The Importance of Self-Care for “Essential” Employees

With the world full of chaos and change due to COVID-19, everyone seems to be under a great deal of stress. For many the stress is due to being unemployed or under-employed due to the financial crises going on with many businesses. For others, it is the stress of being that “essential” employee. You still have to work, care for others in some way, and do your best not to get sick and bring the illness home to your own family.

This balance of working during the crisis can be overwhelming at times. If you are still working, you have likely had to deal with policy changes, more policy changes, and still more policy changes at work. You have likely had to deal with cranky coworkers and cranky customers or patients. You have also likely had to deal with exhaustion and long work hours or workdays, while still balancing day-to-day life and family needs.

Due to all of these changes and stressors, and the many other stressors in your life, it is even more important to take care of yourself. You are likely dealing with more stress than in the past and more is being asked of you, both at home and at work. This typically means the stressed and overworked and now even more stressed and more overworked.

This means you have to make sure to take time to refuel yourself, so you can continue to take care of others. Just like you have to refuel your vehicle before it runs out of gas and cannot go anymore! You have to refuel yourself to keep going!

Here are some ways to take care of yourself during this and any other major life stressor.

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Make sure your basic needs are met

Sometimes it’s easier said than done. But basic needs are just that….the very basic aspects of life that each and every person needs to live life. Some examples of these basic needs include:

  • Appropriate sleep
  • Nutritious food
  • Exercise (even if it’s just walking)
  • Drink more water

Everyone knows the important of nutrition, sleep, and exercise, but these very important and very basic aspects of life often get put on the backburner when life is in it’s normal hectic routine. Now, with even more chaos in life, it is likely that these aspects of life will get even less attention. However, they should be getting more attention during these times of stress, chaos, and worry, not less time.

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It often helps to establish a routine, especially as life becomes more hectic. Schedule times to eat and to go to the grocery store (or order online) to make sure you have nutritious foods at home. Maybe even add some vitamins to your diet. Set a time to do exercise, even if it is just walking around the block for 15 or 20 minutes. It may sound silly to schedule such basic life tasks, but it can be helpful to make sure you are taking care of yourself.

You can also make it easier for yourself to complete these self-care/basic need tasks by setting yourself up for success! For example, starting the day with a water bottle ready to go increases the chances of you drinking more water because it is easy access!


Do something you enjoy

Doing something you enjoy is not quite a basic need, but it comes extremely close! It is one very important way to take care of yourself and it is something as simple as allowing yourself to do something, anything, that you enjoy.

Ideally, you should do something you enjoy every day. However, realistically, life can get in the way at times. No matter what is going on in life, you should take care of yourself and do what makes you happy. This can be as simple as reading a book, listening to music, taking a bubble bath, having sex with your partner, or just spending some quiet time alone.

Self-care can also mean treating yourself to something special every once in a while, such as a new shirt or that accessory you have been watching and waiting for it to go on sale.

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Spend time with loved ones

One of the best forms of self-care is relying on your social support network. Your social support network may consist of family or close friends, someone from the community organizaiton where you volunteer, or a coworker. No matter who is in your social support network or how big or small your social support network is, the importance is being able to rely on them when you are in need.

This does not mean only using your support system when the big things happy–job changes, financial problems, or relationship issues. Relying on your social support network can be as simple as calling a friend to chat about nothing, going to get coffee or lunch with a coworker, or just sitting on the couch and watching a movie together. The quantity of time is not as important as the quality of time.


Make plans for the future

This chaotic time will come to an end. The world may never be the same again, or it may take a while for it to return to some form of “normal,” but life will return to a version of “normal.”

Planning ahead for the future helps us feel like we have a little more control in very out of control situation. Maybe you had to cancel a vacation or postpone a birthday or graduation celectration. Maybe you have upcoming events that you had planned to celebrate, but have not made plans yet. Maybe you just want to have some time away from your typical work day, since you have been working throughout this pandemic.

No matter what you enjoy, planning ahead for when life returns to some version of normal is good for your mind, heart, and spirit. If you do not have time or do not have the energy to plan an event (that may have to be rescheduled depending when on government decisions), try using a vision board.

Here is one example of what a Vision Board my look like. Mine is about vacation…of course!

Vision boards are just that–a way to visualize your goals. They are relaxing and enjoyable to be creative because you get to express yourself visually and artistically (even if you are not an artist–like me!). In a way, it’s kind of like brain-storming with art!


The main thing we have to remember is that we MUST take care of ourselves before we can take care of others!

I’m in the mental health field and I know it is difficult to take care of yourself when so many people need and demand so much from you, but it has to be done. Otherwise, motivation lowers, mood becomes irritable, and our immune system lowers. And, at this time in our country, this is not the time for immune systems to lower!!

Here are a few additional tips for managing anxiety through this stressful time!

Here are a few additional tips for keeping the kiddos busy during this time of home-schooling and quarantine!

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