In the last few days of March this year, my parents and I tested positive for Covid-19. My symptoms included a very sore throat and tiredness. My parents’ symptoms were more severe. Our doctor decided that it was best to admit my parents to a hospital so that they would have constant medical care. I self-quarantined alone at home. It was one of the most stressful weeks of my life.

I took time off work because I was not able to focus on anything. Thankfully, we all tested negative in a week. My parents were discharged and came back home, still weak but better. Over the past few weeks, they have improved enormously and are almost back to normal.

After my parents came back home, I felt pressured to revert my life to how it was before. I wanted to escape the hard times we had had by returning to easier times. I wanted to be able to do everything I could do before.

My thinking was that I had to practice self-care to restore my mental health. My usual self-care routines included exercise, dancing, bullet journaling, and skincare routines. I tried getting back into these routines but it did not exactly work out. I was frustrated because I was not physically able to dance as much as used to. I tried to start bullet journaling again but the colors and designs that once calmed me just stressed me out more. The only thing I could really do was watch my comfort TV shows over and over again.

The pressure I put on myself to practice self-care made it way harder to actually do it.

I voiced these frustrations to a friend, and she said something that made so much sense to me. She said that I was trying to run a marathon right after I dug my way out of a trench. I realized then that my thinking was counterproductive. I had been through a very tough time; it was only natural that it would take me more time to get over it. There was no point in pushing myself. I lowered my expectations after that phone call, and it did wonders for my mental health. I decided to stop journaling till I felt ready. I cut down the steps in my skincare routine to two basic ones. And I stopped feeling guilty about rewatching my favorite shows to make myself feel better.

Self-care is difficult when you are going through difficult times. Here are some lessons I learned from my experience:

1. Self-care can mean different things to different people

I thought I had to stay positive and get back to my hobbies. I was not able to do so, and that was okay. There was no point in pushing myself. It was okay for me to find comfort in low-energy activities like watching TV. There is no one way to practice self-care. Even for the same person, the methods that work change when in different situations.

2. It’s okay to take credit once in a while

I coordinated my parents’ hospital admissions and took care of myself physically while keeping our family and friends updated. It was tough, but I made it through, and that was something to celebrate. It took me weeks to understand that I was doing the best that I could, and that was enough. Sometimes, self-care means giving yourself a pat on the back.

3. Eventually I would get back into my hobbies

The difference is, I am not making myself do anything anymore. I used to try to journal every day, whether I felt like it or not. But the things you do for self-care are supposed to make you feel better, not stress you out. And it was okay for me to leave a hobby for some time and pick it up again later.

It is hard to practice self-care when you or your loved ones are sick. It is important to take care of yourself, but what that means is different for everyone. You know what works for you, and what works will change when circumstances change. If on a particular day, self-care looks like taking a walk instead of journaling, it’s okay to miss out on one journal entry.

I’m still working on it, but learning to cut myself some slack and diversify my definition of self-care has already helped with my mental health. Remember, self-care only works when it makes you feel good!

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  • Supreeta Balasubramanian

    Supreeta Balasubramanian grew up in Dubai, studied in Dubai, India and London and now lives in Chennai, India. She has a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science Engineering and an MA in Creative Writing and Publishing. Her true passions are proofreading, editing, writing and reading. She enjoys words and would love to live the rest of her life playing with them!

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