Posted on Jun 12, 2020
By Danah Shuli
While it may seem that things are slowly going back to “normal,” with many states initiating their phased plans to open up public spaces, the corona virus is still very real and is affecting many lives. With cases continuing to skyrocketing daily in many states, it’s important for us to be mindful and continue taking precautions to ensure the safety of ourselves and families. Those who are most vulnerable still need our protection.
I know this is easier said than done, given that It’s been three months that we have been sheltering in place. It has personally taken an emotional and physical toll on myself and my family. I am sure many of you can relate. Self care is important now more, with our mental and physical health potential being affected by our global pandemic realities.
But how do we do that when we may have so many more responsibilities, with schools and summer activities closed, perhaps working from home and difficulties finding alone time?
In the past, writing a post on self care would include suggestions for activities like going out to grab coffee or lunch with a friend, taking a road trip or just finding a way to take some time for oneself in whatever manner is helpful. But, what does self care look like when we are social distancing? How can we take care of ourselves and fill our own emotional tanks in order to better serve and take care of our families during these unprecedented times?
Images source: Unsplash
Make a Connection
Establish a strong morning routine. I had an entire blog post dedicated to this topic, long before the pandemic started. I highly recommend sticking to a strong morning routine in order to start yourself off on the right foot everyday. I personally feel a huge difference in my mood, energy levels and work accomplished when I stay up after fajr or wake up early in order to take some time for myself and recharge spiritually.
As a mom of two young children, I rarely get the time during the day to practice any sort of extra worship aside from five daily prayers. This is why I make it a priority for myself to stay awake during those early morning hours after fajr to read my daily wird, recite the morning adhkar and sip on some coffee or tea uninterrupted. Refilling my spiritual tank as well as enjoying a warm drink alone is something that may sound trivial, but I think we’ve all come to realize that it’s the little things that have the most impact. This truly is self care for me.
Do a routine video chat. I know we’re all over zoom calls and FaceTime, however there’s no denying that this technology has helped us connect without completely losing our minds. From virtual birthdays, weddings, qiyams during Ramadan and daily halaqas, technology has definitely proven itself to be a blessing.
Something that has helped me and a group of my close friends feel connected and restore a sense of “girl time” is a scheduled weekly zoom call. It’s a time slot that I’ve blocked out every week to catch up with my friends while maybe folding laundry together, eating snacks and catching up!
If you’re someone who prefers connecting the old fashioned way, you can always pick up the phone and check in on your family and friends with a simple phone call. To make it even more special, send a handwritten letter to someone you miss dearly. Receiving mail is always exciting, but how special would it be to receive a hand written note from a loved one, just because! Make it a habit and write to them regularly. You never know, they might just send you a note back!
Schedule time for yourself or alone time with your spouse. This may or may not work for everyone, depending on your family dynamic, you or your spouse’s work schedule or nature of everyone’s work. However, it is worth the time to sit down with your partner and try to figure out how and when you can carve out time during the week for both of you some alone time and time together.
If you have young kids and your husband is able to watch them in the evening, take advantage of that and make it a priority to have an evening to yourself at least once a week (or whatever works for your schedule) and vice versa. If your children are older and can be left unattended, communicate to them that mom and dad need their alone time and enjoy an evening to yourselves in your back patio or even out for a drive.
Find a Distraction
Pick up a new hobby. If you’re not doing so already, discover your inner talents. Whether that’s baking, gardening, working on DIY projects around the house, reading a new book, starting a new podcast series, memorizing a new surah in the Quran or a collection of hadiths or educating yourself on things you have always wanted to learn more about – the list is endless.
(Many of us started this sheltering-in-place posting about sourdough bread, chocolate chip cookies and banana bread. We are in a very different place now, and if you haven’t been keeping up, commit to some self-education about current events and reading, which isn’t a “new hobby,” but rather hopefully a pursuit of lifelong learning, support and growth.)
Developing a new interest or spending time on something that’s sat on the back burner for a while can be especially good for parents who are not able to take alone time for themselves. Aside from the day to day with family, having a special time for activities and bonding is something the entire family will look forward to. In my household with little children, we’ve picked up gardening and watching caterpillars turn into butterflies.
Plan a future vacation. With no end in sight, COVID-19 has definitely put a damper on many of our plans for the year. However, “Indeed with hardship comes ease,” (15:85) and we know that things will eventually clear up again. Why not have a vacation to look forward to? This is another great opportunity for a family bonding activity.
Have your children pitch in their vacation destinations and what they’d love to do once travel starts up again. Taking your mind off the current situation and allowing a space for daydreaming and planning is something we could all use more of. The upside is, once you are able to travel, you’ve already got the perfect vacation plan ready to go!
Leave the House
Take a daily walk in the neighborhood. I know this isn’t a “new” suggestion. Many of us may have started off this quarantine practicing this tip of self care as a simple way to get out of the house and stay sane. But with Ramadan and Eid, I know I have fallen off the bandwagon. It’s hard to restart a habit once you’ve stopped doing it for so long, so it’s taken my family and I awhile to get back out again. This week I decided that it was time for us to restart our routine neighborhood walks before maghreb, and I am so glad we did!
While large get-togethers and most social interactions are at a halt, taking a walk, riding your bike and enjoying nature is not cancelled. Don’t belittle this simple act of self care. On days when I am feeling defeated and overwhelmed, I get dressed and take a nice long walk around the neighborhood. Sometimes alone and most of the time with my kids and husband.
It amazes me every time how some fresh air and exercise will instantly clear my mind and elevate my mood. This is a great time to get in your daily dhikr for the countless blessings we are given on a daily basis regardless of how bad the current situation around us may seem. Just the opportunity to talk a nice peaceful stroll around your neighborhood is something we often take for granted.
Drive by visits/drive around the city. This is something that my family and I have been doing a lot of. The nice thing is you can make these visits as a family or incorporate a drive around town in your alone time, if that is a possibility for you. Drive by visits have definitely been a great source of self care for my daughter, who is used to being surrounded by her cousins and friends. The emotional toll this quarantine has taken on her has been difficult to watch, and sometimes video calls just don't cut it.
Taking her to see her loved ones, at a safe distance, has really helped her emotionally. Although she can not play with them the way she’d like to, she is always looking forward to when we can go see her friends and cousins even if it is from across the driveway.
While self care may continue to look quite different for a while, don’t ignore the need for taking time for yourself and your family to recharge. While doing so, let’s not forget that “Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest” (13:28). Keep the Quran as your companion by reading a small but consistent amount daily.
Also, don’t forget the power of du’a and some of the special times in which your du’as are answered, like in sajda, between adhan and iqama and after making wudu. May Allah (S) make this time easy on all of us, protect us from harm, cure those who have been afflicted by COVID-19 and grant those who have died from this disease the highest levels of Jannah.
Danah is wife to Kareem and mama to their daughter Kinzah (aka Kiki) and son Jude. She was born and raised in Charlotte, NC, and loves all things food, fashion, photography and home decor. After having Kinzah, she created her blog, Mother of Pearl, where she shares a glimpse into her life as she navigates motherhood and hopes to build a safe space for other mamas to connect. You can follow her on Instagram.