The COVID-19 pandemic has turned life upside-down for millions of people. Changes in family dynamics, work schedules, caregiving, and more can cause an increased burden as well as greater levels of stress. In addition, there can be guilt, feelings of inadequacy, and more negative feelings.
These feelings are normal, and one of the most important things that can happen during this time is to love yourself. Some self-care and compassion can help you keep going during these uncertain months as you do your best to make the right decisions and keep yourself and those around you healthy.
Empathizing with Yourself
Empathy means being aware of what someone else is experiencing and understanding enough to be able to put yourself in their shoes. If you are going to support yourself and accompany yourself through this COVID-19 pandemic, it can help to fully understand what you are going through. Just as you might step back and find out what a friend is going through when you are trying to support them, it can help to closely look at your own circumstances.
Chances are, you are going through…a lot! It could include:
- Changes in daily routines.
- Working from home instead of commuting.
- Living with adult-children-moved-back-in, or living with parents after years of living on your own.
- Caring for young children and educating older ones at home.
- Grocery shopping turning into a choice between using a delivery app (and paying extra fees) versus arming yourself with a mask and gloves, and being prepared to wait outside until you can safely enter the store.
For some people, those are just the minor stressors! Major stressors can include job losses or worries about layoffs, managing your or a family member’s health, and psychological and emotional challenges of being confined to your home all day, whether alone or with roommates or family members who can be challenging no matter how much you love them.
Plus, many stress-releasing opportunities, such as going to concerts or eating at a restaurant with friends, are no longer available.
With these stressors, along with whatever “everyday” stress was present before the pandemic started, it’s little wonder if you make a few mistakes. Understanding these forces can help you support and forgive yourself.
Knowing (or Meeting) Yourself
You can only love yourself if you know yourself, but…who are you? The people they are around or the events they attend can help define people, but what happens when these relationships are dramatically changed?
Relationships can be redefined with video chats and outdoors socializing from a distance. Other interests can be pursued online, such as with virtual concerts and tours. Still, it may be time to take a deeper look at who else you are, besides a socializer and event attendee.
Roles are a part of who people are, such as career roles, or being a parent, friend, caregiver, and/or homemaker. Your values, such as religious, spiritual, and ethical, also define who you are. For many people, this pandemic may offer the first opportunity ever to strip away external “noise” and look deep into their cores.
When someone you care about going through a tough time, it makes sense to check in with them regularly. Just as you would ask them how they are feeling and what you can do for them, you can ask yourself the same. The key is to practice expressing yourself and listening to yourself so you can be in tune with your feelings and needs.
Keeping a record can help you find patterns about what makes you feel better or worse. Jotting down your feelings and moods, actions you may have taken,
Setting out to complete an unrealistically long list of tasks sets yourself up for failure as some tasks are sure to be left undone and/or be done poorly. Instead, setting more realistic goals can help you feel confident, which can actually make you more productive.
Some people are being asked to be caregivers, educators, personal shoppers and chefs, house cleaners and gardeners, dog walkers, and entertainers. Oh, and they work a full-time job. That leaves no time for self-care, such as getting physical activity and relaxing, is unreasonable at the best of times, and is even more far-fetched when factoring in stress related to the pandemic.
The solution may be to pare down your to-do list to something manageable. Some tasks may be more dispensible than others. Taking care of yourself is essential, while keeping a spotless home, redecorating, or dressing up as much as you used to may not be critical right now.
Multitasking may be possible sometimes, such as walking the dog to the local park while quizzing an older child on their lesson at school, and keeping everyone active while at the park. Or, make a healthy meal together as you sneak in lessons on fractions (as marked on measuring cups) or physiology (how the nutrients get into and affect the body).
Making Yourself Proud
Feeling proud can keep you going and help you get through this rough time with flying colors. You might start with small goals, such as getting through a (small) daily checklist that includes getting some exercise, putting in a few hours of work,
If too much time is on your hands during COVID-19, a way to make yourself proud might be to learn a new skill or topic, such as baking, home repairs, or a language.
Something else that can make you proud is helping someone else. That could be anyone in your family, such as doing the dishes when it is not your turn or giving up a quiet space for a while so someone else can use it, and it can also be someone else, such as grocery shopping or mowing the lawn for a neighbor. If you have no time, simply greeting people and smiling at them – from behind your mask and 6 feet away – when you pass them can make their day.
Everything is topsy-turvy during this time, and feeling topsy-turvy is a natural response. Still, having certain feelings or other signs for more than a few days in a row can indicate that you may need help. These can include the following.
- Having physical symptoms such as unexplained aches or changes in appetite.
- Trouble sleeping or excessive fatigue.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Feeling as though normal tasks are too difficult to complete.
- Feeling sad or hopeless.
Seeking help is not giving up. In fact, it is continuing the fight to love yourself and be strong for others. Help can come from friends or family members, religious leaders, mental health professionals, and other support resources online or available through work.