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It’s OK If Self-Care Is Just Survival Right Now

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and divided perspectives breed social conflict, getting out of bed each morning has become increasingly more difficult for me.

Not to mention how getting out of bed is only the first step in a whole plan of daily expectations. While the world feels like it’s falling apart, I’m still expected to self-motivate myself to work eight hours a day, to interact with the people around me whether physically or virtually and to keep up with all the other tasks of being a human. I need to keep my space clean, cook nourishing meals, do the laundry or even tolerate my fear and the fear of those around me as I bolt around the store, attempting to grab my groceries as quickly as possible.

This new world with all its paradoxical expectations is exhausting and most days its rules feel impossible to meet. We are expected to stay in lockdown while embracing productivity or to avoid people while still remaining social. Instead of laughing at a restaurant together, dancing at a bar or even just enjoying someone’s physical presence, we are now supposed to be content with spending Friday nights staring at each other through a computer screen.

Of course, we are all just coping in the best ways we know how, and it is inspiring to witness how people have adapted to transfer the most valuable parts of their “before” to this weird “after.” I’ve seen car birthday parades with festive signs and honking horns, high school proms with students dancing in front of their computer screens, picnics, sports and outdoor games as a way of bringing people together. From the outside, it looks as if everyone has discovered how to endure the pandemic while still functioning with as much energy as before. It can feel like the time for grieving the reality is over and it’s time to get back to the daily responsibilities of life.

Except the time for grieving isn’t over and accomplishing as much as before the pandemic isn’t always realistic. While some people’s self-care is getting back to full functioning as quickly as possible or gravitating toward energizing activities to distract from fear, there are endless other self-care strategies. Each one is as valid as the other.

For me, each day is a constant struggle of sadness, fear, disappointment and uncertainty. No amount of distraction has allowed me to escape these emotions yet, and many days I still find myself internally screaming about what an “unproductive” and “useless” person I’ve become. I find myself quickly spiraling into the endless tunnel of thoughts in my head, questioning how I’m ever going to survive a pandemic if I couldn’t cope with the world before?

But the truth is, whether or not I always remember to embrace it, self-care has never failed to ensure that I make it to the next day. It has successfully helped me to survive until today and there is no reason to believe it won’t get me through all the other-worldly tomorrows. I have an entire toolkit of self-care strategies to guide me through particularly difficult moments and each struggle is a chance to practice being intentional about learning which type of care I need in the moment. For example, during the pandemic, one of my favorite self-care strategies has been envisioning caring for myself as if I am a dog.  I need to eat, sleep, go for a walk and embrace some type of play every day, whether that is socializing or reading a book to disengage with the world around me.

A banner promoting The Mighty's new Self-Care Lounge group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Taking care of yourself is important, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Join the Self-Care Lounge group so you can prioritize you. Click to join.

During COVID-19, my self-care is focusing on survival and trying to trust that accomplishing the minimum right now is a success rather than a failure. For me, self-care is working on accepting that I’ll be grounded, energized and motivated again eventually. In the midst of the pandemic, it’s OK if self-care is simply getting to the “after.” Survival is a win in itself, which not only allows for functioning, but also promises I’ll be there to experience both the simple pleasures of today and the rare cherished moments of the future.

For more on the coronavirus, check out the following stories from our community:

Getty image by Ponomariova_Maria