, Inner Balance.

Stay Engaged and Fulfilled

“In times of uncertainty, refresh yourself regularly with humor, laughter, and silliness. Practice smiling throughout the day. It truly is good for you in many ways! If you need some lighthearted resources try searching Whose Line is it Anyway or John Krasinski’s Some Good News on YouTube. Play charades with a friend on your favorite video chat platform. Leave kind notes for your neighbors. Write a note to at least one adult and one child each day. It can be one line, it does not have to be fancy or eloquent. You can share an old photo, something you appreciate about them or that makes you think of them. Remember how great it feels to get a real handwritten note in the mail.” - Sarah Karnes, life changes coach.

Carrie Jackson is an Evanston-based writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. Connect at