August 28, 2020

Self-Care Supplement

Earlier this year—i.e., earlier this pandemic—I wrote about the benefits of Positive Psychology, being kind to yourself as your kids finished the school year, and how to protect yourself against the illusions of the social-media universe. All of these posts address the mental-health challenges presented by Covid-19 and life in general, but I think it’s time for a simple, focusing post on wholesale self-care, full stop.

I’ve been observing a phenomenon wherein self-care has become a sword pointed toward ourselves, a weapon wielded at our own expense. It’s the newest way of measuring ourselves against others—as if we’re all waiting with dark anticipation for the award of an imaginary trophy: Who’s Doing Pandemic Self-Care Best. The problem is, no one feels like a worthy recipient.

I’m here to tell you that if you are reading this post, you are doing pandemic self-care exceptionally well. For starters, you’re alive. This might seem like a tongue-in-cheek statement, but the truth in these times is that being alive is both a blessing and a feat. This is not to say anyone who has perished from Covid-19 did anything wrong. It is to say, rather, that you deserve congratulation for making it through one of the most difficult times in the modern era. This is right up there with the major world wars, the Black Plague, the Spanish Flu. So please know it really is something that you’re still standing here, especially because you’ve lost things along the way. We all have.

Second, if you’re feeling bad for letting some of your early-COVID self-care rituals lapse—if the yoga has dwindled to once a week, your bubble baths have become quick showers, and you don’t feel like walking in the grass or taking your dog for long walks—then stop. You have nothing to feel bad about. Contrary to what you might be seeing on Instagram, your COVID routine need not be an art form. You are not expected to emerge from this with a perfect handstand, a prize-winning pie recipe, or a brand-new dream career. You are not expected to do anything other than take care of yourself, take care of your dependents, and try to show up for the other people who need you most. The people who have a perfect handstand on Instagram probably have nannies and maids, or no kids, or particularly flexible spines even in the best of times. Bless their hearts, we wish them well. But if you aren’t (hand-)standing among them, see the paragraph above and remember: you’re alive. Who cares if you’re doing inversions?

Finally, let’s talk about your big pandemic door prize, the thing you’ll walk away with after the vaccines are administered and the herd immunity achieved. It’s called Resiliency. I’m giving it a capital R because it’s just that important. The harder things have been and will be for you, the tougher you’ll be in the aftermath of this madness. What will it take to faze you when you’ve survived the great Coronavirus Pandemic? How badass will your grandkids think you are when you can sniff at their complaints and remind them that at least they move freely about the world again without masks and hand sanitizer. Resiliency is worth more than all the handstands and dream jobs and prize-winning recipes in the world. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and this strange, stubborn virus that has taken so much from us has at least given us this: the power, once we’ve survived this pandemic, to truly put things in perspective. The realization that we are way stronger than we think we are.

So if you want to do yoga or watch Youtube videos of religious services or learn a second language, go for it. We’re all very impressed! But if you’re like most of us and you’re reading this with unwashed hair or a stained garment or late at night in bed because you can’t sleep with all these headlines, I see you. And I think you’re spectacular.