This is part of a series of short posts on Covid 19. These are my thoughts, and I wrap them in an acknowledgement that the opportunity to think about and discuss these topics is evidence of an immense amount of privilege. I also know that if those of us with privilege are to use it on behalf of those who have less, we need to be caring for our own mental well-being. To that end, I share these musings.
I have noticed, in conversations with friends, clients, and in observation of social media that many of us, right now, are prey to thoughts of “I’m not doing (fill in the blank here) right.” The blank could be “educating my children” or “using my time productively” or “managing my fears”. This is a very understandable response — we all want to do things well, we all want to protect our dear ones. But it can be exhausting and demoralizing if we add this judgement of ourselves to the already considerable burden of dealing with the changed world into which we have been thrust.
Part of the reason we are at risk of falling into this thought trap is the widespread impact of social media that leads us to compare ourselves to what we see in our Facebook and Insta feeds. During this time, people are turning to their social media to get support and ideas, and that’s great. But along with the support and ideas come opportunities to notice the friends who seem to be excited over the chance to reorganize their homes, or start learning a new skill, or become a self-care ninja. We can come away with the idea that we are supposed to be doing all of those things, and more, with grace, panache and color-coordinated outfits.
Now, some people may be needing to deal with their own fears and anxieties by posting their 17 finished knitting projects on their feeds. That’s just great, and I’m glad those folks are doing what they need to do to take care themselves. But you, dear reader, need to do what works for you. Below is your permission slip:
You have permission to have your feelings. Trying to make our situation feel like business as usual is unreasonable. Business is NOT as usual, and you will definitely have a whole range of feelings about that. Your feelings of fear, vulnerability, anger, boredom, denial, and all the rest are normal and deserve acknowledgement.
You have permission to not know what to do. Nobody has done this before, how exactly are we supposed to magically know how to behave? Add in the fact that the situation changes very fast, and you can see how it’s normal not to know what to do.
You have permission to not be “productive”. If your body and mind are calling for a shutdown, that’s just fine. In fact, that’s exactly what body and mind are supposed to do when things are overwhelming. If you need a guideline for minimum daily activity, focus on things like sleep, meds, food, hygiene and fresh air. That’s pretty much it.
You have permission to withdraw from interactions if you need to. Take breaks from your social media. Take breaks from the news. Take breaks from your family and friends. Take breaks from screens. Feel free to make set times where you do some things, but then don’t do them the rest of the time — checking the news, for example.
And, especially for parents: You have permission to let your children amuse themselves/run amok/be on screens etc. I’m planning on discussing parenting and education in future posts, but as above, the only things that you really need to do for your kids is keep them safe and fed. This may feel like an educational emergency, but it isn’t. You may find that your wellbeing depends on keeping them occupied. In this case, of course setting them up to have things to do, and a bit of movement, makes a lot of sense. But it’s perfectly valid to have your main goal be to keep your family harmonious.
Last but not least: You have permission for “Taking care of yourself and your dear ones” to be however it works best for you. And what that looks like can change from day to day and week to week. We’re all just making it up as we go along.
May you be well in mind and body,