The successor of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the Maggid of Mezritch, said: A kleiner loch in kerper is a groiser loch in neshamah—“A minor physical problem or defect is a great spiritual one.” Or stated differently, if we take care of our body, we will have greater ease to “access” to our emotional and spiritual side.

Many people say they don’t have time for self-care. They say they can’t find a few moments to exercise, meditate, do focused breathing, take a short walk or even listen to brief audios. What they don’t realize is that even a short dose of daily self-compassion accrues amazing benefits.

Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

By not investing in self-care, we may inadvertently damage our body, mind and spirit. Imagine a lumberjack trying to chop down trees with a dull axe and ignoring the people who tell him to sharpen it. If we neglect ourselves and do not take the time to sharpen our proverbial axe, we may become stressed and reactive, ineffective, inefficient, tired, resentful and even sick.

I thought the 21st century was challenging enough, but COVID has upped the ante. A lot of us are not managing very well at all. Mental-health issues such as anxiety, depression and even suicide have skyrocketed during this time. As much as the virus is lethal, in some ways our reaction to it may be worse. Polarization, isolation, misinformation and disinformation have inflicted additional untold harm. Loneliness, loss and being away from our loved ones are painful realities during this prolonged “social distancing” period.

I believe that anyone, anywhere, can benefit substantially from short self-care sessions. I call this work “micro self-care.” Literally, in a few minutes, you can refresh, renew and reboot yourself in the midst of a busy day, preventing burnout and boredom, improving your resilience and your immune response, and enhancing your “good hormones,” such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.

Here are 18 self-compassionate activities that can be done with little time or effort and can give buoyancy to your day (even during a pandemic):

  1. Prioritize the rest of your day, week or month, or goals you have set for yourself. Attend to anything pressing that can be quickly “checked off” your list (such as a short phone call, email, etc.).
  2. Breathe deeply, becoming mindful of any tension or tightness in your body, and let it go. Do a brief meditation. At the end of a minute or two, jot down any inspiration that came to you.
  3. Connect to others and yourself, e.g., by checking on a sick friend or calling a family member on a birthday. Say a nice word to someone, possibly to a stranger or to someone you don’t regularly speak to. Say a positive affirmation to and about yourself.
  4. Unplug and unwind; turn off digital devices, and relax your eyes and mind.
  5. Eat a healthy snack or have a warm drink, maybe an aromatic tea such as Earl Grey or mint. Get into your snack by experiencing it in a “mindful munch.” Notice the color, texture, aroma, flavor, etc.
  6. Kiss, hug, give someone a handshake or arm around the shoulder. Even three seconds of touch, especially skin-to-skin, gets oxytocin flowing. Self-massage works, too!
  7. Laugh! Watch, listen or read something funny, or speak to someone who makes you laugh.
  8. Listen to music for mood or movement; for instance, an exciting song with a strong beat for getting you motivated or moving; a calming one for times you rest; an inspiring, uplifting one for lonely or moody times.
  9. Notice something new and novel in your environment. Make a point of becoming more attentive to your surroundings.
  10. Organize your physical environment, your room, office, desk, your phone or computer to make it more “user-friendly.” This can positively distract, ground, re-energize and put a fresh perspective on things.
  11. Take a mini reading break daily. Are there articles, short book segments, audiobooks or courses that you have been meaning to get to? Enjoy, accomplish and have a brief, but great, escape!
  12. Rehydrate with plain old H2O. Humans are approximately 60 percent water. This needs to be regularly replenished throughout the day. Drinking eight 8-oz. glasses a day is recommended.
  13. Take a short “mindful walk.” Be aware and notice sights, sensations, sounds, aromas and feelings in your environment. If you’re unable to go outside, create a walking “circuit” inside your home, school or workplace.
  14. Visit a “vacation site” in your mind. Do a guided visualization by imagining it.
  15. Watch something brief and inspirational, such as a short Torah talk or class.
  16. Exercise gently at your chair or desk. 1) Do neck circles; 2) lift your feet off the floor; 3) bend or flex your ankles; 4) rotate them; 5) stand up and do “push-ups” against the wall; 6) gently stretch holding onto something sturdy as an anchor; 7) stretch from side to side; 8) get up and walk around.
  17. Yawn, smile or hum for at least 30 seconds.
  18. Focus on at least three things that you are thankful for today. If you have a gratitude journal, keep adding to it daily. There are two elements to gratitude: 1) being thankful and happy for the thing or occurrence; and 2) directing the thanks to the proper “address,” such as a friend, parent, teacher, relative, G‑d, etc.