As self-isolation drags on, the emotional and mental toll of living through a pandemic mounts. Many of us muscled through the first few weeks but are losing steam the longer our lives are in flux. It can be hard to find time or to avoid judging ourselves for taking time to tend to our own needs.

For the latest installment in our series on staying well during COVID-19, I talked to my friend Tesia Love, an ayurvedic practitioner, health coach and massage therapist in Charlotte, N.C., about making self-care a priority and for some quick tips for reducing stress. (She also has a great Instagram account.)

Why we don't tend to ourselves

Part of the problem is feeling guilty about taking care of ourselves when the world is on fire. It feels selfish.

But Tesia says that by making time for ourselves, we're actually doing an act of service for ourselves and the others in our lives. Feeling rested and nourished allows us to show up more effectively, whether that's caring for a sick family member or being a contributor at work.

The other part of the problem is scope. It's easy to feel like the only way to curb the big feelings of stress is with a similarly big dose of self-care. Au contraire.

"However you decide to care for yourself, even a little bit of self-care is helpful," Tesia says. "Do what you can and have compassion for yourself if you don't do everything you would like. The important thing is to start and be consistent with at least one thing and then build from there."

Two ways to reduce stress

Sunny redbud tree on Margot Lester's Word Factory blog
Redbud in sunshine (c) 2020 Margot Lester

1. Spend a little time in nature each day. Unless you are expressly under quarantine, you can safely go outside, provided you maintain at least six feet of separation and wear a mask. "Take a short walk outside -- even if it's to the end of the street -- visit a nearby park or simply sit on the porch," Tesia counsels. "Whether we realize it or not, we are one with nature, which is why being outside can be so rejuvenating." Bonus Tip: While you're outside, take a few photos or do some sketching. Creating is also a great way to ease anxiety and stress.

2. Start a meditation practice. "Meditation calms a busy, anxious mind and promotes a sense of well being," Tesia notes. But don't think you have to invest hours -- which honestly feels impossible for some of us even under the best of times. Research from Harvard shows that even short sessions of meditation triggers our relaxation response. Bonus Tip: Tesia recommends short guided meditations online or using a free app like Insight Timer.

Get more tips from Tesia on staying well and caring for yourself.

Pause and breathe

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