SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: Read more tips like this in our Mental Wellness section.
While the pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge the last year and a half, I’m now finding that the reopening of society is chock-full of challenges, as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given some scientific guidelines for opening back up, but I feel we haven’t been given much guidance on how to gracefully reenter society.
It’s important to note that everyone is going to have different levels of comfort when rejoining society. There are resources out there that can help you navigate how to decide if a place is safe to go, whether you should keep your mask on, the right social distance, and various other situational challenges we find ourselves in post-quarantine.
Adapting to new ways of life and making all of these decisions, sometimes on the spot, can make anxiety, fears and stress rise. The “rights” and “wrongs” of society are very murky right now. I want to dive deeper into how I am taking care of my mental wellness during this time, and strategies I use that could be helpful for you.
Strategy #1: Self-compassion
Self-compassion has been one of the biggest strategies I’ve used as I navigate the constant changes of the coronavirus pandemic. I didn’t understand what self-compassion was until I read Dr. Kristin Neff’s book “Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.” I thought it was related to self-esteem, but they are very different. Self-esteem is the value we place on ourselves and our worth, whereas self-compassion is about being kind and understanding when facing personal failings.
I used to berate myself with negative thoughts about my challenges, such as “I can’t believe you have anxiety. Why can’t you deal with this simple situation?” Self-compassion takes those negative thoughts of things you can’t control (such as my anxiety disorder) and turns them into mindful thoughts such as “I’m okay with what I choose. It doesn’t have to be what anyone else chooses.”
We don’t have all the answers. For the past year and a half, we most definitely haven’t had all the answers. Self-compassion allows our bodies and minds to have a break from the chaos. The break allows me to look at myself for what I am – a human being with flaws and all – making decisions good or bad and living with that.
Lesson learned: Self-compassion has taught me about judgment during this post-quarantine time. I practice being cognitively aware of the words I am saying to myself on a daily basis. It has stopped me from judging myself AND judging others.
Anxiety, fear and stress can bring forth the judgment in you because it makes you feel like you are able to control something that is out of your control. It isn’t healthy and causes animosity and division, not to mention even more stress on your body.
Strategy #2: Self-talk
As someone who lives with social anxiety and a panic disorder, how fast society reopened after quarantine was frightening to me. I’ve spent a lot of time using self-talk as I remind myself that I may not be comfortable at first going to restaurants, seeing friends again, traveling. Like many of us, I am relearning how to go about life again. So I am working on giving myself grace as I navigate this time period.
Lesson learned: When I talk positively to myself, it transfers into my communications with others. Allowing myself to not feel shame for being uncomfortable eating inside a busy restaurant empowers me to have a better understanding of where others are coming from in their choices during this time.
Give yourself power by the words you say to yourself in a positive way. Be that encouragement for yourself because everyone isn’t going to be there to always lift you up. I spent my life waiting and hoping for others to tell me I was going to be okay, when I actually had it in me all along to say that and believe it.
I’ve realized that my thought processes and words really affect my mental wellness. Be kind to yourself so that you can extend that kindness to others.
Strategy #3: Self-care
In a world that is still trying to figure itself out, you have to continue taking care of yourself. A lot of people have worked on their self-care this past year – which is just beautiful – but we can’t leave those self-care moments behind as our lives ramp back up to full speed. By focusing on your self-care, you might decide that you don’t want to ramp up your busy schedule to where you were pre-pandemic.
Lessons learned: Continuing to do what makes me feel good, such as taking a bath or reading a book, gives me the peaceful moments I need to recharge. Whatever you decide is best for you is great, as long as you keep self-care in your schedule
Strategy #4: Self-regulate
In its basic sense, self-regulation is about managing your thoughts and behaviors as you peruse a long-term goal. In regards to the reopening of society, educate yourself on how to properly do that by seeking out reputable sources – not your social media feeds. In using reputable sources, you’ll feel more confident and comfortable in your choices.
Lessons learned: If you find that your anxiety or stress levels are abnormal for you (maybe you are struggling with getting out of bed or with feeling comfortable doing everyday tasks), don’t be afraid to ask for help. Use the resources our community has to offer, such as Jewish Family Service, which offers affordable mental health counseling to people of all backgrounds.
Do you see a theme here? Self! If you remember anything from this, I hope it is that you remember to be kind to yourself so that you are able to prosper when you are faced with challenges, such as navigating the new parts of society.
If you want to learn more about how to be kind to yourself, I highly recommend books and resources from Dr. Kristin Neff. She has spent the past 20 years researching, teaching, and even founding a nonprofit, about self-compassion.
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