By Quinn Nystrom

Being scared, stressed, frustrated, and uncertain is exhausting. These emotions, though completely normal for us humans, can wreak havoc on almost every facet of our lives. I’m sure you don’t need to tell you that, thanks to the current trauma our world is experiencing, these emotions have probably run higher than ever lately.

That’s why it is more important than ever to take care of ourselves. I am a fan of a Danish ritual called Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”). The word means something along the lines of “snuggling up” and settling in to create an atmosphere of contentment during the winter months. It’s about exploring and celebrating daily luxuries and connecting in a meaningful way with loved ones or trusted friends. Hygge is about making a soft blanket, a cup of tea, a good book, a long walk outside, healthy food, your favorite music, and virtual connections with friends and loved ones part of your daily self-care routine.

Basically, what I am encouraging everyone to consider is “hygge for the spring and summer” instead of the long, dark months of winter. Here are five ways you can honor yourself and take better care of YOU.

Nourish Mind and Body: You wouldn’t put crappy gas in a high-performance racecar, would you? Think of your body as that same well-oiled machine and put the best fuel possible into it. Strive to make small healthy changes in your diet like adding something green to every meal and drinking lots of water. Eat as many foods as possible that are close to their original source (raw veggies, dairy, fruit, whole grains, etc.). And breathe! Take a moment to pause from whatever you’re doing, close your eyes, and take three slow, deep breaths. Breathe in for four or five counts and breathe out for double that count. Repeat three times. Consciously breathing through the tough times can help us find the calm within the storm.

Do a News Detox: There comes the point when we need to step aaawwwwwayyy from national news. Step away from social media and the constant barrage of scary and sad news stories. Technology is both a blessing and a curse; it keeps us connected to the world and gives us instant information on any subject we desire. Our devices make our lives so much easier and better in many ways, but there is a need for boundaries to be set, so the digital world does not take over our minds and lives.

This constant connectivity allows us to see the beauty and joy in life, but also plenty of the bad stuff too. This continuous mental consumption of scary, disturbing, and alarming news can negatively affect many areas of our lives from our relationships to our mental health. Though we do need to be informed as our world rapidly changes, there needs to be a limit to how much of that damaging information we expose ourselves to. Take a break. Unplug for a while. Your brain and heart will thank you.

Reconnect with Nature: Not everything is canceled right now. The sun is not canceled. The blooming flowers and budding trees are not canceled. The rippling of streams and lakes is not canceled. Mother Nature does not know what is going on right now as our world continues to battle COVID-19. Her healing earth, wind, sun, and is free for the taking and available to everyone. Even if you are unable to leave home, find green space in your backyard, kick off your shoes, and soak up some Vitamin D. I promise you will feel better afterward.

Have Hope: Hope is another thing that is not canceled. Thinking happy thoughts isn’t always easy, especially after a hard day. But thinking positive and cultivating hope is a muscle that we all need to remember to flex. We will all get through this epic journey we are experiencing right now and be better people for it.

Note: If you are struggling with reoccurring hopelessness that is interfering with your quality of life, I encourage you to reach out. Reach out to a friend, a loved one, and especially to a trained professional. You do not have to suffer in silence.

Art Therapy: There’s a reason adult coloring books are all the rage these days: the creative coloring and mindless doodling can be genuinely therapeutic. Besides easing tension and improving focus, coloring can also lift our mood. In many ways, coloring is a freeing experience for everyone because there is no right or wrong way to color. Creativity can take many shapes and forms, so the options for experiencing some “art therapy” are endless. Maybe sewing or crochet is more your style, and painting and drawing can reduce anxiety as well. Writing is another way to let our tired minds wander, and journaling is also an excellent tool for getting the thoughts and worries out on paper that is hard to express verbally.

I know a lot is going on in the world right now and probably even in your community. Instead of dwelling on the things we can’t change, I encourage everyone to live in the moment. Even if it’s one breath, one minute, one step at a time, preserve your energy and take care of yourself first. We are all in this together.