Just a month ago, I found myself in a familiar circular argument with my mom regarding exercise and self-care. “I don’t have time to exercise right now,” she said, to which I replied, “you have to find the time.”
Now it seems like all we have is time, and I find that self-care rituals are harder to stick to and more important than ever.
No matter what our lives looked like before COVID-19, we all had a routine. If, like me, you worked outside of the home, that routine included a wake-up time and bedtime, both of which were pretty early in my case. If you have a family, there were activities and schedules, pickups, and drop-offs to attend to.
Like all of us, I have been struggling with how to organize my days to maximize productivity and minimize anxiety. Over the past three weeks, certain things have stood out to me and have helped me to adjust to our new normal.
Routine is paramount.
Wake up and go to bed as close to your previous schedule as possible. Even on those days when I am not in the clinic treating urgent patients in person, I find that sticking to a schedule helps me to stay positive and productive, and allows me to imagine getting back to normal in the future.
Prepare for your day.
It is very appealing to spend the day with my hair in a bun and wearing my best sweatpants. That said, I’ve quickly found that the novelty wears off, and this does not make me feel good. Start your day as you usually would. For me, this is coffee and a smoothie followed by the hair, makeup, and an outfit that makes me feel put together and professional.
Take care of your brain and your body.
How do you treat yourself and unwind? For me, exercise has always been a form of therapy. To keep to my pre-COVID schedule, I take barre classes with my favorite studio online, I continue to train for the half marathon that has been canceled for this May, and I continue to struggle with meditating more and social media-ing less.
And, as a dermatologist, of course, skin care plays a large role in my self-care routine. This time at home allows us to focus on our skin to see what does and does not work for us.
Most dermatologists agree that the pillars of skincare are a topical antioxidant, daily sunscreen, and a topical retinoid. Topical vitamin C has shown benefit as a potent antioxidant that can penetrate the top layer of skin (stratum corneum). Applied every morning before sunscreen, it protects the skin from daily damage caused by sun and pollution. Lately, I’ve been using Skinceuticals CE Ferulic. Typically, I put it on right after washing my face in the morning before my sunscreen.
Even in the winter months, I wear sunscreen daily to not only prevent skin cancer but to combat the signs of aging caused by the sun, such as brown spots and fine lines and wrinkles. My go-to lately has been EltaMD UV Replenish. This is a pure physical blocking sunscreen, meaning that it contains zinc and titanium, which act to deflect harmful UVA and UVB rays. Nightly I use tretinoin mixed with a moisturizer such as Cerave skin renewing cream or SkinMedica Replenish Hydrating Cream. Retinoids can be irritating, and I find that by mixing with a moisturizer, I have less dryness. A few times a week, I try to incorporate a hyaluronic acid product. Hyaluronic acid is ultra-moisturizing without exacerbating acne. On a budget, I love the Cerave Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum either as a moisturizer alone or before my morning sunscreen or night moisturizer over the top of my tretinoin. When I can splurge, I love the SkinMedica HA5. Even though it is pricier, I find that a little goes a long way and notice softer, more hydrated skin after use.
All that to say, lean into those things that made you feel better before and limit those things that previously didn’t help. Allow yourself dedicated time to unplug and relax. Enjoy the face time with kids, partners, and animals; we will look back on this time with wonder when we finally get to resume our busy pre-COVID lives.
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