So, the world is still a bonkers place. COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Most of us are still stuck at home, while brave essential workers keep things going by stocking grocery shelves, delivering packages, providing medical care, and so many other important things. Here in the US, some states are starting to open up normal operations, against the advice of the scientific community. The next few weeks may be yet another rollercoaster on the seemingly never-ending carnival ride of governmental missteps.
It’s taking its toll, mentally and physically, on me and everyone I know.
I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about self-care, and because I aim to practice what I preach, this post is a few weeks late. Because sometimes self-care is not writing a blog post and instead Netflix binging on Outlander, The Guild, and Austin Powers movies.
Let me start with my definition of self-care:
Self-care – The actions and process of nourishing yourself as a whole being in mind, body, and spirit
As you can see, my definition of self-care is very broad, and it can encompass a lot of things – but only if they serve the purpose of nourishing you. In order to practice self-care, we need to do a few things first:
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
These days you may feel like a constant swirl of emotion. I know my own feelings have run the gamut: sadness at the situation that we are in, anger at my government leaders for not doing more to slow the spread and take care of people, fear of what might happen, depression that this will go on forever, anxiety about getting groceries and picking up my mail, terror at seeing another person while I’m outside walking, and grief over not being able to see my friends or boyfriend. It’s a lot to process.
The thing to keep in mind is that there is no wrong way to feel. As everyone is so fond of saying (and I swear I may blow a gasket if I hear this phrase one more time) “These are unprecedented times.” That means we don’t really have anything to compare it to. There is no reference for “normal” in a pandemic.
All of your feelings are valid. Don’t bottle your feelings up, either. Emotions are meant to be expressed (healthily), and not expressing them can lead to them getting stuck and causing problems. Cry if you need to. Yell (but not at someone). Dance out your frustration. Turn your anger into roundhouse kicks (again, not at anyone). Write your anxieties out on a sheet of paper, crumple it up, and throw it in the trash. Grab your journal. Play an instrument. Sing as loudly as you can in the shower. Get out your burning bowl and light that shit on fire.
Finding healthy ways to express your emotions during this time is essential, and your mode of expression may need to change depending on what you are feeling. While I love a good cry, it does nothing for the rage burning in my chest at the sheer incompetence of some US government officials. Find what works for you. Even how you process the same emotion may change over time. We have to learn to adapt, to both what is going on in the world, and what is going on inside ourselves.
2. Figure Out What You Need
I don’t know about you, but the longer this pandemic goes on, the more obvious my needs are becoming. Before the pandemic, this step required a lot more introspection. My needs were buried under responsibilities, societal expectations, confusing emotional reactions, and the busyness of everyday life. During quarantine, a lot of that has fallen away (for good or bad) and my needs are naked for all to see.
Right now, my needs are LOUD. Quarantine has gone on long enough that whatever reserve I had that I could just “get by” on has been depleted. I’m learning a lot more about my social interactions with people, the energetic dynamics of my relationships, and my personal preferences than I ever really had a need to learn before quarantine. I could see my friends every week, talk about spiritual stuff, give them hugs, and I was fine. Now that I can no longer do those exact things, discovering where precisely I get energy from has been an interesting experiment.
If I were looking for silver linings (and I’m not encouraging toxic positivity here), this would be one. The crisis of this pandemic has made some parts of introspection easier, albeit painfully so.
3. Honor Your Needs, and Honor What’s Currently Possible to Meet Them
This step can be more difficult, because in these turbulent times, you may not be able to get exactly what you need, even if what you need is now extremely obvious to you. You may need to get creative to come up with solutions that may not meet your needs 100%, but will be enough to persevere for however long this crisis lasts.
For example, I need hugs and physical contact with other people. This is simply not possible during the pandemic. I feel like I am slowly withering away inside as a result. While I haven’t come up with a solution that addresses all the aspects of this need, I have a few different things that I have been doing to help. You may need a multi-pronged approach to addressing your needs, with each prong addressing an aspect of what was one met by one simple action. I can’t hug my friends, but we can have a small, socially distanced chat outside while wearing masks and sanitizing everything in sight. And while that doesn’t solve everything, it helps some.
4. Not Getting Your Needs Met Hurts
This one is pretty self-explanatory. It hurts (and can even cause physical pain) to not get your needs met. It takes a toll on our mental and physical health. If you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, then you know that most of us are dealing with quite a few problems in the first and second tier right now, whereas normally we might be more concerned with needs a bit higher on the pyramid. Many people have lost their jobs and are worried about how they are going to put food on their table, and the global pandemic has put everyone’s safety at risk. It is incredibly draining to deal with this type of stress for an extended period of time, and can be detrimental to us on many levels.
For those needs higher up on the pyramid, coming up with creative ways to get those needs met can help. In some cases, that is enough. But sometimes, it is not. This, in a way, is a type of grief. We are mourning the loss of the ability to do normal things.
Grieving is a complicated, multi-step process, and it will look different for each loss you are coping with. Mourning not being able to go shopping for flowers for Beltane is going to look very different than mourning not being able to see your mother in person for Mother’s Day. These are both valid things to grieve, though they look very different.
Acknowledging that some of your needs simply aren’t going to be met during this time is an important step, though it is painful and requires a lot of emotional processing. Some of these needs can be met partially or in other ways, but this is not always possible. Accept and validate your grief, and treat yourself gently.
5. Recognize When You Need Help, and Ask For It
This step is tough, both because it is difficult to acknowledge when we need help, and because not everyone has the resources to get help they need right now.
I made the decision this week to start going to therapy again. I had “graduated” from talk therapy about a year and a half ago, and was just seeing a psychiatrist to manage my OCD medication. I was doing really well for that time. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and my mental health started going downhill fast.
Part of me fought against going back to therapy, thinking that I was “regressing” and I “should be able to handle it.” No. Like I said before, this pandemic is an unprecedented event. I don’t have coping skills for this situation because I (nor most people currently alive) have had to deal with anything of this caliber and scope. That is OKAY. Ask for help when you need it. It is a courageous thing to do.
I am fortunate that my previous therapist (with whom I had a good rapport) had an opening, that I have good insurance through my job, and that I am financially able to pay for professional help. I know not all have that luxury.
While I highly recommend getting professional help if you are able, help can come in many forms. Help can be a friend who is a good listener, a caring family member, or even your pet. It can be a free online support group. It can be talking to and building a relationship with your Deities. It can be a combination of these things. Acknowledge that you need help, and reach out. You may be surprised what help comes your way.
How is This a Devotion to Aphrodite?
It occured to me once I finished writing this post that I had titled it as a Devotion to Aphrodite, and had barely mentioned Her or Deity at all. To me, all of this personal work is intrinsic to my own relationship with Aphrodite. She is a Goddess of Emotions, Love, and Self-Compassion – all of which are important to this process of Self-Care.
Aphrodite is the Ferocity and the Compassion, the Beauty and the Mess, the Pain and the Joy. She encourages us to feel all of our feelings, giving us courage to face those which cause us grief. She reminds us to be gentle with ourselves and others, and to acknowledge that we are doing our best. She helps us to cultivate hope for the future, even in darkness.
So, while Aphrodite’s name may not have graced the previous passages, She is deeply embedded in all they contain.
This is a trying time for all of us here on Spaceship Earth. May the blessings of the Goddesses and Gods shine upon us as we work together for a brighter future. Blessed Be.