My parents were children when the Second World War broke out. They were both separated from their parents, lived through rationing, and regularly woke up to bombed-out streets. Although they didn't talk much about the hardships until we were much older, their early lives would have been considered in many ways, horrific by modern standards.
Looking back at my parent's time during the war, I know that their focus was simply on getting through the day. The battle was a signal that they were in a crisis and survival was key.
We may not be facing the same wartime violence, but the COVID-19 pandemic is a massive global change, and we are facing uncertainty, financial worries, and a growing list of causalities; there is still an enemy lurking.
We're all trying to find ways to get through this, and if you're anything like me, you might find yourself in a cycle of consuming. Consuming lots of unnecessary news feeds, way too much Netflix, and snacking on all sorts of things that wouldn't usually make it into my diet. And you know what? That's pretty normal in this highly abnormal time.
I have devoted my almost 30-year career to encouraging people to become healthier, change their lifestyles for the better, and to reduce their chronic disease risk - I'm here to advocate that what we truly need now is more self-compassion and essential self-care.
Women in middle-age and beyond already carry a significant mental load and are responsible for the bulk of informal caregiving (i.e., unpaid work). In times of crisis, we will naturally gravitate towards putting ourselves last to make sure everyone else is okay.
It's also easy to fall into the trap of telling yourself that you shouldn't feel bad when others seem to be worse off, but I believe loss exists on a continuum. Just losing the freedom to go outside, hug a friend, or gather in groups is significant. For those who have lost love ones, lost income or work, or are sick themselves, the loss becomes even more devastating.
On top of dealing with the quarantine, we seem to be faced with a lot of messages that we should be working on self-improvement. There is a strange shift in some of the recent online advice towards "taking this opportunity" to improve ourselves, diet, or otherwise fill space with becoming "better." I wrote a post a few weeks ago about exercising from home, but I want to be clear - at this moment in time, I am suggesting we shift to a survival-type self-care; this crisis doesn't need to be an opportunity to try to be the best versions of ourselves.
So, let's just work on a program of radical self-compassion. Here's what I'm going to try to do in the next few weeks, and I invite you to join me:
Like Glennon Doyle said recently, "If we can't go easy on ourselves right now, we will never go easy on ourselves." Hang in there, take care of yourself, and lower your expectations. Please, please, allow yourself the room to function at a less-than-perfect level.
Your sister in health,
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