April 19th 2020
Trying to figure out what to write today actually caused me to realize what I should write about today.
Another blog post about being stuck inside; surprise surprise. Welcome to 2020, where I think I spent a solid 50 days living a normal life before everything turned on its head. So right now, regardless of where you are in the world, we are all going through the same thing more or less. Trapped inside with very little to do but make fun for yourself in whatever way possible and try to stay safe and healthy. For me, I am just about through with my first full month of going nowhere except the grocery store and Walmart and spending most of my time either walking laps around a local park or indoors.
However, one thing I’ve noticed in this time away from normalcy is that people are putting an extreme amount of pressure on self-improvement and “wellness”. I understand that all this extra time to stay in is perfect for taking care of those projects that you have been neglecting due to the busyness of life, however, I feel like this emphasis on improving yourself during quarantine is almost counter-productive.
You see, feeling as though you HAVE to be making strides towards improvement because you have “no excuse” to not be is a really toxic way to view self-care and personal growth. By feeling like you are forced to “use this time wisely”, you are almost pigeon-holed into forced self-care. Exercising more because there is no reason you can’t. Taking on ambitious personal projects simply because you feel like you’d be wasting your time if you didn’t. Feeling down when you let a day go by where you weren’t particularly “productive”. All of these ideas seem okay on the surface because self-improvement is a great thing that everyone should strive for but, when the desire to improve becomes the need to improve, the line is overstepped between voluntary growth and forced growth.
But I feel like the real problem is knowing where that line is. So what is the difference between voluntary growth and forced growth? Well, voluntary growth is done through making changes and improvements to how you live your life in ways that feel comfortable and organic to you. Trying out new healthy habits and accepting the states of flux that come with growth. Knowing that success isn’t linear and growth has its weaker and stronger days. While forced growth is growth that comes from guilt. Setting high goals for yourself and then feeling down or inferior for not hitting them. Feeling like a day is wasted when you weren’t uber productive or when you don’t see remarkable improvement. Or, worse yet, feeling like you’ve failed because your peers are seemingly “self-improving” better or faster than you! As soon as the desire to grow goes from organic to guilt-based, that’s when you know the line has been crossed; and I feel like being in quarantine has caused a lot of people to cross that line within themselves.
Up until last week, I forced myself to take on ambitious projects at work and work tons of extra hours because I felt like, since I am working from home, I have no excuse to not be doing tons of extra work. That being said, I was losing my mind and trying to live up to an unrealistic standard that I believed I was being held to.
Now, I have found the value in putting less pressure on myself. I have been sleeping better, feeling more calm, and enjoying my time in a lot more. By trying to cram less into my days, I have actually found myself feeling more motivated to do things I genuinely enjoy. I have been enjoying writing more on my Instagram, @jessofearth, putting in a little extra time to stretch during the day (not as much as I’d like to, but little by little), and I even picked up a couple of books to read the last time I stopped at my apartment.
So instead of feeling pressured to come out of this quarantine as a new and improved butterfly, I plan to come out as a happier caterpillar. I don’t plan to make this quarantine the turning point of my life, but I do plan to use the time to get back to being the person I was before I started neglecting myself. My goal for this chapter of life is to find solid ground again and return to my roots. I want to reengage with things in life that made me feel the most inspired and fulfilled and not let what people around me are doing during their newfound time, influence how I see the way I’ve been spending my own time.
So here are my easy-to-digest quarantine goals:
- Cut back on snacking- This goal was born from my bad quarantine habits. I have become more sluggish and snackish from being bored at home and I really want to cut back on snacking when I can just because I am in the house bored. I may try to get some produce the next time I am out at the store because processed food every day is making me feel icky.
- Continue my slow ease back into writing- I think I am going to stick to my Sunday schedule for a while. I want to eventually return to 2-3 days a week posting but, for now, writing in general is good enough for me!
- Don’t lose sleep over work and other trivial things I have no control over- Before all of this even started, I was already losing sleep about work and the progression of my life in general. I plan to take this time to just slow down and prove to myself that my mental health matters more than a lot of the things I put pressure on myself for.
- Take time to myself- I don’t always need to be doing something. Sometimes I just need to veg out and that is GREAT. I am going to spend time with my boyfriend, spend time with myself, read when I feel like it, get app games on my phone to pass time, watch YouTube videos like I used to, and let myself be a person who exists outside of work.
What are your easy-to-digest quarantine goals, if you have any?! Maybe your goal is just to go with the flow and that is totally cool! Having no goals can be one of the healthiest goals there is!
Hope everyone is staying well!
2 thoughts on “Putting Pressure on Improvement: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Undermined “Self-Care””
Great article. I totally agree. If there ever was a time, now is the time to be good to ourselves and to people around us. To listen to our heart rather than our ego.
My writing muse plummeted to nil when this all started, and I accepted it and just did what my mind and body craved. Slowly the muse is awakening 🙂
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Thank you so much! And exactly. So much of life is on pause right now, but that doesn’t mean we should pressure ourselves to fill the space. Sometimes just doing what feels the most authentic and organic to us is what we all really need. This time should be used to honor ourselves instead of forcing ourselves to “improve” 😊
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