In the course of my therapy sessions over the last two months, I’ll regularly ask my clients:
And how are you taking good care of yourself this week?
Their answers vary and range but look like an amalgam of responses that resemble something like this:
“I bought a Switch and got addicted to Animal Crossing. I’m spending hours on it.”
“I don’t know. I’ve been binge-watching Netflix and eating lots of takeout.”
“I’m not sure if it’s self-care or not but I’ve been re-watching all of the Harry Potter movies and re-reading Twilight.”
And each of these comments is usually made with a slight shade of shame, and maybe some guilt.
It’s not uncommon for them to then chase their stated self-care activities by saying something along the lines of:
“I know I should be exercising more or eating better but I just can’t seem to get my act together.”
“I know I should be Facetiming and Zooming with my friends more for social contact outside of work, but after all day on screens, it’s the last thing I want to do.”
“Honestly, I just want to be a blob on the couch right now and I know I should be taking better care of myself.”
And what I say to them is what I want to say to you:
PLEASE LET THIS BE OKAY.
Please let it be okay that you are taking care of yourself in whatever way works for you right now.
Let it be okay that you’re disappearing into stories about other people, that you’re choosing to watch Netflix or play Animal Crossing.
Allow it to be okay that you’re not “doing self-care perfectly” by eating totally right or getting a certain amount of social contact in each day.
Let yourself, your body, your mind, your psyche, want whatever it wants and needs right now to get through this time.
Shaming ourselves for “not doing quarantine or shelter-in-place perfectly” is ridiculous.
This is already a painful and hard time: we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, the likes of which most living humans have never seen.
Even if you haven’t been impacted directly – even if you still have your job and your health and your loved ones are okay – doesn’t mean this is an easy experience.
It’s not easy to be in a sort of global limbo, wondering when and how this will all shake out.
It’s not normal to be removed from contact with other people. We’re not designed for that.
It’s not realistic to imagine that you’re going to be able to perform and make perfect choices in this time (whatever perfect choices actually mean).
It’s so, so, so important that you practice radical self-compassion and allow yourself to get through this time in whatever ways actually work for you, regardless of how outwardly “functional” and “healthy” they look.
Now, a few caveats: obviously, if your coping mechanisms of choice are harming yourself or others (drinking a fifth of whiskey each night, verbally and physically abusing your SO), we will have a big problem.
But short of harm to self and others, let Netflix, game playing, popcorn eating, YA fantasy-novel binge reading, etc BE OKAY.
And please don’t compare yourself to the folks you see on Instagram who just designed urban permaculture gardens on their patio or became a masterful sourdough baker in the last two months.
I mean, that’s great for them – big hat tip – but that’s also not a realistic standard to hold YOURSELF to.
You are the expert of your experience and only you know what you want and need to get through this time.
So please, let however you’re taking care of yourself be okay right now.
That, and only that, is the prescription for self-care in the time of COVID.
And if you find yourself struggling and needing extra support, please reach out and let us know so we can get you some professional help.