Self-Love in Difficult Times
Caring for yourself can make the world a better place.
Posted Oct 07, 2020
I spent the early part of the pandemic, like most everyone else, holed up in my house, my family gathered around me, baking and eating comfort foods. By now, the strange and disturbing year of 2020 has been the subject of many books and articles, a flow of information both intense and terrifying. No doubt the times in which we live call for activism and engagement, and steadfast effort to put our society on a more even footing and restore some sense of justice and integrity to our common life. It can be really difficult to live in a state of more-or-less permanent emergency, when it feels like everything is falling apart.
I think we should all do our best to promote the common good, control the pandemic, and attend to growing political, economic, and environmental crises. But, in order to do a good job in our workplaces, in our families, and in our communities, we have to take care of ourselves first. Otherwise, our nerves become frayed, we fall into bouts of depression and anxiety, and we end up being reactive and ineffective. To get through prolonged difficulty of the sort that the world faces now, we need to marshal all of our resilience to face things calmly and deliberately. This goes double for those of us who have underlying mental health issues or chronic health problems.
One thing that kept me busy during the pandemic was writing my book, Self Love: 100+ Quotes, Reflections, and Activities to Help You Uncover and Strengthen Your Self-Love. In the process, I discovered some inspiring poets, writers, activists, scientists, psychologists, and artists who helped me to realize the importance of having a good relationship with myself. I learned many strategies for self-love and self-care that I think have helped me to have a good year, despite all of the insanity taking place in the world.
Here are some of the self-love and self-care strategies I mention in the new book as well as in my previous work:
Keeping a daily journal helps you gain some distance on your thought patterns and observe the way that they affect you. You may also discover how things like your sleep patterns and biorhythms affect your mood. This can make it easier to find constructive ways to deal with your thoughts and feelings. You might also try doing a page or two of positivity or gratitude exercises.
Getting enough exercise also has a tremendous impact on mood, as much as taking a prescription antidepressant. Even though you might not feel comfortable going to the gym due to coronavirus concerns, you can still take a walk around the block or go to the park. Following exercise training videos can also be a good way to get moving while staying inside.
Mindfulness meditation, when practiced regularly, helps you reduce chronic stress, regulate afflictive emotions, and reconnect with your intuition as a way of calmly working through problems. Mindfulness practice helps you see your life in a new light. What previously seemed impossible becomes manageable, and what felt hopeless becomes merely difficult.
Seeing a therapist is good for nearly everyone, but it's even more important when there is a high level of day-to-day stress. Environmental factors can place a great deal of strain on us, both individually and in our relationships. Getting therapy by teleconferencing might not be ideal, but it definitely helps.
Getting in touch with your interests can also be a good way to combat stress and live a more centered life. Whether your passion is playing a musical instrument, video games, or some sort of craft, these diversions make life more pleasant and enjoyable. Don’t berate yourself for not being “productive” while you do the things that keep you sane. Give yourself the leeway to do the things that you love.
Leaning in to your uniqueness is another way to love yourself and care for yourself. We all have unique facets of our identity that may have been a struggle in the past. Whether it has to do with gender or sexuality, socioeconomic status, or race and ethnicity, the experience of being different may have left behind feelings of being less valued or appreciated. As we learn to love those parts of ourselves that do not fit into the mainstream, we simultaneously help ourselves and lift up our communities.
Watching your self-talk can also help improve your relationship with yourself. Be on the lookout for self-blaming, negative talk about yourself in your own internal dialogue. These can be thoughts like, “It’s all my fault,” “I will never be good enough,” and other unkind things we say to ourselves. Try speaking positively to yourself instead, saying things like, “I love you,” “You’ve got this,” and “Everything is going to be okay.” This way of speaking to yourself overwrites negative mental habits with healthier ones, so that you feel loved and supported from the inside out.
None of these strategies are miraculous, and all require work—the normal sort of work that you write down in your planner to-do list. But the nice thing about this self-care and self-love regimen is that it can be accomplished through everyday, concrete steps. You make appointments to do these activities, just like you would block out time to complete a report for work or make a list for the grocery store. When combined, these strategies can make you feel a lot better, independently of how things are going in the outside world. When you take the time to get right within yourself, you also become a vehicle for change in the world. The world desperately needs your voice and your passion, and, when you make time for yourself, you become more effective at everything that you do.