I’m sure we are all sick of hearing things along the lines of ‘this is an unprecedented time right now’ but…this is an unprecedented time right now! We have all had to learn to adapt many aspects of our lives, some more than others. Though my life hasn’t changed too drastically, I have struggled a little more recently with self care and just generally spending time to myself. Logically, it seems this would be easier since I can’t go out and see people, however I have found it harder. It helps to get my thoughts down in words often so here’s a little chat about how I have changed and adapted my self care routines.
The end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 was good period for my self care routines. I had become quite good at setting time aside for myself and was well disciplined in making sure this actually happened. My mental health was better than it had been in years. In February, I left counselling after having weekly sessions for almost two years. I was also moving to London temporarily at this time for a job and to be honest, I was feeling really positive! A little anxious about big changes sure but overall, I was ready to go to London for a short while and leave my counselling sessions. It might not sound that big of a deal to some people but for me this was a huge step as I’m a very overly cautious person so I get pretty nervous about moving somewhere new.
Then a pandemic and lockdown came along! I am very fortunate and privileged in many ways and I am well aware of this – many things were much easier for me and I know that so many people are in much less fortunate situations than me. The festival I was working on was cancelled a couple of days before it was meant to start which was a really sad, gutting feeling even though it was the completely right decision. It felt very strange to work towards something and plan so many things for it to then not happen through no fault of anyone. I still worked there until the end of my contract but did work from home instead – luckily I moved back home to Manchester before lockdown was in place.
My mental health has been on a little rollercoaster since then. I was fine for a while but I think my job situation is bothering me – it’s not a great time to be freelancing events and festivals! I feel more focused when I’m working and like I have a purpose so when I’m not I always feel a little lost. I have overcompensated by doing too much instead, trying to cram 20 activities into one day – be it volunteer work, side hustles, reading, job applications, video calls, going for a walk. I’ve realised that over the past few weeks I have let me self care slip and I need to build it back up but differently.
I had already changed some of my routine – I couldn’t exactly go and hang out with a friend or go on really long walks, both of which are things which help my mental health greatly at times. The problem is I didn’t adapt too well. I stopped weekly journalling or what I call ‘self-therapy’ where I would basically write down what I would say if I was at counselling. It’s a check in point for me – it’s probably the best thing I do for myself. I have a very busy brain so check ins are super useful for me! A mixture of both forgetting to do it then actively avoiding it let all my thoughts build up for over a month which isn’t healthy for me!
I have now jumped back on the journalling bandwagon but it’s a practice to make it a habit again. The main thing I find difficult to do is spend less time on my phone or online. I often need to take breaks from social media and messaging people – it helps clear my head and then I feel better again and I’m back on it. It’s much easier to become overwhelmed by it in lockdown. I want to message/call others more because I’m not seeing them in person but I also want a break from being on my phone. I feel pressure to be available and to reply to people on the same day but this isn’t always good for me. No one is pressuring me, it’s just social pressure generally that I am feeling. I’ve been overwhelmed by increasing notifications on my phone yet rather than answer them, I ignore them because it feels too much to deal with at that time! This of course then snowballs. I’ve now had to set aside time every 2/3 days to reply to all messages I have. This makes me feel much better and I have room to breathe a bit and have time to myself. I find myself over-apologising to friends about my very slow replying but I explain why and everyone is fine with it (which logically I knew they would be but anxiety really doesn’t gel well with logic!).
I’m now making sure I take time for myself. I’m scheduling it in and trying to deal with the unnecessary guilt I feel because of it. I have no need to feel guilty about looking after my own needs and I am working very hard on this! I’m putting my phone in my room for a few hours whilst I do things elsewhere in the house. I’m making sure to read, play Animal Crossing, watch films I want to watch. I’m also taking time to learn new things. All of these are things for myself that make me happy and feel calmer and I am learning to prioritise this right now.
Have your self-care methods changed during lockdown?