Self-Care During A Global Pandemic
Self-care is an idea that gets stressed to us all the time. Your mother preaches it, your therapist stresses it, your best friend swears by it, the media romanticizes it, and the world makes it feel seemingly impossible. Our bodies crave it, but our minds often confuse it. What exactly is self-care? And better yet, what does self-care look like during a global pandemic?
It’s group video chatting with your best friends and family members to see perhaps the first smiling faces you’ve seen in four days. It’s the sun peaking out from behind the clouds and allowing yourself to end work 30 minutes early to take a walk around the block while it’s still light out. Self-care might mean breaking your own heart day after day because in the back of your mind you know that the exact thing hurting you is protecting the lives of your elderly or immunosuppressed loved ones.
Self-care is waking up and slipping into jeans and your favorite sweater, putting on a little makeup, and twisting your hair up on top of your head to impress no one but yourself. It’s shaving your face and doing your workout anyway, even though your muscles ache and your mind feels foggy. It’s remaining on a strict schedule. It’s giving yourself slack when you need it. It’s saying ‘yes’ when you can, and ‘no’ when it doesn’t serve you. Self-care is putting the scale in a box in your closet and forgiving yourself for eating the stash of snacks that were supposed to last you for two weeks between grocery shops.
Self-care is turning off the news when the influx of information about a public health emergency gets swept up in political agenda. It’s logging off of Facebook and Twitter when unannounced, and inaccurate, information gets strewn across your timeline. Self-care might mean distancing yourself, both physically and emotionally, from people you care about for a while due to the fact that they don’t seem to understand the potential consequences of their actions in congregating in large groups.
It’s doing yoga and mowing the lawn. It’s spring cleaning closets and folding clothes that tower overhead from the top shelf each time you open the door. It’s organizing paperwork, taking time to clean your baseboards, and throwing away junk that has accumulated out of nowhere over the last ten years. It’s tidying your space in hopes to tidy your mind. It’s giving your dog that extra treat because you’re home at one in the afternoon, even if they can’t understand why. It’s playing with your kids when your email’s inbox keeps growing, and it’s making the executive decision that ice cream is what’s for dinner tonight.
It’s sending a text wishing the nurse in your life your best wishes going into their shift. It’s thanking your postman, your garbage collector, the cashier at Price Chopper, the truck driver supplying your groceries, your favorite small business, for all of the dedication and hard work they continue to do each day. It’s keeping essential workers in your thoughts while all they can do is think of their families that they can’t go home to that night. It’s reorganizing your mind about what being an ‘essential worker’ really means in America and not letting it stray too far from consciousness all of the ways society contradicts this on a non-pandemic kind of day. It’s tipping your pizza delivery man double and obeying the lines drawn on grocery store floors pleading that you remain at least six feet away from your neighbor. It’s checking in on your friends that you know struggle with their mental health already, and it’s also checking in on your happy friends. Everyone needs each other right now.
Self-care is allowing yourself to grieve cancelled graduations, sports seasons cut short, hearing that one special person’s voice only through the end of the telephone. It’s letting yourself sit in your anxiety when you feel a tickle in your throat and crying for the rest of the world facing struggles that look different than yours. It’s being soft on yourself. It’s not comparing grief across stories and remembering that your sadness, anger, and anxieties are valid regardless of whether or not the magnitude of yours holds up to your neighbor’s because that isn’t the point. Our emotions are meant to be felt, no matter where they might stem from. When living in a time period where new words and phrases make room in our daily vocabulary -- social distancing, self-isolation, quarantine, global pandemic, public health emergency -- find room for others, too. Self-compassion, empathy, paying it forward, healthy boundaries, simple joys.
Self-care looks different to everyone, and not all of the same tactics will work universally. Take time to notice what helps you today, and be patient with yourself when the same thing doesn’t work tomorrow. When you’re living in a time of uncharted territory, there’s no simple rule book to follow. The only thing you can do is follow procedures, find a healthy balance for yourself, and hold on until the storm passes. And like all storms, this one will pass too.
“True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake. It is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.”
Bri Anderson has worked for ICAN for the last three years evolving through several roles in the company, including intern, support staff, supervised visitation monitor, adult care coordinator, and assisting staff in the marketing and accounting departments. Bri will soon graduate with her Master's degree in Social Work from the University at Buffalo, and she hopes to continue her work with ICAN in a therapeutic capacity.