The New Baseline: Self-Care and Mental Health During a Pandemic
This pandemic has touched us all in one way or another. From isolation to loss and grief, to economic hardship, worries about health, isolation, putting dreams on hold, changing and cancelling plans – we’re all feeling it.
With no clear end in sight, we’re all learning how to adjust to a new reality and a general feeling of uncertainty.
Mental Health Matters
Mental health can be a delicate balance. Throw a pandemic into the mix – one of the most, if not the most, intense periods experienced during our lifetime, and it can easily exacerbate any prior mental health struggles.
In the U.S. alone, 53% of adults polled reported that stress over the Coronavirus has negatively impacted their mental health. Rates of mental health distress are even higher for first responders and medical providers.
Over time, we will continue to see the growing impact of the pandemic on mental health, especially as it takes time for the world’s economies to recover. This may manifest as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, increased rates of substance abuse and suicidal thoughts or attempts, and domestic abuse and violence.
It’s OK to Not Feel OK
Even if you aren’t experiencing more serious mental health issues, you may have an overall feeling of meh, or bleh, or uhh.
While we want you to feel your best, it’s not only totally OK to be feeling out of sorts, it’s also expected at this time.
As frustrating as it can be to feel consistent fatigue, lack of motivation, or increased worries, the last thing you need to do is beat yourself up for it. Give yourself permission to be ok with these feelings. Understand that you didn’t do anything wrong and that you don’t always have to be focusing on feeling happy or positive.
Balance is key, and that means letting yourself feel the full range of your emotions and watching for any red flags that may indicate a more serious problem.
You may not be feeling your most “productive”, or motivated to achieve and get things done. This is OK! It may help to change your idea of what productive means. For now, productivity may mean less about meeting deadlines and making money, and more about taking time to move your body, and spend time with loved ones.
Through the pressure of life, we’re finding new and novel ways to connect with each other, to engage and learn about the world, to explore (oftentimes virtually), and to practice self-care.
Redefining Self Care
When you think of self-care, you probably picture meditation, massages, and manicures. Those are all awesome tools, but we challenge you to look outside of that.
Self-care is anything that does just that; cares for the self. What makes you feel cared for? What nourishes your body, mind, and soul? What allows you to feel moments of softness and clarity?
These actions can be as big as doing a virtual retreat, or small as taking a few deep breaths to ground yourself.
Here are some of our favorite, simple, back to basics, self-care tools:
- Cooking: Whether you’re a whiz in the kitchen or just getting started, cooking is a great way to flex your creative skills, nourish your body, and stay in the present.
- Gardening: You don’t need a big yard to try your hand at gardening. You can start an herb garden in even the smallest of apartments. There’s nothing like touching dirt to soothe the soul.
- Movement: Not only is physical activity important for a healthy mind, it can help bring you back into the moment, ground you, and relieve the aches and pains that may come with working from home. A brisk walk or dancing around your room is great. You may also want to try an online or outdoor workout class.
- Breathing: Simply taking a few deep breaths can be enough to center you. These helpful breathwork exercises can help you to shift your energy, and boost your mood.
- Art: Art is the external representation of your soul. What’s your favorite way to express yourself? Music? Painting? Dancing? Crafting? Whatever it is, art is one of our favorite self care tools.
- Community: Who in your community makes you feel the most supported and uplifted? Whether it’s a friend to giggle with, or a shoulder to cry on. Make the effort to stay connected to your community, whether virtually or in person.
- Nature: Mother nature is always available to you, waiting with her loving, open arms. A hike, jump in a body of water, camping trip, or simply stepping outside your house can all help change your mood for the better.
- Be Kind to Yourself: Last but certainly not least, remember to be kind to your sweet soul. We’re all going through a lot, and kindness is one of the most powerful, yet underrated tools we’ve got. Use it!
As disorienting as the world may feel, remember what’s important to you, and prioritize that. What makes you feel most alive and most at peace? Lean into these practices and let them support you.
Know When to Seek Help
If you are struggling, or believe you are a risk to your own safety or those around you, we urge you to seek help from a qualified professional.
The U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available, although you may find a more appropriate resource for you in your area.
You don’t have to be struggling to seek professional help. Therapy, whether in a group or individual setting can be helpful no matter where you’re at mentally and emotionally. There are a growing number of online and virtual resources, that allow you to talk to a professional from the comfort of your home.
Wherever you’re at emotionally, we encourage you to find the support you need. Whether that be in a therapist, a tree, a friend, a lover, or yourself.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.