Doing self-care in a post-pandemic world
As we approach the two year mark of a devastating global pandemic, with no end in sight - it can feel redundant to be setting new goals for the year. I'm exhausted and I'm willing to bet you are too. As many of us cycle in and out of lockdowns, working from home, working on the frontlines, balancing childcare and deciphering misinformation on the daily, it's no wonder we are feeling burnt out.
Normally, when we talk about the antidote to burnout, we talk about self-care, but what does that look like in these times? Most of us are feeling too far gone for a face mask, and it’s not exactly bubble bath season.
I'm not the first to be critical of the term ‘self-care’, and I certainly won't be the last. Justin Aion sums it up perfectly with his now viral tweet: "we cannot self-care our way out of broken systems". Gen Z has watched millennials follow the rules, get the education, work hard and end up with debt, job insecurity and unaffordable housing. Many Gen Zs (those with the privilege to do so) are demanding better, prioritising work-life balance and valuing their health over salary.
In 2019, I made a resolution to never read a self-help book again, and it has been one of the few that I’ve managed to keep - until now. I’ve just started reading Laziness Does Not Exist, in which Dr Devon Price looks at the belief that your worth is tied to your productivity, where this idea came from and what impact it has on our physical and mental health. The book describes that we, as humans, are doing more than ever - but somehow, with everything we cram into our lives, we still feel like we aren’t doing as much as we should be.
On top of all of my existing commitments, checking on friends and family has become another part-time job. Knowing that everyone is struggling and being unable to connect in ways that we are used to can be difficult to navigate, but maintaining your community is one of the most important ways to stay mentally well. As humans, we are meant to be in community. I often bring myself back to a quote by the formidable author and activist bell hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins). "One of the most vital ways we sustain ourselves is by building communities of resistance, places where we are not alone.”
Personally, I’ve sought people out and have had explicit conversations with them about possibly needing help and checking on their capacity. For others, we’ve decided who we will reach out to and when, sharing the load amongst friend groups or your family members can help sustain you and ensure you are left with the energy you need to thrive, not just survive.
What I’ve learnt is that in order to look after ourselves, we really need to let go of the guilt surrounding productivity. I often find myself getting stuck in the cycle of doing too much, feeling exhausted, lying on the couch and feeling guilty - at which point the cycle begins again. Dr Price argues that it doesn’t have to be this way, and we have the power to change it. This is something that I’m committed to working on in 2022 and beyond, reminding myself that I am doing enough. You are doing enough.
Chanelle is a vegan, amateur athlete, social advocate, environmental enthusiast and blogger at mynameischanelle.com.