By Rachel Rubenstein, LCSW

A couple of weeks ago in our article Got Summer 2020 Blues? Tips for Teens to Navigate Unusual Times we talked a little bit about self-care: It’s recommended, we want to do it… but what exactly is self-care, and why should we do it? The dictionary defines self-care as “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health; the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.”

Self-care is definitely a good idea, and taking care of yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic is especially important because we have more stress, less time with friends, and life is somewhat uncertain. “Will school start in person?” “When do I get to see my friends?” “I’m bored! What should I do today?” While we can’t predict the future, we know that the end of summer is filled with unusual times and likely more stress. Self-care can improve our mental health, physical health, and gives us some interesting things to do!

Five suggestions to practicing self-care:

  1. Five-Senses Mindfulness—A great exercise to help keep calm and give ourselves the skill of regulating our emotions is using our five senses to create mindfulness, to notice what you are experiencing in the moment, right now, using the five basic senses: sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste. Give it a try: Name five things you can see, four things you can touch or feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. 
  1. Sleep—Enough sleep can do so much good for keeping our mental health and emotions in check. Symptoms of stress and anxiety can be increased when we get too little sleep. Experts say that our bodies need to rest eight-to-10 hours per night. Don’t underrate sleep… we need it to care well for ourselves. 
  1. Journal—Write down how you are feeling, what you are doing, where you are, what is bothering you, what you are grateful for or whatever else comes to mind. Getting your thoughts on paper can help clear out stressful thinking. Get creative and add some drawings in your journal. 
  1. Avoid alcohol and drugs—Besides being illegal for teens, consuming alcohol or taking drugs may increase stress and anxiety. If you are concerned about your substance use, get educated and get help! 
  1. Be your own COPING COACH—Come up with personal statements that help you manage stressful situations. If you come up with a few things to say ahead of time, it will be easier to remember those statements when you have stress. Examples include: “I don’t have to be perfect, just try my best.” “Breathing helps me calm my nerves. Breathe!” “I won’t feel like this forever, soon I will feel better.”

You’ve got this!


Rachel Rubenstein is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with over 20 years of experience providing mental health wellness services. Rachel is an EMDR trained provider with a special focus on working with adolescents and young adults. She dedicates her tele-health private practice to teaching Coping and Life Skills, supporting people through transitions and life challenges.