A year ago today my husband was laid off, my kids were participating in emergency virtual learning and I was working 40+ hours a week from home while grappling with fear, grief, and frustration related to COVID and quarantine. I’m certain many of you could share very similar stories. It’s been an incredibly difficult year for our hearts, minds, and bodies. To cope, I quickly moved into survival mode and determined that I would filter my life through a lens of grace. The bare minimum would have to be enough and as a type-A enneagram-3, that was a dramatic shift for me. But I was stretched beyond my capacity and some things had to give.
Takeout and delivery became a part of our regular weekly meal rotation. My sleep was choppy and anxious. Physical exercise was mainly for my mental benefit – I broke down crying more times than I can count on my spin bike. I made a point to “get dressed” every day but over the year my clothing stopped serving me well. I had moved to a mindset of “less” and “no” – which was absolutely crucial to survival and keeping my world small.
Now one year later, I recently took stock of my life and what had changed, and where I needed to lean into some radical self-love. My mind and body have supported me through what I hope is a once-in-a-lifetime traumatic global event. It’s time for me to activate care and kindness to myself in a way that both heals and restores my mind and body.
Here are five ways I’m radically loving myself right now
1. Nourishing My Body
Meal planning and preparing in addition to the remainder of my mental load was exhausting. I was taxed and drained after days of ZOOM and the ever-traumatic global news cycle. Cooking a balanced and thoughtful meal at the end of the day was just too much. DoorDash became a new friend, and although it was kind to my capacity, it was not the best fuel for my body. I know what foods make my body feel and function at its best, and no shocker – it’s not only french fries! I’m re-focused on whole foods, protein, and mindful eating. Nothing complicated, no counting or programs – just real food. Starting small, making slight changes, and eating feel-good foods might be the shift you need too.
2. Creating Healthy Sleep Habits
There was a period over the summer of 2020 when I would wake up nightly at 12:30am 2:30am and 4:30am for WEEKS on end. My sleep cycle was trashed and I was anxious and exhausted during the day. It’s taken some time, and it’s not without error but I’m sleeping better now. I try to read before bed and put my cell phone in “bedtime” mode around 8:30pm which silences notifications. My girlfriends know if they blow up our group chats after 8:00pm they won’t hear from me until 6:00am the next morning. I’ve also started using a light-blocking eye mask, humidifier with essential oils for sleeping, and melatonin with CBD. We know sleep is crucial to our health and wellness, and as parents, it’s often at an extreme deficit. Pull your bedtime back by 30 mins and see if that helps, or try blue-light blocking glasses if you want to scroll your phone before shut-eye.
3. Finding Joy in Movement
I’ve been actively moving my body for my entire life. I was an athlete in college – and for me, exercise is a way to process my life and emotions. I think when I move, and I feel my feels better that way. I had so much to think about over the last year. I can stuff my emotions for a long time, and then suddenly it will all come bubbling up during a workout. I remember one day last Spring my husband poked his head into my office while I was deep in a spin bike ride, with tears and snot and sweat pouring out of me. From the door, he mouthed, “are you OK?” I nodded as I continue to ugly cry. I still emotionally process when I move my body, but I’m trying to re-frame my headspace to one of joy and gratitude. Outdoor workouts help! You can’t fight the urge to be joyful when there’s sun on your face and your heart is pumping. I’m so thankful my gym is back to a regular outdoor schedule, every workout leaves me bursting with gratitude. You don’t have to exercise to the point of pain and exhaustion 5x a week. You can take a walk while listing to a podcast or ride bikes with your kids – anything that makes you feel good while moving.
4. Embracing Clothes that Serve Me
We like to joke about that “quarantine-15” and it’s real. My clothes from last Spring do not fit my body the same way. It’s challenging to not fall into negative self-talk when you notice physical growth changes in your body. My solution: find and wear clothing that serves my body, this current body. The one I’m in right now. That looks like shifting items around in my drawers and closet and buying new shorts and jeans and swimsuits that fit and feel good. Nothing will send you down a spiral of body shame quicker than trying to force on a pair of too-small jeans. Just buy the bigger jeans! You deserve to feel good in this body, even if you think it’s temporary. Stash or donate clothing that doesn’t serve you right now. And that goes for those pre-baby jeans you wore in your 20’s – your body is so much more than a size on a tag.
5. Moving to a Mindset of More, Not Less
“NOPE” was something I said and did a lot of in 2020. I found comfort in declining invitations for happy-hour ZOOMs, not decluttering my closets, or skipping home renovation projects. I had to reserve my capacity for the absolutely necessary subjects of self, family, and work. Friendships and social life were strained but survived. Self-growth had to be put on pause. But now, I’m easing back into “yes” and “more.” I’m an introvert so it’s still a shock to my system after a year in my cozy cocoon, but growth is good, and more can be better. Now, I don’t mean more in the sense of over-extending or excess. I mean drink more water, take more hikes with friends, eat more veggies, try learning a new skill and apply for that stretch job at work.
Our collective trauma centered around COVID is ongoing and will take a lifetime to unpack. We’ve lost so much, and some things in life might forever be altered, but our bodies continue to carry us through. I encourage you to join me in making slight and small changes to love yourself radically and positively after an exhausting year.