Self-care can be hard in the best of times but in pandemic times?
Having a major shortage of money or time, through-the-roof anxiety, or limited access to our usual sources of joy (in-person gatherings, anyone?) can make self-care nearly impossible. I lost my job at the start of the pandemic, and even once I started working again, I had serious reservations about spending money on anything not entirely necessary.
And let’s be honest, access to money or credit absolutely helps with self-care—and just about everything else. But even in dire times, one financial cost is sometimes balanced out by another benefit to our well-being. Being well is important for its own sake, but from a pragmatic perspective, being well allows me to continue to exist with equanimity and function rather than lose my mind.
Here are three things I resisted that ended up being excellent tools for self-care:
1. Losing my fitness tracker watch
Food and body image concerns ruled my life for years. The United States has an unhealthy fixation with body size, weight, and exercise. Plus, I work in an industry that is highly physically focused. It took tons of time and work to feel comfortable practicing yoga, let alone teaching. I had to acknowledge how problematic and potentially damaging diets are, among other things, like calorie counting and tracking with the goal of weight loss.
Yet, three years ago, I felt sure if I got a fitness tracker and could see how many calories I burned while teaching yoga and yoga with weights (apparently, I burned more while teaching than actually taking those classes), my life would improve. Wrong!
Oh, it was interesting information. And it didn’t prompt me into any seriously disordered eating again, but it sure didn’t help. I don’t doubt there are people who can have a healthy relationship with their fitness tracker. I am just not one of them. And I have known that about myself for a long time!
I move around for work and shower multiple times a day but still managed to hold onto my watch for over two years. Then, one day it was just gone. No more checking my app a million times a day to decide if I really needed to go to that class, or if I could “justify” another glass of wine.
It’s time to listen to my own body and hunger cues and energy level—something I believe in and have advocated for others to do for a long time.
2. Single-serve foods
Spoiler: not all of them, but single-serve guacamole from Aldi gets a special mention.
As a single person, I never buy containers of guacamole for my own personal use. I definitely can’t replicate the deliciousness of guac on my own, but it turns brown almost immediately! You either have to eat it all in a day or two—not a bad thing as it’s delicious and addictive, but also not recommended as a regular practice—or throw it out. Even individual avocados work in a similar way.
I managed to survive without avocado in any form for a long time! When my teaching schedule got super challenging, I began packing beautiful no-refrigeration-required lunches to lift my spirits.
And I came across single-serve guac. Despite all my reservations about cost and wasteful packaging, I don’t want a life without avocado or guac. I realized this would allow me to indulge in guacamole when I wanted to without needing to eat it every single day, or even two days in a row, if my body wasn’t calling for it or if I just wanted to focus on other culinary treats.
3. Buying a car
This is the one where access to money and credit really helped.
Let’s get all of the downsides out of the way first: the cost! The environmental impact! Parking! Tickets! Theft! Vandalism! Insurance! Gas! The soul-sucking experience of buying a car from a salesperson and then needing to have it repaired! You can’t kill someone riding badly or distractedly on a bike, but you can with a car!
In my defense, I lived quite successfully without a car for over two years. Even with Chicago’s decent transit, this is no small task. When the pandemic came, it was nice not to have a car payment since, at first, I wasn’t working and I wasn’t going anywhere far. But then I had to work…in person. In small increments. All over the place.
Biking was wonderful for some time, but not so wonderful for my two-hour coffee shop shift when it took me 45 minutes each way to get there. Then, winter in Chicago came and I still biked, supplementing with public transit, which was not as lovely during the pandemic as it had been before. I biked more and more and more through spring and summer…and as winter approached again, I just couldn’t keep doing it.
I caved in. I got a tall, loud friend to accompany me and forked over the down payment for a decent used car. I’m fortunate that I can limit my driving to the earlier part of the day for now, which, even in this work-from-home era, makes street parking in my neighborhood more manageable. I can now look into some of the delivery apps to make some extra cash along my existing commute to subsidize the car payment…and insurance…and gas.
Self-care is sometimes just out of reach, impossible for financial reasons, or just because my head would explode trying to take a bubble bath during times of extreme distress. But sometimes, self-care is possible and we just struggle to see that.
What can you stop resisting today so your well-being improves?