How to Self-Care in the Middle of a Pandemic

I’m writing this update to my intro piece on self-care because the COVID-19 pandemic, quarantines, “social distancing,” etc. (heavy on the etc.) have thrown a whole wrench into our routines, our ways of coping, and the things we used to do that made life worth living. I already wrote an update to how to make a mental health safety plan during this pandemic. Like I’ve said on this site and on Twitter, self-care has been struggling through a disinformation campaign lately. It’s been turned into drinking lemon-flavored water at it’s weakest and as enabling toxic behaviors at its most harmful. And I recently saw tweets describing self-care as a “luxury” for people with money and means. I already debunked that in my intro piece above and it’s really sad that every so often someone tries to convince someone with less that pleasure, happiness, wellness, stability, etc. is not for them. Self-care is for EVERYONE and it’s needed now more than ever. A new reality needs updated strategies and updated ways to care for your mental and physical health.


(*Please read this article from Time. It provides updated COVID-19 transmission information and how to stay safe.)


Why Are We Talking About This?


Fear is not a bad thing. When your body thinks you are in danger, your survival mode kicks in and you might fight/flight/freeze, etc. In that moment, when your body is both consciously and subconsciously trying to figure out how to survive, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol gets your body focused on the bodily functions that are most likely to get you to safety from an immediate danger while pushing everything else on the back burner. That’s cool for short term danger where you can run to safety and be good. But what if you’re not in immediate danger. What if this is not fear, but anxiety (being scared of what could happen at some point in the future)? Your body can’t tell the difference between a bear coming at you and monthly overdue rent. You’re gonna feel the same feelings regardless. This is bad because the processes that stress puts on pause or otherwise reduces whenever you are in danger are IMPORTANT. And if you are constantly anxious, then those parts of your body are being affected constantly. That’s why people say stress kills. Constant stress over time affects the immune system’s ability to fight viruses. Long-term stress/anxiety can cause memory issues. Stress can cause heart issues like hypertension (a condition that makes you more susceptible to a severe case of COVID-19).

And remember, systemic oppression and interpersonal experiences with bigotry cause stress and traumas, which have huge effects on the health of individual people, their families, and even whole communities. An article was just published indicating that Black and Latinx people in the US are 3x more likely to contract COVID-19 and 2x more likely to die than white people. That’s the STRESSFUL impact of generations of racial trauma, of forced living in unhealthy neighborhoods due to environmental racism, of lack of access to proper medical care, and of medical racism and other kinds of bigotry like homophobia/misia, misogyny, transphobia/misia and ableism. All these things that cause stress aka these stressors lead to all the health issues seen in Black people, especially low-income Black people. White supremacy loves to spin this as there’s something wrong with our bodies (Check out “Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-Create Race in the Twenty-First Century” by Dorothy Roberts. Essential reading). They are gaslighting us for our general health difficulties by blaming our food, our culture, our bodies, our genes, etc. 


This government (and I’m not just talking about the Trump presidency either. Both parties are at fault here in the past and in recent history) wants us burned out, isolated, and without energy. If they wanted the people to be at their best, children wouldn’t owe school lunch debt, quality healthcare would be covered by taxes and not linked to whether or not someone has a certain kind of job and/or income, being housed would be a right, etc. Trump wants to close federal testing centers for COVID-19. There’s evidence the Trump administration knew a pandemic was most likely coming down the pike and he still chose to get rid of the pandemic prep team and chose to make back-end deals for profit. 


Like I’ve Said Before, If The Government Really Cared: 

  • We would have a federal pandemic team
  • We would be given universal basic income with our own tax money to keep most of us home safe and financially stable
  • Essential workers would be given all the PPE and any other safety precautions, hazard pay, and medical care needed to keep them as safe as possible
  • We would have been receiving public health messages from the very beginning on how to wear masks, socially distance, wash hands, etc.
  • The government wouldn’t be pulling out of the World Health Organization
  • The federal government would not be stealing PPE from states
  • The government would not be encouraging companies to charge money for a future COVID-19 vaccine
  • The government wouldn’t be hiding the fact that many people who “recover” from COVID-19, even asymptomatic cases, have lasting effects on their lungs, hearts, kidneys, brain, etc., which keeps people from making educated, risk-aware decisions in their day-to-day lives
  • There would be mobile testing units all over the country, testing people for COVID-19 for free in all neighborhoods
  • The federal and state governments would have spent March-August 2020, building/solidifying infrastructure so all students all over the country could safely and effectively participate in remote learning

We are given no real protections, resources, or knowledge from the government because they want us to burn out, get sick, and die. That’s their plan. If we are too sick, we cannot fight back and we cannot support each other and build community. They want us isolated, lonely, and individualistic. And how can you look at how other countries are handling this pandemic and not think this country is actively trying to kill as many of us as possible? I’m very big on bodily autonomy, etc. but this isn’t a good way to die. Every COVID-19 death is needless. Every death is a murder and the government at both the state and federal levels are at fault to varying degrees. This is what they are doing. So what are we doing?


Self-care, as I define and practice it, is about building up our physical, mental, and community resources so we all can think clearly, stay as well as possible, have the energy to do what we need to do, and think outside the status quo in terms of political action. It’s hard to think clearly and critically if we are too stressed, tired, depressed, distracted, put in pure survival mode 24/7, etc. The government wants us to be burned out so we are too out of it to think critically and we just accept what they tell us. If this wasn’t the case, we’d have universal basic income, quality healthcare for all, free childcare, free public education, including college (like it used to be), student loan forgiveness, rent/mortgage freeze, etc.


Community Care As a Form of Self Care


Self-care also includes maintaining your community/social supports. And supporting those in your IRL & online communities as much as possible because good health and wellness is not based on individual people. Health and wellness are community issues. We are as healthy/as well as the most neglected people in our IRL & online communities. And this pandemic should be making this real clear.


Ways to self care: (Things may repeat)


For Personal Health:

  • Regulate your sleep schedule according to what your body wants/needs/can do: figure out if your body prefers napping during the day or going to bed early, etc.
  • Set a regular eating schedule to make sure you are eating enough and often enough according to your health needs
  • Allow yourself to eat things you enjoy and can savor on a regular basis
  • Set alarms so you take your medication on time
  • Reevaluate your life & your relationships
  • Mindfulness techniques 
  • Strengthen your boundaries with your loved ones
  • Work on improving how you communicate with people
  • There are times estrangement is the answer
  • Or drop their priority number down some levels so they don’t have as much access to you
  • Letting yourself grieve and deal with loss in a healthier way
  • Getting a therapist if you can and vetting them
  • Dance, take a walk (socially distance), exercise, bike, etc. Something you ***enjoy*** at least on some level that gets you physically active and try to do it a few times a week
  • Monitor your substance use so you know if your use is becoming chaotic and starting to negatively affect other parts of your life

Being in Community:

  • Check in on your loved ones, including the elderly, disabled people, parents, youth, neuro-atypical people, etc. in your circles
  • Check in on the “strong friend”
  • Set up a designated person for every elderly and/or person in need of more care in your chosen and blood families
  • Help folks get groceries and other necessities delivered to them
  • Check hashtags like #TransCrowdFund on Twitter and other crowdfunding campaigns to donate directly to and support folks in need
  • Donate money to actual grassroots, community-led organizations (whose leadership directly reflects the people they claim to serve)
  • Donate to bail funds
  • Share material resources, opportunities, time, knowledge, skills, etc. with people in your IRL and online communities
  • Find a political home and engage in other forms of political action

Self-Care With Technology:

  • Watch travel/food shows
  • Video chat with your people
  • Send voice memos so you hear each other’s voices
  • Throw virtual parties
  • Take turns cooking with your friends & teach each other meals virtually
  • Throw virtual watch parties
  • Read to each other over the phone, video or audio
  • Virtual drawing, singing, dancing, etc competitions
  • Teach each other skills virtually
  • Throw a virtual karaoke party
  • Virtual classes, tours, meetings, religious services, etc.
  • Play video games
  • Start or join a virtual book club
  • Start or join virtual support groups
  • Volunteer time virtually to support parents/kids, disabled people, protesters, teachers, etc.
  • Donate money directly to people

Low to No Tech Self-Care:

  • Cook & experiment in the kitchen: Learn yourself & learn how to make some of the foods you like affordably
  • Gardening: Indoors or outdoors
  • Learn a skill like knitting, doing hair, making clothes, playing an instrument, building something, etc.
  • Play board games with your household
  • Reorganize your living space
  • Read for fun and read for your personal and political growth
  • Exercise: dance, jump rope, skate, bike, run, etc. Some kind of physical activity weekly. Don’t forget to stretch first
  • Write letters with envelopes and stamps
  • Take a walk outside during low traffic times or go on a hike
  • Start that book or other creative projects
  • Visit a loved one (outside of your household/pod): Both of you wear masks while staying 6 feet apart. Ideally outside and not in an enclosed space once or twice a month. Don’t eat or drink together at all since that increases the risks
  • SLEEP
  • Give yourself a spa/grooming day and love on yourself

I honestly hope this helps. I wrote this as part of my self-care at the community-level. I would say we are about to enter dark, difficult times, but we’ve been in them. The next few months and beyond is going to be something different and we need community. Actual community. Not just a group of people who just so happen to be together. Community is an essential part of health and wellness. Being able to have multiple different ways to care for your physical and mental health and multiple ways to pour into yourself when times are rough is crucial. I said this before in 2017, we are purposefully being burnt out. Feeling tired, gaslit, worn out, angry, resentful, scared, sad, frustrated, anxious, depressed, irritable, etc is to be expected. We’re being overloaded, exploited, endangered, killed, etc. We are being pressured to check out and give in to the rushing current. But we literally can’t check out permanently. That’s what makes self-care so radical. Self-care can build up our physical, mental, and emotional energies so you have it in you to live, love, and fight (as applicable) another day. It’s on some ‘how can you take care of business and take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself’. Seriously. You can start 1 at a time. Master 1 easier task, celebrate that success, and then try something a little harder. Learning how you like your self-care and the best way you can consistently support your communities takes practice. It takes time.

Again, start small. Take breaks. Sleep. Eat regularly and according to your health and pleasure. Work through your feelings: alone, with trusted people, ideally with a trusted therapist. Be more intentional with how you spend your energy and time. Fellowship with loved ones safely. Remember that self-care involves being a good community member and also keeping the health of folks around us and our communities stable and thriving. And remember that good, effective community work centers the most marginalized and the most vulnerable. Self-care is also helping to create an environment of safety which includes self-awareness, self-accountability, and actually doing the work of growth, as hard as it is a lot of the time. Self-care and healing also involve working together to end systemic oppressions, not just the ones that affect you directly. And for the record, again, you do NOT need money or even technology to find ways to love on yourself, build your defenses, and support those in your online and IRL communities. I know there is this pressure to return to “normal,” but normal is what got us here, at this point in our history. And normal will get us here again, but worse. It is time for something different. This country and the world has changed so we gotta change how we move too. 

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