During the last while I have been considering the pandemic and how it has influenced all of us (or how it may influence our life going forward into the future). I want to ask you to rewind your life back to the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 to picture yourself before we knew what it would be like, then bring yourself to a place a few months later into the pandemic, think about what life was like then. What would you tell me?
What did you struggle with in order to adjust to this new way of life?
- What did you do to survive? Did you have a strategy of survival?
- Did your plans include growing vegetables; bulk buying, or ordering online?
- Did you have to make financial plans? Could you work from home? Did you lose your job or get less pay?
- Did you have to change the way you lived and start new routines? Did you feel like creating routines or did you think you’d just take some time off while you wait it out?
- How did you exercise or look after your weight? Did you comfort eat and eat too much?
- How did you contend with seeing medical professionals?
- How did you keep up with your social life? Did you use more or less social media?
- How did you keep your spirits up? Or did you become depressed?
- Do you find the news and views of all around you distract you or can you create a boundary for yourself to protect yourself?
The list goes on and on and each of us, being unique, will have different coping strategies and we can all learn from each other. It is with this in mind that I share my experience; not because I think I have all the answers as I certainly don’t, but there might be something I am doing that you might be inspired to try. Or there might be something that you are doing that you could share that will help me or other people.
Our difficulties are related to our circumstances and who we are:
Here are three examples
- A couple living in a house share, living in a room: working, sleeping, eating, holidaying, doing hobbies, and relaxation all in this same room is one type of stress
- while a family of eight with each having their own roles and tasks to perform
- Or a single person on their own with time on their hands are all different scenarios with their own difficulties.
I only talk about our own experience here. Derek works from home and I run my life from home too so nothing changed in some ways. In the beginning, during the hard lock down, I found not being allowed to go walking and take the dogs to the greenbelt very, very difficult. It was near soul destroying. This was because walking in nature, forests and beaches is one of my most effective ways of self-care. We also missed the weekend social interaction with friends and we obviously had to adjust to a different shopping regime.
Here are some things that I included in my routine to keep me staying vital and positive.
- We were already walking as part of our health program but we actually agreed that once we could walk that walks would be mostly and in general a quiet space for each of us so that we could have our own reflective times. The quiet walks add a dimension of making time for oneself so we accompanied each other in quietness.
- My animals uplift me. Having animals to care for helped me when I felt lethargic because caring for them is my responsibility. It is important to keep myself emotionally well for them too. In my relationship with them I sense when they are down or anxious; it is part of our communication. Looking after animals is tactile and the familiar bond helps with the absence of people.
- My garden: being in it and tending it is very important to my soul and my environmental life.
- I programmed regular short breaks of awareness (a few minutes at a time) in my active life as a way of pausing to check in with myself to see how I am and what I need. This is very important for my self-care. Some people would just say it’s living in the moment or being mindful. I found it is about developing a loving relationship with oneself: Ultimate self-awareness.
- I found several free online courses which were intellectually stimulating, spiritually nurturing, or developing my skills. I always choose apps and courses that are free because we can’t afford to spend lots of money; I am sure many of you can relate to this financial squeeze.
Self-care is important:
We can all benefit with intentional self-care and there are many areas. I would like you to think about what you really need from yourself right now. It might be more time to think, write or meditate; or for physical needs like exercise, healthy eating, or better quality sleep etc.; or some form of relaxation or learning something new. Once you have identified what you need from yourself ask yourself what has stopped you from getting that need met.
One of the most common answers is “I don’t have time” or “I don’t have energy” “I can’t fit it in.” You might have other reasons. Self-care actually starts with:
1) The insight of knowing what one needs. If you are not sure about what you need you could start by writing about your longings, your desires and dreams. You could also try to objectively observe yourself and try to understand what you need. Pretend you are helping your friend when you observe yourself.
2) The next thing after identifying it is to own the desire. Wanting what you need is very important for developing motivation.
3) Motivation gives you the will to make it happen; it will help you change your habits and routines. In other words motivation helps you make a plan.
The things that we say are keeping us from self-care are actually excuses that keep us from moving into what we need. They keep us stuck. They block us from many possibilities. Therefore it is important to identify what and how you will give up in order to attain the self-care you need. Once you have made space for the desired self-care it is much easier to plan and make it happen.
My big realization
I think of it like this: Imagine my life as a box which is full; when I want to add something worthwhile to it I will have to consciously choose to take something out to make space for what I want. If I feel I can’t it means that I either have not identified those less valuable things or I don’t truly value myself and self-care.
Here are two examples
- I played a lot of online scrabble at one stage. I was very competitive and good at it but I stopped playing in 2019 and it opened up tons of hours for blogging which I had really wanted to do for years. Blogging has enhanced my life far more than the online scrabble. Instead of being competitive I became collaborative.
- I realized if I want a more orderly home or creative space I must cut short what I am doing by 15 minutes in order to tidy up. It sounds obvious but when I am caught up in the project I don’t want to stop. Yet giving up 15 minutes means more peace of mind in the long run. So now I look at how many hours or minutes I have and I always subtract 15 minutes in planning my time. Peace of mind means I can find things more easily and I can shift from one project to the next without creating major chaos.
I encourage you to think about what you can do to incorporate extra self-care in these hard times. Please feel free to let me know what types of self-care you have found useful during the pandemic. I love reading your comments.
Please take special care of yourself.