"Self Care in Quarantine" is a series I am writing as we all adjust to our new lives as a result of the pandemic. The world is clearly in a state of disarray, and many people are finding themselves struggling financially, personally, or otherwise. All of the new adjustments and transitions due to the pandemic are extremely challenging and affecting everyone globally. We are all seeking to discover what we should do. As an optimist, I am arguing that this is time to start fresh. We have been given the space to create new routines, strengthen relationships, and reflect on ourselves. This series is designed to provide tips on how to do these things, along with how to take care of ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally, spiritually, and creatively while in quarantine. I am not an expert and nothing that I say is meant to replace a professional's opinion or otherwise, but only to provide some insight into feeling more peaceful. It is my hope with this series that we can regain or continue to stand in our power, and take care of ourselves as we adjust to a new way of living.
In this essay, we will be revisiting an older post on self care and adding to our ideas of what self care looks like, all while following the social distancing procedure ordered by our government.
Self care continues to flourish in many different areas of our world. I feel like as a collective we are starting to realize what true self love is, therefore practicing healing and taking care of ourselves has become mainstream. I feel very honored to be apart of this movement, and I hope others will join as we are forced to dig deeper and look into ourselves during quarantine.
Back in 2018, I had an issue with how shallow the self care movement was. It felt superficial, and the tricks exploited by "experts" had no real meaning or value in them. This is where the inspiration for the post "Self Care is Deeper Than a Face Mask" came from. Self care IS deeper than a face mask, a bath, curating a perfect playlist, doing yoga, meditating, cooking, exercising, and anything else someone may preach as the perfect way to care for your needs and "fall in love with yourself" in the process. And again, all of these things are wonderful but they should not be treated as a quick fix if there are clearly some deeper problems in your world. I'm talking about real depression, anxiety, other mental illnesses, etc. This also includes people who are insecure, do not have a strong sense of self worth, victims of gaslighting, or people who may feel trapped in an otherwise abusive relationship. Doing things that seem trendy or cool, or because someone else said it helps them is the equivalent of putting a bandaid on your self worth. When you do this, you never actually address what you are insecure about, what you want to change in your life, or even attempt to change it. It is NOT pure, loving of the self and that is the true problem with the self care movement.
What are we supposed to do then? How do we love ourselves and practice self care?
Let's start fresh.
If you read the original self care post, then you know that one way to begin this process is by talking to yourself. Speak out loud comforting words to yourself that you would tell someone that is in a similar position as your own (right now the whole world is in the midst of a pandemic so this should be pretty simple). Hold yourself when you're afraid. Create a list of things you want to do in your life, or perhaps some goals either short term or long term. Create positive affirmation cards and post them somewhere visible like your mirror or in the bathroom (tip: these positive affirmations should be about traits you want to embrace or counter negative beliefs you already have about yourself). Be open and honest with yourself by acknowledging the unhealthy habits in your life and determine alternative ways to spend your time.
In 2018, I did all of these things myself. I began this process of self care and healing. Now in 2020 I have this website, a published book, 2 completed journals, and a teaching certificate. In practice I learned my boundaries, so I started drinking again. Traveling was on my list of things I wanted to do, so I traveled. I think the most important thing that I did initially was begin to take care of my physical health. Everything mentioned above is important, can be beneficial, and lead to successes, but nothing is as important as taking care of our physical health. This may be obvious for most, but when I was at my lowest point of depression, I was not taking care of myself at all. I barely even left my room. So if you're asking yourself "What am I supposed to do?" First, shower. Then brush your teeth and wash your face. THEN you can begin the other caring actions, such as holding yourself and acknowledging the type of lifestyle you're living.
When you begin to take care of your physical health, you are not only practicing self care but your actions are helping your brain truly believe that you deserve to be taken care of. If you take care of yourself consistently, you won't be as quick to run when someone asks you on a date, or you may run quicker and quicker away from your abusive relationship. The foundation of self care is your physical health and is needed to "advance" to the next step, loving yourself.
This is when tricks such as "yoga" and "cooking" can come in handy. Personally, I would recommend journaling but whatever feels right for you is the best way. Think of the things you value about yourself, such as your humor, your soft skin, your ability to always see the good in people, or the way your favorite jeans hug your waist. Looking back, I began to love myself more and became more confident when I spent time getting to know myself after ending a toxic relationship. The fact that I set time aside to get to know myself was self care in practice. It truly is that simple. And this is when you can cook, or do yoga, meditate, exercise, curate that perfect playlist, and use a facemask. You can do these things, and try new things, to discover what you like and don't like in life and your self. This "step" is crucial because now that you have a taste for your interests and an idea of what you might change if you could, you can begin to make goals that promote the change you wish to see. For me, I wanted to change how unforgiving I was. I made a list of people that I was angry with and wrote letters to them about what they did (and sometimes what I did), and how I felt. This helped me come to terms with the past and look at those experiences from a different perspective, since time had passed. Viewing those people in my mind's eye as a child helped too because I saw how maybe they hurt me because they were innocent when someone else hurt them. As you can see, there are many possibilities and learning to love yourself and they all lead to us feeling powerful in and with our own self.
Now, as it was in 2018, self care is a journey. There is no real destination. You are never going to wake up one morning and love every single little thing about yourself, and your actions that follow. Self love is still a state of being that is attained through practice. So what are some ways that we can practice self care, besides the ideas and examples given here? Leave your ideas in the comments below, so we can all learn and find what works best for us as individuals.
Maren Hoflund MT HHP, is a massage therapist and holistic health practitioner based in San Diego. This her self created space where she explores topics such as mental and physical (holistic) health, self care, spirituality, and child development; in addition to her poetry and prose.