As boredom sets in during this COVID-19 crisis, I have noticed the increased need for structure and a schedule. So, the age-old question becomes even more pertinent: where do I begin?
I really can’t begin to label or quantify the value of good self-care. Humans are equipped with amazing capabilities to self-regulate…if only we had the energy and desire to use them! In DBT, there is a skill (acronym) called the PLEASE skill, and I believe it is the answer to the question posed above.
I am going to focus on three components of PLEASE: Sleeping, Eating, and Exercising.
Sleep. Just do it, stop fighting it…put your Smartphone away and close your eyes. Did you know that your brain cannot convert anything into memory until you are asleep? The Disney Pixar movie Inside Out had a lot of great content that helps drive this point home (it was quite factually accurate!). In the movie, the main character Riley didn’t have her memory balls moved from short-term memory into her long-term memory until she slept! Our bodies are not machines; on a cellular level your body needs sleep to repair itself. Sleep allows time for the immune system to do its job and ward off viruses and bacterial infections. During this time of illness-anxiety, sleep is a kind gesture you can do for yourself to maximize the immunity in your own body! Sleep will also help you reduce your overall stress level. So next time you want to watch the next episode on Netflix, play the next level on a game, or return one more e-mail, ask yourself what you need more: your health and sanity or screen time…
Eat. A balanced diet helps alleviate mood swings. We (generalizing for Americans) live on a cycle of sugar highs and sugar lows. We have a habit of eating low quality breakfast (…if we eat any breakfast at all…) which floods the brain with chemicals and overwhelms our neuro-functioning; this results in you feeling hyper, a spike of motivation, and a burst of energy (yay!). As a result of this flooding however; our bodies secrete insulin to suck up all the sugar like a vacuum leaving us feeling lethargic and moody (not so yay…). This cycle repeats itself after lunch and dinner as well. Think about it…when do you reach for the candy bar? 10am, 2pm, 9pm…a few hours after each meal! Eating a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats ensures that our food (including a healthy amount of sugar) gets broken down over time and reduces that roller coaster of moodiness. While in quarantine, I want you to focus on mindful eating and try to keep it balanced and healthy!
Exercise. I feel like this is a mute point in some ways. My goal is not to be preachy; it is to motivate you into action. The science behind working out is limitless and boils down to this: if you move your body your mind will feel better. Physical exercise can helps your brain secret endorphins, adrenaline, and dopamine…all of which alleviate depressive symptoms. Consider for a moment the cost of getting those chemicals elsewhere: prescription drugs, theme parks, extramarital affairs… Are those effective or realistic on a regular basis? Exercise also builds mastery. If you become fluent and experienced in a form of movement (yoga, running, lifting weights) it will build your confidence and overall satisfaction in life. What can you do from home? I have seen a wide variety of online videos being posted on Facebook from different organizations, there are a seemingly limitless supply on YouTube, or you could go for a walk around your neighborhood.
For the full PLEASE skill, please refer to this graphic: