Logging onto Instagram, I am immediately overwhelmed by hundreds of posts about “being productive.” My favorite models posting workout videos, my friends posting pictures of the loads of work that they got done today, the new paintings people have done, and almost-forgotten projects that people have used this time to complete. It made me feel terrible about myself.
For the first few weeks of the South African lock-down, I had that mindset. The mindset of “I am going to be productive.” As a varsity student, this was the perfect time to catch up on the mountains of work that I was extremely behind on. I was going to work out every day and complete that 30-day yoga journey that I had been too busy and exhausted to get to and for a while, I managed to accomplish this. But when I didn’t stick to the schedule I had made for myself, I beat myself up about it.
Here is the cold, hard truth: we are in a pandemic. The world is a very scary and confusing place at the moment. Many of us are separated from loved ones and feel suffocated by being confined to our homes. Students are having to adjust to online learning, businesses are falling apart and relationships are taking a hit. This devastating time is not about “how much you can achieve” it’s about taking care of yourself.
When I started beating myself up about not getting tasks done, my boyfriend stopped me and told me that I was being too hard on myself. I made the very silly mistake of comparing myself to my boyfriend at that moment. A Bachelor of Sciences degree, majoring in physics and astrophysics- he had been working 8 hours a day every day and had completed all his assignments a week early (there were 5 of them). I’m pretty sure I was thinking, “easy for you to say.” But he was right and I soon realized that.
I know that self-care is the word for 2020, but that is exactly what should be happening during this time. Through social media, there has been this mindset of productivity promoted. People judging others for taking a day or two, to simply do nothing- labeling it as “laziness.”
In times like these, I find one of my favorite Italian phrases extremely relevant. For those of you who have watched or read Eat, Pray, Love you will be familiar with the saying La Dolce far niente– the pleasure of doing nothing. 21st-century society thrives on the ideology that you need to be doing something to be happy, but just because an ideology is dominant doesn’t make it the truth.
Self-care takes so many forms. I am not going to be dishonest about myself, my form of self-care is not laying in bed. I suffer from chronic depression and anxiety, so spending all day in bed most days will not be good for me. I take care of myself on my yoga mat, through my Sculpt Society workouts, and through my skincare regime… however, there are days when I wake up late, do my skincare routine and then climb back into bed. Reading books all day and watching movies that make my heart happy.
Bottom line: we are in no place to judge how someone else chooses to practice self-care. There is no hard definition of the term other than taking care of yourself. Although I do not recommend only waking up and not eating for an entire day, it is completely okay if the only productive thing you could do today was wake up. You know what? I am proud of you for waking up today!
Now more than ever, it is so important to remember that the only approval you need is your own. Be gentle with yourself and tend to the garden of your soul in whichever way feels good. Whether that means meditating in the sun or reading a book in bed- it doesn’t matter. There is no superior way to spend your day.
Log out of your social media accounts. Switch your phone on silent or off. Put your phone away and just take a moment to check in with yourself. What do I need today?
You are loved. You are needed. You are valued. You are important. You are enough. Stay safe and stay healthy, I am sending you all my love and yellow light.