How COVID-19 Helped Me Redefine Self-Care

Back in January, I wrote a pre-COVID piece about some of the myths of self-care. That was before all my mandatory alone time and before most of the social aspects of my life pressed pause. Despite all the challenges COVID has introduced, it presented a huge gift to me. This time alone has allowed me the space to face my own traumas, unproductive behaviors and patterns.

Call it the retrograde planets, eclipses, or blame it on the rain (see what I did there), but our collective society has been forced to come face to face with our old coping mechanisms. In a world where we used to be able to distract our sorrows in cross-fit classes, happy hours or shopping, we now have to sit in our own sorrow soup and marinate in our feelings. For most of my life, I was a queen of avoidance. I would clean my house just shy of operating room sterility or make meals for 10 families in crisis, before I would sit and look at my own wounds.

So what does that have to do with self-care? For me, it has everything to do with self care. I believe that when you heal yourself, you heal the world. I wish I knew who coined this, but there is this quote that says “Hurt people, hurt people.” This is a fact and I can speak from years of experience projecting my hurt, shot gun style, over strangers, loved ones, friends and partners. You only stop hurting others when you stop hurting, yourself.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love commercial self-care in the form of masks and mocktails, but I have been spending more time on intrinsic self-care. I have been writing reams, reading stacks of books and practicing my Spanish. Self care now includes taking time to put down my devices and listen to the rain on my patio, in an effort to be present more and ruminate less. Self care now includes feeling anger or sadness and pausing to say, “ok, I’m feeling angry and why is that?” It also includes allowing myself the space to feel the emotions that run through me, without judgement, until they pass. These days, I allow myself highly productive days, coupled with other days where I play a game on my phone for 6 hours straight, only to get up for food and bathroom breaks, like a gluttonous aristocrat. COVID-19 has forced me to stay home and sit in silence and when I feel like “texting an ex,” to ask myself, what do I really want? What am I actually looking for and how can I give that to myself? This voluntary isolation has allowed me to find new coping mechanisms for all the old unhealthy patterns, like eating when I’m bored, or attention seeking and validation from others.

My self care routine now includes more walks with the doggo, more time meditating and dedication to strengthening my most important relationships. Self care is no longer just nourishing my skin, but also nourishing my soul. It has helped me develop a stronger sense of self-reliance, that I didn’t have before, and has allowed me to understand my base wants and desires with greater clarity.

I know many people still feel like the global pandemic is a curse or a punishment, but it depends on your perspective. I have continued to hone my perspective with a glass-half-full approach. As I look at the world around me, this time of reflection has given me a greater sense of gratitude, I can later channel into shared gratitude lists with my friend in England, when I have a bad day. Self care now includes saying I don’t want to do something, when I don’t want to do it. Sounds obvious, but for me it wasn’t always so simple. The pandemic has become my personal great adaptation, because my tolerance for BS has become much lower, which is a reflection of my own increased feelings of self worth. The greatest thing about this new approach to self care is all the time I have back, because I’m no longer investing time in people who don’t bring me joy.

My self care evolution has been in progress for a while, but COVID-19 was the turbo boost I needed to really go deep and pull out the mental cobwebs, holding me back from continued growth. It was the catalyst for removing the price tag from my self-care, and investing in something so much more valuable than face creams and massages.

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