My whole life I’ve had health issues. When I was 12, I spent nearly six weeks in the hospital. At 15, I was confined to my bed for weeks because of a foot infection from a spider bite. When I started university, I was on bed rest again from another infection. Most recently, I’ve been off work since November because of an abscess, and I’ve been more or less on bed rest that whole time.
I have spent countless days in my home because I didn’t feel well enough to go out to do anything. I learned that poor physical health contributes to poor mental health and couldn’t leave the house because of increasing anxiety.
My point is, I’ve been here before. I’ve been forced to stay inside for so many different reasons—for days, weeks, sometimes months. And most people in my life would describe me as a generally positive, happy person.
Am I a great actor? Well, yes, but not about my feelings. I have moments of anger, sadness, confusion, fear, frustration, the works. I’m not mysteriously happy all the time. (Nobody is.)
I’m learning to feel my feelings, whatever they are. Every day I wake up feeling differently. I take inventory of my feelings like I’m taking inventory of the fridge before a grocery shop. I want to know how I’m feeling from the moment I wake up so I can meet myself where I am and provide what I need.
It’s a process, and I’m still learning. Every day I practice how to feel and how to be honest with myself. It’s ugly and uncomfortable and hard. It’s so much easier to eat a donut and watch TV about it. Taking the step to become conscious of emotions, feelings, sensations, or anything internal is hard and worth it.
It involves a lot of stripping away of ego and pride and allowing yourself to be honest and vulnerable—with yourself, first and foremost. Vulnerability is such a buzzword right now, but it’s always been an important part of my personal philosophy. It basically comes down to not letting your pride get in the way of your true feelings, and in my opinion, it goes hand in hand with honesty.
You can’t be vulnerable without being honest. And honesty without vulnerability doesn’t mean a whole lot. It’s easy to speak an easy truth—diving into the ugly truths takes that step of vulnerability.
That’s my first tip: Be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling right now. It will change from day to day, sometimes even hour to hour. Continue the dialogue with yourself so you can respond to your needs. You will need to be your own best friend during this time, especially because now everyone else has their own concerns to deal with. Not to say we can’t support each other, but you should be your first priority, now more than ever.
My second tip: Build a routine. It may feel meaningless to set alarms or to get dressed, but the longer you spend in your pajamas, half-asleep and wandering aimlessly around the house, the harder it will be to get going once you want to do something productive. Start with something little, like making a hot drink first thing after waking up and just enjoying it without any technology or distractions. This is a perfect time to apply the principles above and check in with how you’re feeling, or even start to plan your day if you’re into that kind of thing. You can still get dressed, make breakfast, catch up on messages, and all the things you would have done before work. Stretch out the moments—make a more elaborate breakfast, take the dog for a longer walk, do a deeper meditation—but stick to some kind of routine. It will help delineate the days and make you feel like you’re accomplishing things, even if it’s nothing extraordinary.
My third and final tip: Don’t go silent. It’s normal to feel a certain amount of shame if you’re unmotivated or uninspired or feeling straight up depressed. Those are big feelings, and they can be hard to share. Those feelings certainly don’t always belong on social media, and that may be a really damaging way to try to cope with a serious issue. Find a trusted friend or family member that you can reach out to in these times. They will always be understanding, and you won’t have to filter or edit yourself for them. Again, that whole vulnerability thing. Reaching out just to let someone know you’re having a hard time can be a lifesaver, literally. Don’t underestimate the power of someone else’s voice in your head. Just this morning I had a good cry to my dad on the phone and he was able to provide me with a fresh perspective that I would not have come to on my own in six weeks of Sundays.
This will end, things will change again, and we will have different problems to worry about. For now, prioritize yourself and your mental and physical health. Ignore what you can and absorb what you need. Take in the sunshine and the birdsong, leave the influx of promotions and influencers. A little bit of solitude is the perfect time to clear the cobwebs—just know that you may uncover some spiders in the process.