Throughout the past week as more and more cities, states, and districts have begun to enforce shelter-in-place orders due to the COVID-19, I have seen something harmful unfold. Many people are out of a job and being forced to stay at home, while numerous influencers across all social media platforms have created videos and articles shaming individuals who are using this time to rest and practice self-care. Some influencers have broadcast how we need to use this time to be productive and “skill up” instead of being “lazy and watching Netflix”.
Okay, I work at home and I understand more than anyone the need to stay productive to keep up with work and to maintain purpose, but I have found this shaming to be so unnecessary. One of the biggest issues with our country is how we are taught to never slow down and to keep going, no matter how we may be faring mentally, physically, or emotionally, because resting is seen as weakness. Work is absolutely an important part of life, but so are ourselves. Our worth is NOT defined by our work, and instead of using this time to push ourselves despite all of the anxiety and stress we are experiencing may do more harm than good. Now, by all means, if working and being productive during this time is what will help you improve your mental health, then please go ahead and do so. But if you are feeling burnt out or mentally/physically unwell, then please, please use at least some of this time to rest and do some things that bring you happiness. We are under so much stress on a global level right now, and it is so unnecessary to add to our stress by forcing ourselves to be productive out of guilt or shame.
I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and I am a recovering perfectionist, so I know more than anyone how it feels to always want to be working and moving up. This time last year I would have absolutely scoffed at the thought of using this time for self-care. But pushing myself so hard for so long led me to a mental health breakdown, which has taken a huge toll on my life, and pushing myself so hard did more harm than good. Nothing is worth compromising your mental health, and this time may be an unexpected gift – use it however you feel you would like to, not how you think you NEED to according to others.
Practicing self-care doesn’t mean that you have to do nothing all day and just watch Netflix (but hey, if that is what you want to do, go for it!). If you do have to work from home or take care of your children, you can maintain your responsibilities while still saving one or two hours a day to practice self-care. If you use at least some of this time to hone your self-care skills and show up for yourself, you can take your new self-care practices back into your everyday life once this time has passed.
Below are some of my favorite self-care activities that you can practice no matter how much time you have:
Okay, this is probably obvious, and I have talked about reading so much before, but I can never preach the importance of reading enough. Reading is so good for your mental health, and you can even learn things through reading if you feel the need to “skill up”. Just pick out some books you’d like to read (or have been meaning to read) and go! (Audiobooks are a great resource as well)
Journaling is such a great resource for working through your emotions, and it can be done no matter how much time you have.
Make a habit of recording three emotions you are feeling, and one emotion you would like to increase, and jot down ways that you can increase that emotion every day. This helps you to focus on the positive and get to know yourself better by naming your emotions.
3) Go for a Mindfulness Walk
Walking is safe as long as you maintain your distance from others, and there is nothing that is more grounding than going for a mindfulness walk. You can take a walk around the block, or choose a longer route, and while you are walking say to yourself what you are experiencing through your senses (what do you see, smell, hear, taste, feel?) This is a great way to connect to the Earth and ease your mind. Connection to our environment is so important.
4) Create a Daily Schedule
One thing that helps me since I work at home is to create a daily schedule. Doing this will help you to have structure while you are at home, and ensure that you are maintaining your mental health by keeping track of your responsibilities as well as pleasurable activities you would like to partake in. If you have children, why not sit down with them and make a schedule together? Especially if you are going to be helping your children with remote learning.
5) Give Yourself Grace
We are often so hard on ourselves (I know I am constantly beating myself up) and in a world that pushes productivity and constant movement, we are taught so many ways that we are “inadequate”. But acknowledging that we are enough exactly as we are, despite our perceived “faults” or “failings”, we can practice giving ourselves grace by changing our inner dialogue.
Catch yourself when you begin to think poorly about yourself in any way, and flip the script by naming three of your strengths. Repeat this over and over and eventually, your self-confidence will rise as you create new neuron pathways in your brain.
What are some of your favorite self-care activities? Share with me below!