One highlight of my week was crying in the car on my way to the grocery store. That sounds grim as hell, but let me explain. I was alone, with no one asking me to do anything for 15 solid minutes, listening to the music of my choosing that was in no way affiliated with Disney.
But perhaps more crucially, I have family and friends who are sick with the coronavirus, and I had been presenting a smooth, cheerful surface to my family. I needed that car-cry for catharsis, and I felt better afterward.
Let’s not pretend that everything isn’t terrible right now. It is! So, while the details of our self-care may have only a passing resemblance to what we used to do before the pandemic, that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to access some headroom and even some joy.
Here’s a shortlist I gathered of things I have done to carve out a place for emotions other than faux cheer. I have purchased sea salt and bath oils to relax in a warm bath undisturbed. I have eaten a cookie in the bathroom so that I didn’t have to share it. I sat outside, alone, in the cold at dusk while staring into the distance; listened to 80’s songs and sang like no one is watching me in the basement; played a rousing, middle-of-the-day game of “What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?” with my family.
Finding places where you can have time for yourself to reflect and think and feel is crucial in this moment and time. We used to have the “in-between transition times” to ourselves — like during our commutes, and after we dropped off our kids at school — are gone. So, it’s essential to create those spaces for yourself in new ways.
Meditation is a great option. And in fact, parents at home are more likely to meditate than the general population right now, if you want to receive the full benefits of meditating, consistency is the most important thing. Five minutes every day is a lot better than 30 minutes every week. Take some time alone or with family and meditate. For me, meditation is my daily ritual. I meditate in the morning and throughout the day. The times sometimes vary from 5 mins to 30 mins, but I commit to doing this for myself and my health.
One fun self-care idea was sent by my friend Nancy. Nancy says, “to mark the end of a good day, my husband and I have started having cocktails on some evenings. We sort through our cabinet and pull out the things we never drink (like a bottle of Martini Bianco or make Mimosa). We try and find a nice online cocktail to make with the things we already have,” “We look for nice glasses, garnish them with whatever we have around and set out a few nibbles too. Our kids have a smoothie, and we gather around and toast to confinement,” she wrote. This can be done in moderation and can include other drinks like shakes, floats, and sparkling juice, etc…
Another ritual is keeping gratitude, or “silver lining,” list, which you can either do yourself or as an activity with your family. You can put it up on a whiteboard or on the fridge for everyone to keep track of unexpectedly fun things that have come up during this time. Journal writing also works well and can help release negative emotions. A pen is a sacred instrument of the soul.
Gratefulness turns what we have into enough: Journaling
I’m grateful that my family members are not in the hospital. I’m grateful that I have a job. I’m grateful that my family is safe with me and grateful for their teachers, who are working so hard to make distance learning possible. I’m grateful for all the medical workers, delivery people, and everyone else risking their lives to do their jobs.
Other ideas: listen to a podcast, call, text, or video chat with a friend. Read a book or novel, have a cup of tea, do a home pedicure and manicure, watch a movie, put some music and dance around. Find ways to laugh, check out some funny videos on YouTube, watch a comedy. Laughter is a good thing. Laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and increases muscle flexion.
Self-care is personal. What you choose to do will depend on your personality and preferences. One person’s spa treatment is another person’s half-marathon training. Your self-care practice might be active or restful, interactive, or solitary, quiet or noisy. Whatever you choose, remember Self-care is necessary to anything important we hope to do, any meaning we hope to have, and any difference we hope to make.
Checking in with your emotions is essential too. I am genuinely finding support in talking to my family about their favorite part of the day at dinnertime, how we feel, and about what we’re most thankful for every night before we fall asleep.
I’m grateful to have a car to cry in, and to be writing this to you.