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The Value of Pressing Pause for Our Mental Wellness

How slowing down can feed our self-care routines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Earlier this year, I started a blog called The Beaded Survivor, focusing on the different components or “beads” of life. I loved writing for and creating this blog, but when we entered the COVID-19 era, I had to press pause. It had been about 161,280 minutes since my last post up until recently, but who’s counting.

So, here we are, still in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. We are experiencing shutdowns, panic, a whole lot of unknown, and while people seemed to have found toilet paper, it still is one hot commodity that can’t be found everywhere. In addition, the devastation of eye-opening racial and social injustices, the current state of our economy, the varying degrees of information being thrown at us daily, and just the general feeling of unrest in the world, have made 2020 a year for the record books, that is for sure. Thus, I had to take a life “pause”.

With this pause came a flood of emotions, triggers, next to no alone time, lack of control, endless questions, and the list goes on. Like so many, my normally routinized and organized life got turned upside down, thrown sideways, and then hit by a bus. And sadly, things that once brought me peace and relaxation became daunting and overwhelming, one of those being writing.

So here I am, I guess you could say “back” to writing to a certain degree, with my raw and honest feelings and thoughts. At the forefront of importance for myself and so many right now is self-care. Whether you’ve mastered it or it has gone out the window, I want to serve as a friendly reminder.

Looking back on those initial days and weeks following the announcement of the pandemic, I realized something major: this was extremely triggering for me. In a weird and unwanted way, it brought me back to a dark period of time after I was raped. Not knowing what to do with myself, extreme loss of control, sadness, anger, the difficult need to keep pushing forward, anxiety, then followed with bouts of depression. Only this time, I had two kids to care for. I did not exactly realize it at the time, but that is precisely what was happening.

I found myself wanting to sleep and shut it all out. I felt the anxiety brewing and the loss of control leaving me with that helpless pit at the bottom of my stomach. I started turning to things that were a comfort for me: food, mindless tv, alcohol, my bed. Aside from my traumatic experience with sexual assault, I honestly cannot think of another time in my life that I have felt that level of distress. Nor could I have imagined ever getting to that point again. Silly me.

Enter the desperate need for self-care. The thing about self-care is that when it is put by the wayside, nobody gets the best version of me, including myself. Everyone and everything gets small pieces of me that are nowhere near 100%. Once I was able to hone in on what I was experiencing and identify my mental health state (thank you, years of therapy), I thankfully was able to start to figure out what I needed.

A large part of my self-care right now is spending time by myself. Whatever that may look like – exercising, scrolling Instagram, anything Netflix, taking a long shower and getting in my bed at 7pm, and I may have been known to sit in my car in the driveway. It’s not weird. I promise. Try it.

Everyone’s self-care is obviously going to look different. While some are yearning to be alone, others are yearning for social interaction. Some are essential workers; others are trying to work with kids at home. Some have lost their jobs; others are trying to stay afloat. Some are sick and have lost loved ones to this disease; others do not know anyone who has COVID-19. Some are venturing out in the world; others are still quarantined. Whatever your life looks like right now, do not forget to fill and continue to refill your tank. And don’t feel guilty about how you do it.

Adapting to this “new normal” is challenging, and unfortunately, I think it’s here to stay for quite some time. It’s okay to not be okay. I give you permission to take a pause. Whether it be a long pause, short pause, a daily pause, a 5-minute pause, take a pause. Choose something that fits your definition of self-care: call a friend, take a walk by yourself, color, scream into a pillow, plant some flowers, hide in your closet, eat dessert in your car (I’m telling you, just do it). Notice my suggestions do not include laundry, cleaning, dishes, any and all forms of housework. Unless that is your thing, then go for it.

2020 is certainly not the year I thought it would be. But we are over halfway there. And we will all get through it with a little self-love and a lot of pauses along the way.

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