Remember to be kind to yourself, too

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Right now, there is frequent messaging that we’ll make it through the COVID-19 pandemic together. The notion that we’re stronger together and we all just need to be kind to each other is reinforced by our leaders, from celebrities and public figures, and broadcast widely across social media. Yet something is missing from this encouraging messaging set to keep our spirits up and that’s the need to offer kindness within, too.

A woman video chatting at her kitchen table (Getty images)

During this time of uncertainty and distress, we need to permit ourselves to take a break and go easily on ourselves with the small stuff, like dishes still needing to be washed or those seeds still lying unplanted.

As with any crisis, it’s normal for many of us to have heightened levels of stress, anxiety, fear and confusion, which are compounded right now with feelings of uncertainty. As Olivia Willis wrote for the ABC, ‘The coronavirus pandemic has profoundly disrupted the ways in which we live and work, and many of us are feeling understandably stressed, confused, and frightened.’

Many Australians have lost their jobs, have had massively reduced hours, or know someone who is struggling from the job cuts. We’ve all been cut off from physically seeing those within our orbits and many are missing social connection. Plus, there’s an air of anxiety around our safety and the safety of those we love. As a country, we’re in a state of unease.

So, part of self-kindness is allowing yourself to feel bad when you need to feel bad. What’s going on is a lot, and sometimes it’s hard to feel like we are allowed to feel bad because there are a lot of people worse off. And yes, perspective indeed is a much needed and important thing right now, but we also need to remember that we’re going through a pandemic — it’s okay to not feel great all the time. While it’s essential to manage stress and anxiety, especially if you’re prone to mental illnesses, it’s reductive to force yourself to feel positive without acknowledging negative feelings when they arise.

As Psychologist Lea Waters, from the Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, was quoted in ABC Life, ‘People think there's a hierarchy to suffering, and if the thing that's causing you disappointment is lower on the hierarchy we have this tendency to dismiss our emotions.’

 

'Being in isolation doesn’t give you extra hours to be productive when you’re consumed with worry or anxiety. It’s okay not to push those feelings away in order to learn a new skill.'

 

‘But if we store up all of these little sadnesses on top of the big collective fear and anxiety, it's not going to be a healthy recipe for our own mental health.’

Giving yourself a moment to feel a little sad is an act of kindness; it’s giving yourself a break and acknowledging that you’re a human going through something unusual and traumatic. Plus, by acknowledging negative feelings when they arise, they’re less likely to amalgamate into bigger issues or compound on the stress and anxiety of the situation.

Along with the distress of the situation, there’s also an added pressure right now to use our time indoors to learn new skills and be extra productive. This can easily cause feelings of guilt when time is spent not being productive. Yet it’s important to remember the goal of the crisis isn’t to acquire a bunch of new skills or read all those classic books sitting on the bedside table. It’s to survive and see the other side.

If you do manage to learn a new language or master the making of sourdough, all power to you. It’s great to be busy and improve upon oneself. But if you’re not feeling up to it, give yourself permission to take a break. It’s more than okay to re-watch Friends episodes into the night.

Being in isolation doesn’t give you extra hours to be productive when you’re consumed with worry or anxiety. It’s okay not to push those feelings away in order to learn a new skill.

What would you say to a friend feeling stressed or anxious? Whatever that advice would be, offer to yourself too. I bet you’ll enjoy the extra baths and cups of tea.

The kindness we give to others is vital to make it through this period, but it’s equally as important to direct that same kindness inwards. Give yourself a break and press play on Bridget Jones's Diary for the tenth time. And when you’re watching, stop thinking about the dirty mug from yesterday that needs cleaning — it can wait another day.

 

 

Marnie VinallMarnie Vinall is a freelance writer and copywriter in Melbourne, Australia. She is a regular contributor of Beat Magazine and Concrete Playground, and has bylines in ABC News, Mumbrella, B&T and Globo Hobo. 

Main image: Illustration Chris Johnston

Topic tags: Marnie Vinall, COVID-19, self-isolation, kindness, self care

 

 

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Existing comments

Sane words Marnie.
Steve sinn | 27 April 2020


Come sit down beside me I said to myself. And although it didn't make sense, I held out my hand as a small sign of trust, and together I sat on the fence. Michael Leunig
AO | 28 April 2020


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