• Dr. Kate Ricciardi

15 Simple Social Distancing Self-Care Strategies + Why They Matter For Digestion & Digestive Health

Whether you're trying to adjust to your new social distancing daily schedule of

working from home, while trying to parent, while trying to home school, or doing any combination of these 3, or this has been your usual schedule, or you are feeling the weight of the world right now, it's bound to get stressful.

It's important to remember to take a pause and focus on yourself. No, it's not selfish when it's coming from a place of love and healing so that you can be there for others in the way in which they need you.

There are so many benefits of self-care. From improving your self-esteem, affirming your

self-worth, to promoting rest, relaxation, and healthy relationships and reducing stress and improve your digestive health. All of these are beneficial for your overall health and wellness.

You can't take care of others well... if you don't take care of yourself. Right?

When your self-esteem and self-awareness improves, it can have a positive impact on our mindset...

...and help you care for those who need you in a way that you might not have been able to do before.

So let's shine a light on 15 simple self-care strategies for surviving social distancing you can take now to start down the path of self-care and why self care is important for your digestive health.

1. Start a Journal

Writing can be very powerful. Start a journal and write out a few things for which you are grateful each day, or the peak & valley of the day & how tomorrow could be better. This can help shift towards a growth, positive mindset. Speak into existence 3 things that you are grateful for each day and write it down.

Journaling can help to clarify your feelings, when you actually put pen to paper it's a different experience than just thinking about it in your mind. Don't edit how you're feeling, let the pure emotion come out so that you can see your thoughts on paper.

Journaling can also help you to tune-in to yourself on a deeper level. Creating a deeper connection with yourself can help you feel more confident in your emotions, let go of emotions you've been holding on to, and/or gain clarity on different situations or events in your life.

2. Write a Note

Write a note of gratitude to someone who's been on your mind but you haven't connected with in a while. Writing helps to engage the right brain and engage creativity and intuition and channel our feelings, reflect on the impact another person has had in our life and express our gratitude.

Who wouldn't like to get a note of gratitude, thought, or appreciation right now? If someone you know might be going through a tough time, a little note could be the pick me up they need.

3. Guided Meditation & Mindfulness

This is beneficial for reduced stress, reduced anxiety, improved emotional health, improved self-awareness, & may improve attention span.

Guided meditation, or guided imagery, mindfulness can help you to pause your busy life and zero in focus on how you're feeling, your breath, increase your body awareness, slow your heart rate. You can learn to use your mind to change your focus, change how you're feeling.

4. Yoga

There are so many online classes popping up these days to meet your needs, whether it's for morning, night, sleep, digestion, stretching, strength, it's challenging, centering and calming. Yoga can appeal to so many goals, from improving core strength and flexibility to sleep.

The benefits of yoga are endless, from helping to decrease stress, anxiety and inflammation, to improving balance and coordination, quality of life and healthy eating habits.

5. Use Your Dining Room

Set the table. Get out of the kitchen dining space or setting up shop at the countertop while scrolling through your phone. Use those place settings that you typically reserve for holidays and special occasions and break them out for a regular dinner or take out.

Or, set the table with linens and/or flowers from your yard. Fresh flowers can boost mood with their appearance and scent to give that aromatherapy benefit.

6. Virtual Family Visits

Schedule a time for your family near and far to share a meal together. There are so many ways to stay connected and together while we are apart right now. FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts to name a few...

Up-level by coordinating to make the same meal together, but apart. Choose the same recipe and even cook together, then sit down and enjoy as one big family unit. This could be a fun time to reconnect with family through food, which is such a bonding experience in and of itself.

7. Virtual Dessert Hour

Schedule a time for friends near & far to relax & unwind together. There's something comforting and soothing about dessert to end the night. If you're all moms, decompress & share survival stories from the week with your favorite dessert and reminisce about your more care free (pre-child maybe?) days. Check out my Coconut Mango Ice Cream Recipe.

8. A Warm Beverage

Sometimes it's easier said than done, but getting up earlier than everyone else in your home to have some peaceful, quiet time with a cup of coffee, tea or warm beverage can put a smile on your face. Even if you can't get up earlier, carve out some time in your day to slip away to a room, patio, or porch and really enjoy that beverage and relaxation time.

9. Take a Bath

Make a plan for yourself at the end of the day this is waiting for you. It's something that you can look forward to. Get your favorite music, maybe even some epsom salts and/or essential oils, bubbles and some nice warm water can be the soothing calm in the day and something to look forward to. There are plenty of recipes online for DIY bubble bath with simple ingredients that may just work for you.

10. Take a Breath

Diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to slow down the "fight or flight" response to stress.

You can perform either lying down (preferred) or sitting upright in a chair. Check out how to do diaphragmatic breathing in my post. It helps you relax, reduce stress / the stress hormone cortisol in your body. Among many more benefits.

This is something that I would do regularly with all of my patients while I was working in a skilled nursing facility. The anxiety, pain and stress while rehabbing and recovering from surgery is a big feat and so much can be refocused with diaphragmatic breathing.

11. At Home Spa Time

The possibilities are endless with Pinterest. And this is one of my most favorites.

Find a new recipe for a face mask, bubble bath, DIY manicure / pedicure complete with oil for the cuticles or make a foot soak recipe

Making body sugar scrubs is a great self-care craft, too. You can change up the exfoliator with different types of sugar, oils, essential oils for different moods, experiences.

12. Music

The benefits of music on our emotional and mental health are so vast. Music is therapeutic so much so that there's an entire profession dedicated to it. Plan a dance party after dinner. Make a new playlist for different reasons. Like a fun Friday pizza and dance party playlist, or a Taco Tuesday playlist.

Make a playlist that takes you back to a great time in your life, brings up good memories and/or gives you a boost of energy. There's music for all emotions. Sometimes if you're sad, go with sad music to help process that emotion. Other times happy music can help with a sad mood. Go with your gut and lean into what ever you're feeling for a therapeutic experience through music.

13. Stop Comparing

It's so easy to get drawn into the lives of others while scrolling social media. Everyone is in a different place, physically, mentally, emotionally. The post is a post, the photo is a photo, but remember, you don't always know what's going on behind the scenes, or the intent of that post. That person could post what they did or share the photo they did as their own means of self care, to get their voice out there, feel like they're being heard, to spread joy to others, there are so many different reasons why we do what we do and why we share what we share on social media. Behind the scenes, it could be chaos or the only shining moment in that persons day, trying to find the good in an otherwise rough day.

14. Disconnect

Disconnect from the internet. Put down the device and pick up a book, or be present with family or outside and reconnect with nature without the distraction of texts, emails, the internet. There's so much that we are missing when we have these distractions in our life.

There's a sub-consious impact of the internet, social media on us. It's addictive and it can wreak havoc on our personal, professional, romantic relationships. Ask yourself, what would really happen if disconnected for a day? According to a Pew Research study, there was one link between technology and stress, the "cost of caring". It was found among those with higher levels of awareness for stressful events in other people's lives.

15. Eat

Now that most of us are home, we are in out kitchen and cooking way more. Home cooking can go a long way. Now's a great time to pull out that recipe you've been meaning to try or change up the ingredients and create a new recipe of your own. This can be the time you have needed to take a deeper look at what you're eating, how it's making you feel and start putting the pieces together to start healing your digestive distresses. Check out my Food, Fluid and Feelings Tracker here.

So what does this have to do with your digestion & digestive health?

Practicing mindful self-care has been show to improve things like self-esteem, self-worth and promotes rest, relaxation...all of which are good to reduce stress.

Stress impacts our gut. Our gut is linked to our brain via the gut-brain axis. The stress response begins in the brain. When someone experiences a stressful event, the information goes to the amygdala, where our emotions are processed from the sight and sound we are experiencing. If the experience is perceived as stressful, a threat or a danger, it will send a signal to the hypothalamus which then communicates to the rest of the body through the nervous system that is responsible for our fight or flight response, which causes things like increased heart rate, breathing rate, muscle contractions, which impact our gut performance

The gut has millions of neurons, just like the brain, and is referred to as the 2nd brain.

Stress causes our fight or flight response to kick in, which is the opposite of our body's other nervous system response, rest and digest.

Stress and digestion just don't go together, as they stimulate different nervous system responses.

Stress's impact on the gut-brain axis can cause you to feel GI discomforts more easily, like pain and bloating, to name a few and it also causes things like diarrhea because of our body's fight or flight response.

Your body reacts with changes to heart & breath rate, muscles tense up, blood is directed toward your extremities & intestines. This means things like your intestinal contractions speed up and can cause diarrhea. The muscle at the bottom of your esophagus can spasm and lead to heartburn, reflux.

Stress can also impact your digestive healthy by affecting how your body absorbs nutrients from food. If food is going through the GI system too quickly, due to increased muscle contractions, it will be more challenging for your gut to do it's job efficiently and absorb the nutrients it needs...enter deficiencies.

The gut is also responsible for producing & regulating hormones and neurotransmitters to influence things like fear, anxiety, mood, happiness, our body clock, feelings, emotions and much more.

Stress can alter the gut's microbiome (all the microbes that live in your intestines, most commonly focused on bacteria). It's called dysbiosis when the beneficial bacteria are reduced because of stress. It impacts our immune system, which weakens it and causes inflammation.

Dysbiosis and inflammation can be a root cause of many GI discomforts, from things like gas, bloating, brain fog, headache, joint pain, chronic fatigue, Migraine, IBS, Crohn's, Colitis to Rheumatoid Arthritis and autoimmune conditions and more.












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     Dr. Kate Ricciardi, DPT RDN CLT     919-797-9296       rdnutritionconsulting.com      info@rdnutritionconsulting.com

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