By: Paula Huber
Roots, not flowers. This seems to be the place I am in most of these days, especially since the beginning of COVID-19. This place is particularly challenging when also facing a major life transition, such as graduating a master’s program, moving, beginning a new relationship, et cetera. I am feeling very meh about the major life transition of my upcoming graduation. Have I worked harder than ever before? Yes. Am I leaving an internship and clients whom I love and would prefer not to leave? Yes. Do I deserve to walk across the stage during the graduation ceremony and celebrate my accomplishments? Yes. But the wall of exhaustion feels overwhelming. The mist of numb is clouding my emotions, but I know they will come eventually. For now, I am just feeling done.
These thoughts and feelings are not something I alone have experienced. The theme of being overwhelmed, numb, or just “done” has been persistent throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and one that is echoed with many of my friends and colleagues. COVID-19 has brought a “pervasive sense of being unsettled and losing control” (Settersten et al., 2020).
“I’m so excited, I got engaged! The ring is beautiful! But, how are we going to have a wedding?”
“I got the vaccine, but it still doesn’t seem safe to go places. I’ve been dating this guy for awhile but we’ve literally only been on 2 real dates. We basically stay home. What if he’s a different person in public?”
These are things I hear from friends and colleagues often; the burst of excitement for an upcoming transition or a new point in their lives, and then the quiet anxiety of COVID-19 and incorporating it into their lives. The racial and social unrest in America compounded with the pandemic is emotionally exhausting and devastating to minority communities across the country. Murder of people of color at the hands of law enforcement is traumatizing, emotionally devastating, and draining for many of us.
So, what do we do? What do we do when we have no control over a pandemic, when we are faced with constant racial injustices, and when life does not stop? Is this burn out? Maybe, but there are options.
Research has shown that COVID-19, racial injustices, and other environmental factors have increased the need for self-care, but that aside, it has always been very important. And I know you may be rolling your eyes and thinking: “Okay, enough with this BS self-care. I am tired of hearing about it, yes I know I need to relax and yes a bubble bath would help, but when would I find the time and energy to do that?”
I am with you.
The commercialization of self-care has been detrimental in many ways. Bubble baths and mimosas are not always the solution. Sometimes they are, but that is not at the root of self-care. Self-care is filling up your cup, so you can be the best version of yourself.
I tend to break self-care into two categories. Luxury self-care, and functional self-care. Luxury self-care are bubble-baths, mimosas, treating myself to that thing that has sat in my Amazon cart for weeks. Functional self-care are the things I try do day-to-day to maintain my sanity and be the best version of me. Things such as; staying hydrated, taking my medicines, setting (and maintaining) boundaries, ensuring I spend time with my loved ones, going to regular therapy appointments and giving myself space to feel my emotions.
To me, this is the more imperative version of self-care. The luxury self-care are things that are important, don’t get me wrong. They are things that bring me joy and are incorporated into my life regularly. Functional self-care, however, is what keeps me functioning on a daily basis.
With this in mind, I am upping my levels of self-care. I am allowing myself to grow roots, not just flowers. I hope you do too, friends.
Flow chart credit: https://soundgirls.org/self-care-develop-a-routine-that-works-for-you/
Settersten, R. A., Bernardi, L., Härkönen, J., Antonucci, T. C., Dykstra, P. A., Heckhausen, J., … Thomson, E. (2020). Understanding the effects of Covid-19 through a life course lens. Advances in Life Course Research, 45, 100360. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.alcr.2020.100360