The country’s health gurus and powers that be have asked us to behave every day to ensure that we all do our part to mitigate the spread of the virus that’s behind the pandemic at the moment. We all know how critical it is to consistently wash our hands, wear a mask, and keep at least six feet away from people who are not in our immediate social or home circle. Now, I’m not trying to underplay the importance of all of that, and I can’t encourage that behavior enough—in fact, the only way we’re going to get back to living healthy, social, public lives in the future is if we adopt all of those behaviors now, and don’t let up. However,
I also want to offer another perspective as well: as a person who owns a physical, in-person gym location that I can’t wait to get back to, I’m counting on all of us to work together to be able to safely exercise in close proximity with others again—but, I don’t want you to let up on your “at-home,” personal self-care either.
How you behave publicly to protect your fellow citizens—and how you behave at home to protect yourself—are both equally important. When it’s time to mingle amongst all of your friends again, no matter how far away they may be from your innermost “bubble” now, you’ll want to be feeling like you’ve emerged from this forced and prolonged lockdown like a force to be reckoned with: and a little quarantine self-care will go a long way towards helping you out your best foot forward once you’re free to take your first post-lockdown steps.
What is Self-Care?
Although the term “self-care” wasn’t exactly popularized or mainstream until the 1990s (think, for example, of the rise of “The Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series and other “self-help” books), it’s been a medically recognized concept for a good while now: back in the 60s, and 70s, medical professionals—especially those in the mental health care industries—began recommending to their patients that they take their health into their own hands, by exercising regularly, and practicing forms of meditation. Today, blogs and memes have inundated society with the concept, often poking fun at the importance of looking after one’s own needs first, but make no mistake: self-care is no joke. The modern version of self-care emphasizes dutifully, holistically caring for your health: including your mental, physical, emotional, and even spiritual health. In today’s pandemic culture, it’s easier than ever to see why prioritizing my health doesn’t just help me, but everyone I care about, too.
Self-Care is For Everyone
Some of my peers, sadly, think that self-care just isn’t for them: they hear the term, and immediately are flushed with visions of wealthy people enjoying a lengthy spa day with mud, massages, acupuncture, and other activities that they can’t afford. Through the extended periods of time that I’ve spent alone during this pandemic, however, I’ve learned that self-care must be exactly that: time and activities that are specifically tailored to my own needs. For me as a physical fitness health-nut, I obviously used to spend quite a lot of time working on PRs at the gym; I mean, without my reps, who am I? But, I learned that I could still keep certain activities going, just adapted to the current pandemic threat—no, sweating in close proximity to strangers and sharing equipment wasn’t a healthy idea. However, calling up some friends for a safe, socially-distanced, and totally challenging hike would provide the same mental and physical release while keeping every participant safe.
Self-Care is Self-Love and Self-Acceptance
To care for yourself during the pandemic, look at the activities (and even luxuries) that you used to throw your energy into, and think of ways to adapt them to your current situation. Many of the items or activities that you think are a little out of reach now in this current climate are still crucial to your health now. Although I definitely can’t head out to a cinema to see a summer blockbuster, I can invest in a “new release” online, and make some popcorn for myself at home, While I might not be able to go out to a salon at the moment, I can invest in some high-quality products that make my quick-growing hair feel a little more manageable, and my skin looking fresh. I might not be able to head out to my favorite nightclubs to dance, but some of my favorite establishments are open with plenty of safety measures in place, and I can enjoy a cocktail and some (masked) small-talk. And goodness knows I miss the gym: but with just a little ingenuity, I can work out at home, and even video-chat with friends as we try the same routines. The pandemic might be forcing us to adapt our outward behaviors, but we can adapt our inner selves just as well.
During challenging times like these, it may seem at times as though I don’t have enough time to practice self-care: some days, it can slide down my priorities list faster than New Zealnad’s coronavirus transmission rate. After months inside, though, I know that even five minutes of focusing on my breath, or simply stretching can help me. These small moments of self-care build up to produce a more resilient version of myself over time, and strengthen my coping mechanisms that I’ll tap into whenever I’m stressed. Just like a mask protects me and others, taking care of myself ensures that the best version of me is ready to face the day head-on; even though I’m six-feet away and my face is covered, I promise, I’m smiling at you—and praying that you’re taking care of yourself—when we see each other at the grocery store.