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Self-care in the time of depletion

This article was first published on LinkedIn here.

My friend Sonja wrote a beautiful piece on depletion. I loved the post; so much of what she spoke about resonated with me. 2020 was a challenging year, with so many things that drained our energy, often without us noticing.

Virginia Satir says we need four hugs a day for survival. I must admit that one of the things that I miss the most is hugging. I want to hug people tight to feel the sadness leaving them. I desire to hug people tight and feel their love and support. I like to hug people and let them know I am there for them. Hugs are one of my favourite things. During COVID and lockdowns, we have been without this and many other life-giving and supporting activities.

Ordinarily, we do various restorative things as part of our day-to-day living. Sometimes, they are intentional, and occasionally, we do them because, on some level, we know we need to, but we aren’t always conscious of their restorative effect.

In 2020, the lockdowns prevented us from going about our ordinary lives. We could no longer meet in person, grab a coffee or walk on the beach. In addition, fear, anxiety and financial pressures also drain our energy, causing us to stop nurturing ourselves. All of this has led to our depletion.

Sonja ended her post with a question on what small things others are doing that are restorative. This reminded me of Virginia Satir’s work, which created a Mandala detailing eight ways to look after and nurture ourselves. Virginia’s philosophy was that our Self is composed of many different parts and that each had to be nurtured daily for us to be content and fulfilled.

Here are the things she spoke about and some ideas about what this means in a COVID world


Something that stimulates the mind makes us think and challenges us. Some examples might be:

  • Do a puzzle

  • Read something intellectual or academic

  • Have a dialogue or an in-depth conversation about something that introduces you to new thinking and ideas.

  • Watch a lecture

  • Take an online course

  • Join a meetup on a topic that is new to you where you can learn something

  • Build something 


Our surroundings. The context in which we find ourselves or in which we place ourselves. Our homes or offices. Contextual is also about improving or changing our surroundings. Some things to do:

  • Tidy that spare room

  • Declutter your clothes cupboard

  • Buy a piece of art and put it up

  • Re-arrange your office

  • Get a plant or some flowers

  • Repair something broken

  • Go somewhere different for a visit. (take a walk in the park or a park, go outside for 20 minutes, sit in the garden or on the balcony, change your scenery)

  • Clean the house


Socialising with other people. Spending time interacting and talking to friends and colleagues. Some things to do:

  • Spend time with family, having a meal together

  • Go out with friends

  • Have a Zoom coffee with a colleague or friend to catch up. (schedule these in your diary)

  • Go for a picnic.

  • Go for a walk in the park with a friend, or have a Zoom chat while walking in the park together.

  • Attend a social function or create a social function on Zoom.


Challenging yourself physically. Looking after yourself physically. Some things to do:

  • Go for a run, swim, etc.

  • Do some yoga or pilates – online in the park or at a gym

  • Go for a walk in the park

  • Take the dog for a walk or run

  • Go to the gym

  • Go for a hike

  • Try a new activity like Boxing, tai chi, etc.

  • Work in the garden.


Something which stimulates the five senses and puts us in touch with our bodies.

  • Taste

  • Touch

  • Sight

  • Sound

  • Smell

Some things to do:

  • Light a scented candle

  • Go for a massage

  • Eat something decadent

  • Wear something bright or just colourful

  • Dance in the rain

  • Play some music

  • Hold hands

  • Hug someone if you can

  • Build a snowman

  • Hug a pet


For many of us, repressing our emotions is a crucial survival tactic. This can be very unhealthy, so finding ways to connect with your emotions is very healthy. I see a good cry, cathartic. Sometimes, I don’t realise how much I have been holding inside me until I find a way to let it all out.

Some things to do:

  • Watch a comedy

  • Laughter is excellent for the body

  • Watch a sad or moving movie. Secretariat has me balling my eyes out in a good way every time.

  • Go to an art gallery and appreciate the beauty.

  • Read poetry that moves you, or write poetry if you are so inclined.

  • Listen to music and dance like no one is watching

  • Buy a punching bag and some gloves, and let the anger out


This is about eating food that will healthily stimulate your body. This is not the same as drinking caffeine or eating sugar for a “buzz”. What goes up must come down, and both of these stimulants come with a crash when they wear off. Nutritional self-soothing is eating things that will make your body feel better naturally and healthily.

Some things to do:

  • Plan and make sure you have ingredients for healthy meals for a week

  • Buy fruit instead of sweets

  • Get dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate

  • Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake

  • Drink herbal tea

  • Choose unrefined carbs (think brown instead of white)

  • Join a meal plan site that has healthy eating options

  • Make a soup if it’s winter and salad if it’s summer

  • If it’s not in your cupboard, you can’t eat it. Change your shopping habits

  • Don’t drink your sugar; cut fizzy drinks and fruit juices


Since so many of us feel pretty depleted, we must be more mindful and deliberate to make time for what we know is restorative. While we cannot interact with others in a physical office environment or get our regular manicure, pedicure or gym session, it is also important to distinguish between actual restoration and things that bring temporary relief. Eating junk food and being a couch potato might make us feel better, but it never lasts, and the long-term impacts of this lifestyle will only lead to more depletion.

One of my new rituals for 2020 is to be more conscious and pay more attention to all of these aspects of my life. I look for ways to do as many of these things as possible, if not daily, then weekly.

Please look at the suggestions and adapt them to suit your context. The best way to get started is to “just start”.

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