Have you been taking care of yourself during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic? Not just the basic hygiene upkeep—I mean really practicing self-care. Many people may feel there isn’t the time or need to do self-care, but I am here to tell you now is an essential time to do so. This pandemic can either destroy you or bring the greatness out of you. And that may seem harsh, but the reality is, we’re living in dire times.
Self-care is taking action to preserve or improve one’s health. It particularly focuses on one’s own well-being and happiness, especially during times of stress. A common myth about self-care is that it’s a leisurely activity that should be done once. That is the farthest thing from the truth: Self-care is all about taking time for yourself, building resilience to face hardships, and honing in on your inner peace.
The effects of isolation due to COVID-19 can be extreme. When you think about everything in your daily life being halted abruptly, mentally that can take its toll. Confinement is no easy feat and can lead to depression and anxiety, and anxiety especially plays a major role when the time of confinement is uncertain.
According to Alexander Chouker, M.D., Ph.D., a physician and researcher who studies stress immunology at the University of Munich, “The pure fact of being confined affects the body. If you change your environment in a quite extreme way, it is changing you. Being confined and isolated affects the human physiology as a whole.”
As humans, we need that connection with other humans, be it physical touch, verbal interaction, or the comfort of simply knowing you are loved. To that end, you might want to have a quarantine buddy.
Having a designated buddy during the pandemic can be beneficial in many ways. Whether it’s to play music, share stories, vent your aggravations, or simply connect, there’s an outlet available to you and the entire world. Quarantine Buddy is a website created by Sam Brickman, Alissa Lai, and Jordyn Goldzweig, computer science students at Cornell University, after realizing how lonely everyone has been since the pandemic started.
“People can go on and find whatever they’re looking for. If you’re trying to find a person or someone that likes a similar instrument or likes a similar topic or TV show, you can find that,” Brickman told a CBS affiliate about the site.
Engagement with others is a part of life. It’s important to keep in contact with loved ones, friends, coworkers, peers, and even associates. Believe it or not, this pandemic has shown me that associates can easily and quickly upgrade to friends, and best friends can disintegrate into dust. Life is complicated and tricky enough; distancing yourself and isolating can essentially deprive you of good energy, feedback, and memories—just a few things you don’t want to miss out on.
Howard Forman, M.D., M.B.A., a professor of radiology and management at Yale University, told the Los Angeles Times in April that “it is impossible for all Americans to lock themselves in a room for weeks, so people are figuring out their own boundaries.” Six months later, the truth of this statement has not lessened.
There is no doubt that social distancing and isolation have sprung some changes on us, and weight gain has been one of them; this is totally normal. Especially when it comes to stress, weight fluctuations inevitably happen. Do not beat yourself up about it—we’re all going through this experience together. Instead of focusing on the number on the scale, do things that make you happy and make sense. Light exercise such as walking around your neighborhood, dancing to your favorite tunes, or cycling is all you need to move your body and care for yourself. Show your body a little love, and it will return the favor.
As I said earlier, this pandemic has been brutal, and any adjustments can be too, especially initially. If you’re like me, you’ve experienced deaths, and even being fired. Deflecting situations can really take a toll, but practicing self-care really does work. Meditation is a great form of self-care, because it blocks out all of the chaos of the world and allows you to center yourself and your thoughts. I don’t meditate daily, but when I do, I like to do it in the morning, because it sets the tone for my day. Some people like to exercise, other people go to church, others escape in books, some paint or listen to music. Whatever brings you happiness, do that.
Self-care is all about taking care of your inner peace. It is ultimately up to you to explore within and find what your happy place looks and feels like. You are responsible for that right alone. When you think of self-care, think of what makes you operate at your highest altitude. It could be a favorite pastime, a motivating force, a muse, or a memory. Getting through the isolation with your sanity depends on the work you put in during this time.
You can look at the quarantine as a test or survival of the fittest; we’re all experiencing the pandemic, but we’re all coping differently. Create self-care boundaries that work for you, and stick to them. Drink your water, cook your own food, save your money, exercise, sanitize, wear your mask, sanitize some more, and write about it. Who knows, by the end of the pandemic you may have enough content to write a book, or at least a full journal to share with your grandkids and tell them how you survived the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
For those who are finding it extremely hard emotionally or mentally to cope during this time, or if you know someone having this experience, please research mental-health consumer networks in your state. Resources are available, whether it’s via Zoom or phone call, and most hotlines or warmlines are open 24/7. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a great organization and resource: The organization’s helpline is 800-950-NAMI, and it can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Eastern time. Or, if you are in a crisis, you can text NAMI to 741741. There are people ready and waiting to help you get the assistance you need. You are not alone.