Early on in the pandemic, I lost touch with self-care. It was like a college best friend who I’d always love and long for but as life and time grew between us, it felt like all we had were memories until we’d someday be together again. I desperately missed our wild nights on the dance floor followed by coffee-fueled recap brunches in big dark sunglasses just as I missed popping into the latest trendy workout, beauty treatments, the wellness experiments, and sipping on green juice at Erewhon. But there was simply no way.
Like many moms during the pandemic, there was very little room for me anything. I had a 5-month-old, a 2-year-old, a job, a household and no help besides my husband who had a more demanding job than I did. Between wiping down the groceries with bleach (remember that?), cooking everyone every meal, cleaning, laundry, breastfeeding, the all-consuming job of taking care of two little ones, work, marriage, and the extreme stress of 2020, my plate was as full as a gluttonous Thanksgiving helping, doubled. By the end of the day, the last thing I wanted to do was lift another finger, even if that finger were to spoon out a face mask to slather upon my cheeks. It would only be a few hours before the baby would cry for a feed anyway and until then, I needed to do absolutely nothing.
I became so distant from self-care that seeing the words on Instagram gave me, what felt like, an allergic reaction with a side effect of increased blood pressure. I guess you could say I was envious of anyone who had time for themselves. I was also completely exhausted.
As the baby began sleeping through the night, restoring my sanity, she also began waking up very early. And it was in those early mornings, while the rest of the world slept, that I started taking her on long walks to move my body and get some much needed fresh air. This was my first real form of consistent exercise since the pandemic began. On one of those walks, somewhere between Fairfax and Laurel Canyon, with a baby strapped to my chest and a mask covering my face, I had a clear moment of calm and connected with the fact that I felt the lowest I’d ever felt. I was pushed beyond my limit with very few ways to release and the only way I knew how to help myself was to expand said limit. I decided to give up alcohol, a depressant that couldn’t possibly be serving me and one that took away from my energy well. I wasn’t drinking a lot, well most nights anyway, but a single glass of wine at the end of the day needed to go and so my journey of sober curiosity began.
I was sleeping again, getting fresh air and my steps in on our morning walks, and my not drinking went from a few days to weeks and ultimately, months. These simple acts of self-care opened up my limits in the ways I had needed and beyond what I had imagined. This experience altered and re-framed what self care meant to me. Pre-pandemic, the self care I fancied centered around doing the most – working out, hot saunas, cryotherapy, deprivation chambers, meditating, face masks, long baths, facials, massages, dinners with my girlfriends, juicing, traveling, etc. (all still important) – but this time around, self care was about the basics. The basics that would allow me to show up as the best version of myself through one of the most challenging periods of our lives.
It turns out, that Pinterest-worthy quote about rest, sunshine, water, fresh air, and exercise being the best medicine is 100% accurate. It doesn’t matter how many expensive face masks one coats on their skin or mediation apps are downloaded, without the fundamentals, those quick fixes may not help much.
Did anyone else come out of the pandemic with this same realization? I know it seems so obvious but until I genuinely NEEDED the basics because of an actual world crisis, I didn’t fully grasp just how critical it was.
As for the other stuff, the indulgent extras that I love so much like a face mask, I will never take that for granted ever again. Including the drink I have every now and again.