Making Time for Self-Care During a Pandemic

You are definitely not alone if you’re finding it hard these days to make time for yourself to do the things that help you feel energized, strong, empowered. Read on for some tips from WillKin on self-care and self-management strategies that can help you feel strong, empowered and in control of your body.

Over a year into the global pandemic, we all have learned how important it is to make time for yourself. With the days increasingly blending together, juggling all of the different roles that have been added to your plate, all on top of navigating a breast cancer diagnosis, making time for yourself can be difficult. That’s why implementing self-management strategies is so important.

Research shows a declining trend in the level of physical activity after a diagnosis of breast cancer, and an increase in sitting time. 1 COVID-19 has only amplified these trends. For those with breast cancer, having a more sedentary lifestyle has negative effects and can potentially increase the risk for developing many comorbidities (secondary conditions). Being active, has been shown to improve health during treatment. 2

Keeping up with an exercise routine outside of a pandemic was already challenging, and it’s understandable how those challenges would increase for someone living with a chronic condition during a pandemic where social distancing and leisure facilities being closed presents many barriers to an active lifestyle. The pandemic has led those previously active breast cancer survivors to decrease their physical activity, gain weight and have sedentary behavior. 3

“Exercise is medicine”

“Exercise is medicine” and can be a potent tool to help you at any stage of your treatment, to improve physical and mental wellbeing and “get back feeling like yourself.” The benefits of activity are endless including reducing the deleterious side effects of treatment, improve functional strength and quality of life, improve energy and foster positive mental health benefits.

Getting up and moving can be a challenge in itself if not previously prioritized or enjoyed in the past, but we want to make it easy for you to find ways to get moving, despite the pandemic. Our hope is to help you feel empowered in knowing it’s not only possible, but also attainable get back into the activities you loved before your diagnosis. You deserve it!

That said, it is important to ensure you’re safely exercising while being respectful of your treatment and your condition, so to make all of this possible, here are our favourite tips to start:

  1. Start with something you enjoy and something that you can do. Make it fun and easy to do throughout your day. Whether it’s aiming to get out for a walk every day or even just a couple extra days a week. Try moving around while being a part of a Zoom meeting or during commercials while watching TV. Try to get more movement into your day. Involve others in your bubble!
  2. Evaluate what time of the day you feel the most energetic and least symptomatic and capitalize on those times. If you’re going through chemotherapy, experiencing lymphedema symptoms or recovering from surgery, these times of day may vary. What we have found to be the most successful is tailoring your exercise according how you feel that day. But don’t give up on it! During days where you’ve had a lot of doctor’s appointments, acute treatment or surgery, gentle exercise is a great option to help with blood flow, relax at the end of your day and ease tension. On days that you feel a bit more energetic, you can incorporate even a 15-minute strength workout or go for a walk, run or bike ride.
  3. Splitting up exercise throughout the day can also be a great way to make it achievable and attainable while also being respectful of your body and energy level. This way, your body has time to recover throughout the day before the next bout of activity and can potentially prolong your energy for the day.
  4. Home based exercise programs are becoming easier to incorporate into the lives of many. It might be a hard time to attend an exercise program at a clinic or at your local gym during the pandemic. The remote delivery of an at home exercise program is easier to manage with a busy schedule especially as everyone is now becoming more acquainted with video conferencing.  Doing remote exercise sessions allows people living across the nation to access professional advice. This approach can be done with one-on-one or in group exercise sessions. There are so many benefits from continuing with exercise during this pandemic, why not do it in the safety and comfort of your home?

With all these options, you can tailor your choice of exercise according to what you love AND get yourself a little bit stronger over time. Getting back into activity can be a challenge, but when you separate it into achievable steps, it can be amazing what results you can achieve. — Julie Lopez, Kinesiologist


  1. Alice Avancini, MSc, Ilaria Trestini, BSc, Daniela Tregnago, MSc, Joachim Wiskemann, PhD, Massimo Lanza, MSc, Michele Milella, MD, PhD, Sara Pilotto, MD, PhD, Physical Activity for Oncological Patients in COVID-19 Era: No Time to Relax, JNCI Cancer Spectrum, Volume 4, Issue 6, December 2020, pkaa071
  2. Browall M, Mijwel S, Rundqvist H, Wengström Y. Physical Activity During and After Adjuvant Treatment for Breast Cancer: An Integrative Review of Women’s Experiences. Integrative Cancer Therapies. March 2018:16-30. doi:10.1177/1534735416683807
  3. Gurgel, A. R., Mingroni-Netto, P., Farah, J. C., De Brito, C. M., Levin, A. S., & Brum, P. C. (2021). Determinants of health and physical activity levels among breast cancer survivors during the covid-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional study. Frontiers in Physiology, 12. doi:10.3389/fphys.2021.624169

The mission and purpose of WillKin is to connect expert, accredited kinesiologists and exercise physiologists to individuals to receive science-based and thoughtful programs, aiding best health and positive lifestyle. All WillKin programs, written and reviewed by experts in their field, combine exercise, education and behaviour change tools to engage intrinsic motivation and encourage self-management of long-term health.

All programs can be adapted to the needs of the individual and can be delivered in group settings, in person. Willkin encourages their patients to explore participation in physical activity that they enjoy and how this can have a beneficial impact on their physical and mental health. They encourage self-management of an active lifestyle in the long-term. Learn more here!

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