APRIL 2020

Self-care tips for staying well during unwell times

by Penny Powell

girl looking up with sun on her face

Adopting self-care practices, even in the best of times, is important. However, if there were ever a time for us to be mindful of our wellness habits, it is NOW!

Has the unimaginable shock of the COVID-19 pandemic caused you to take a closer look at your self-care? Have you been assessing what you do on a daily basis to strengthen your immune system, so it can fight well for you during this time of heightened illness?

Pause! Let's take inventory of what we're truly doing to stay well.

Ask yourself...

What am I feeding my body on a daily basis to be nourished? Am I exercising to keep my body, including my lungs, strong? How healthy are my thoughts? Yes, negative thoughts have the potential to eat away at our health and weaken the immune system. I have never forgotten this quote I heard years ago when attending the Healthy Lifestyle course at the Living Foods Institute: "Disease begins in the mind and colon."

SJR State students/team, now that classes have resumed and stress levels are higher, the door for emotional eating and lack of exercising just opened even wider. However, the better we fuel with food and fitness - and faith practices for many (me included) - the better chance we have of tackling our obstacles with less stress.

Let's, therefore, make a pact to do our personal best for not only ourselves but also for each other. Let's work on getting healthy and/or healthier TOGETHER! We're in this pandemic battle together, so let's win it together!

In an effort to help us do just that, SJR State nursing faculty Patricia McAnnally and I teamed up to share some of our personal self-care favorites. McAnnally has already been sharing some of these tips below with her students.


We understand that times are more stressful than ever right now, but it's important to pay careful attention to what you have control over and what you don't. Do not take on, mentally or physically, more than you have to! Set boundaries! Commit to your assignments/work, but also take time to do your favorite activities that help you unwind.

"Set specific limits for school time," McAnnally advises. "We all have a tendency to feel guilty about not being at school, so we overdo school at home. If you have kids, you need to spend time in play with them."

And if you don't have kids, remember to still make space in your day for whatever it is that feeds your soul. For instance, writing this article is feeding mine.

Making time to exercise in some shape, size or form is another key self-care practice to embrace. Fortunately, exercising is my hobby, but if it's not yours, just remember that moving daily supports our health significantly. Life has slowed down a great deal lately, which allows more time for exercise, so why not take advantage of it?

McAnnally has been walking to stay well, admitting that she has her newly adopted 8-month-old puppy, Molly, to thank for "forcing" her to be outside and active. "We should be getting in our five miles or 10,000 steps every day," McAnnally says. "We can break that up into little bites, but get in the steps."

If walking outdoors is not your best option right now, use a treadmill, if possible, or think outside the box and create a fun walking 'trail' of sorts indoors. If you happen to have stairs in your home, carefully use those as a way to fit in some steps. Or, simply turn up the volume to your favorite songs and dance. Just move!

Some fitness companies are offering free virtual classes as a gift of support. Camp Gladiator offered a complimentary fitness camp on the Orange Park campus last April and is now offering a free virtual class to help with the effects of COVID-19 stress and social distancing. If interested, contact Terie Wanger at

Understanding the value of combining deep breathing with stretching for relieving stress, McAnnally arranged a campus yoga class for the College's Student Nurses Association back in October. One student shared that the class helped her relieve stress she didn't even realize she was holding on to.

McAnnally is also using yoga as a self-care tool during this pandemic. "Boy am I glad no one is watching," she said with a laugh. Know that even five minutes of yoga/stretching, filled with deep breathing, does the body, mind and spirit good. There are many free options on YouTube.

If you're like me, and love to blend your Christian faith with stretching, you may be interested in the "Stretch, Strengthen and Relax" videos I have begun "unprofessionally" recording for my class participants. If you'd like to have the link I share with my group, please contact me at

Although we must adhere to the current statewide stay-at-home order, we can still step outside to the yard or near the front door (keeping at least six feet way from neighbors) to breathe in fresh air and feel the sunshine.

"We should all be getting at least 20 minutes of sunlight every day," says McAnnally. "The vitamin D we synthesize with the aid of the sun will help to build our immunity."

Personally, being out in the sun, praying, reading, journaling or just 'being' is relaxing for me. If the sun is not as much of a 'friend' to you, simply find a shady spot to enhance your health with fresh air and the sounds of nature.

McAnnally says, "Eating a good diet helps. I am using a meal service, which makes me cook every couple of days, but it ensures that I eat a well-balanced diet."

Be mindful of what you're snacking on, and understand the body's need for vitamin C - especially now, since it helps the immune system to protect us from disease. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nearly 100 percent of the daily-recommended intake of 75 milligrams of vitamin C for women can be met by eating only two clementines. Men need 90 milligrams of vitamin C per day.

Other good sources of vitamin C include broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, red and green peppers, strawberries and more. Visit NIH for additional information.

In addition to drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated and flush toxins out of the body, also consume lemon to help prevent the buildup of toxins. It's fun to infuse water with lemon slices and/or drink hot lemon tea.

Place at least three slices of lemon in a cup of hot water, and sip after about five to 10 minutes. Or, put the juice of half a fresh lemon into eight ounces of hot/warm water. I also enjoy mixing honey with the juice of a lemon. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the juice of one lemon provides about 18.6 milligrams of vitamin C.

Typically, we are way too busy to fully experience our healthiest life balance. However, today's crisis forces us to slow down. And, believe it or not, it's actually healthy for us to NOT always have something to do. Give yourself permission to do nothing at times. Allow your body to relax!

"Make sure you are going to bed at your regular time and getting up at your regular time," says McAnnally. "Get dressed, brush your teeth and hair. Make yourself presentable. It is good for us mentally."

Listening to calming music and/or doing a brief yoga/stretching session right before bed can help prepare you for a good night's sleep. Relaxing with an eye-pillow is also soothing.

If you do not have good opportunities at home for social interaction, McAnnally suggests talking to someone via a video call, which she does every day. "We need face-to-face interactions, since that is what we are used to," she says. "Some people are suggesting playing games with your friends using Zoom. I think that is a great idea."

In addition to staying connected, McAnnally adds, "Stay healthy, and wash your hands. And with the newest recommendation from the CDC, if you must go into public, consider wearing a mask. Lots of people are making very cute ones that are washable and have filters. Do not take those that are required for our frontline heroes."

"Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for." -Zig Ziglar

When times feel like they're at their worst (or not), pause, take the deepest breath you can, reflect on your blessings (we all have them - regardless of what we're going through), and then say, sing or write: "I am grateful for (fill in the blank)." Do this as many times as needed to feel gratitude in the core of your being.

Be grateful and be well, students/team! Remember, we're all in this together, and I am grateful we are not alone!

Penny Powell is the communications specialist in the Office of Public Relations at SJR State and is a 200-hour registered yoga teacher (RYT) with additional training in the field.



Susan Kessler
Director of Public Relations and Publications
(386) 312-4020