“Well, quarantine’s the perfect time to fix that” my friend says to me. We then continue to complain about the way our bodies have changed during quarantine. We’ve had so much time alone with ourselves that it’s hard not to get frustrated when the jeans you bought 5 months ago don’t fit anymore or when that “Quick Easy Abs” workout by Chloe Ting just seems impossible to start up again. After all, the surplus of workout videos, fat-shaming memes, and jokes about the “quarantine 15” definitely shows that our society is concerned with the effect this pandemic might have on our bodies.
Not only is it completely normal to feel afraid and stressed out during a pandemic, but it’s also super easy to get lost in the noise of what’s going on around us right now. And I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone in this.
That feeling you get when you’re checking Instagram or chatting with your friends, that impression that you should be doing something more to “better yourself.” That’s called quarantine guilt. It comes just when you least expect it, when your friends are bragging about their daily runs, Pinterest recipes, or new language skills.
There’s nothing wrong with working towards something you want to achieve during quarantine, it actually seems logical to use all this excess time to learn something new. However, if you want to take this time to slow down and relax, that’s fine too! At the end of the day, the whole point of staying home is to stay safe – not to undertake an extensive self-improvement process.
Although there is nothing wrong with maintaining physical activity during quarantine, we must always go easy on ourselves and know that it’s ok to feel uncertain or unmotivated once in a while. We must allow ourselves to take a break and relax, it’s not the end of the world even though it may seem like it. It’s ok if you didn’t get the chance to do the things you wanted to do during quarantine, you still have your whole life ahead of you to accomplish those things.
Even though self-love will most definitely look different during this unprecedented time, it’s 100% still important to take care of our mental and physical health. There are a variety of ways to take a step back from all the noise, after all, it’s a global pandemic – you don’t have to be ok all the time. I encourage our readers to not feel obligated to keep up with a routine during quarantine, nor guilty if you have yet to find one that works for you. It is natural to feel pressure during a time of uncertainty. What’s important is that we acknowledge those negative feelings and focus on turning them into positive ones.
The next time you notice yourself having negative thoughts about your body or appearances, take a moment to think about why you’re feeling this way. Often times, the things we dislike about our physical appearance tend to be internal challenges from other aspects of our lives. These can include things like work-related stress, school anxiety, depression, or other mental health battles that we eventually deflect onto the person staring back at us in the mirror. I encourage our readers to recognize those negative thoughts, and for each one, try to think about something positive. Experts have said that when we greet one negative thought or sentiment with five positive ones, there is a greater chance we can offset that negativity. Next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or discouraged, it can be helpful to counter those thoughts with five good things that happened today, five things you like about yourself, or even five things you can’t wait to do tomorrow.
Mindfulness meditation has been recommended by health specialists across the country as a means to reduce stress. This process of meditation allows one to focus on the present rather than the uncontrollable “what ifs” that produce anxiety. Even incorporating breathing exercises into your daily routine can help slow your heart rate down, clear your mind, and strengthen your immune system.
Sometimes, unwinding can also mean taking a break from social media and news channels. Because it is very easy to become overwhelmed and self-conscious when scrolling through Instagram and Facebook for too long, it doesn’t hurt to take a break from it all. For women especially, social media can lead to a false sense of control where users feel as if they need to alter their bodies for more positive attention.
In a time of stay-at-home orders, it can seem like the only things you have control over are what you eat and how much you exercise. However, we can control whether we are self-punishing or self-compassionate. Don’t waste your energy searching for the “perfect” way to quarantine, your body may change, but you are still you. Having a little bit more fat on your body does not change who you are nor does it make you any less beautiful.
As a final message to our readers, remember that everyone struggles with their self-esteem at some point in their lives and sometimes we might need to take a break. Always be kind to yourself, you deserve the same love and compassion you give to others!
— Rachael Bailey, Undergraduate Intern