When gyms closed due to COVID 19 my workout regimen disappeared for a couple of weeks. I started eating for comfort and snacking way more than ever. Maybe twice a week I’d put minimum effort into an online Barre class…on my home bar ironically. That wasn’t enough. Naturally, I gained a couple of pounds. After a month in quarantine, my physical well-being had definitely diminished. Then, the George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor killings happened. My stress level made it impossible to focus. I was consumed with news and information that overwhelmed my emotions. I needed to do something and do it fast. So, I created self-care blocks in my day to keep me balanced and focused.

I take 45-minute self-care blocks. As a writer I may have more flexibility than you do. That’s okay. Make self-care blocks work for your lifestyle. If you cannot do 45 minutes, do 15. If you cannot do three blocks a day, start with one. The most important aspect of self-care is that it happens…one step at a time…take multiple steps when you can.

Morning Block

Each morning, I start my day with prayer and reflection. Before I delve into my phone for “breaking news” or scroll my social media feeds, it is mission critical that I begin my day with God. Morning prayer and meditation centers me and gives me strength to start the day. When I start from a place of calm and peace, it allows me to better handle unsettling news when it arrives. It helps me respond to life with love and kindness from inside of me rather than letting external factors dictate my mood. I also have coffee…because I like it. So feel free incorporate something you like into this block. Tea works for many people. Lemon water, a smoothie, or eggs work too. My morning eating is either “fasting” with just liquids or protein. No carbs to start the day. That sugar can wreak havoc on your emotions.

Afternoon Block

By afternoon, I’ve likely had several conversations or assignments about race, politics or religion— the big three. Though these are important topics to discuss, they can drain you emotionally. The afternoon block is a time for rest and refueling. I run an aromatherapy diffuser with essential oils, usually an orange, rosemary, peppermint mix to enhance my mood and give me the necessary energy to finish the day strong. In addition, I choose a lunch that is heavily based in leafy greens, usually spinach. Spinach is an excellent source of magnesium that has a positive effect on serotonin levels and mood. It’s also low-carb and great for your skin because it contains antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and E.

Evening Block

The moment I start wishing the day was over, I know it’s time for the evening block. My evening block is designed with one goal in mind. Prepare me for a restorative sleep so that I can fight the good fight another day. After I accepted the reality of COVID19 and that I wouldn’t be back in the gym any time soon, I purchased a spin bike for my home. It changed everything. Just 30 minutes of cardio in the evening releases endorphins and enhances my mood, gives me more restorative sleep, and I finally shed those 2.3 pounds I gained. Once I started exercising regularly again I felt like myself. To close out this block I run my diffuser with lavender and lemon before bed.

A Few More Self-Care Block Tips

Put your phone on DND (Do Not Disturb) during your dedicated self-care block. If you must, set a timer to remind you to take it off again.

Stop your screen time (phones, tablets, computers) at least an hour before your bedtime. If you want to read, use a good old fashioned book or have another prayer/meditation session.

Turn off notifications from news sites and schedule a time to check for “breaking news.”

Avoid caffeine and alcohol at least 2 hours before bedtime, maybe more. My cut off is 3pm for caffeine and 7pm for wine. Caffeine keeps you from falling asleep and alcohol can prevent you from staying asleep.

Self-care is mission critical for social action because it keeps our minds energized and our voices strong. The world needs us. Let’s schedule self-care blocks each day because the better we care for ourselves, the better we can care for others.