Support Yourself

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on September 01, 2020 # COVID-19, Lifestyle

Now that quarantine, social distancing, and perpetual mask-wearing has been a reality for more than half a year, how are you doing? Are you getting enough physical exercise, or have you gained the Quarantine Fifteen? How is your anxiety, and are you paying enough attention to your mental health?Kristin holding dog

Call me a black sheep, but I’m still struggling with remembering all the extra efforts this year requires. I’m entirely on board with the meaning behind all the new requirements but, for whatever reason, a few things have yet to become a habit. For example, I went flying into the post office last week without a mask on or any bit of realization that I was breaking the social code of this pandemic. I realized my mistake immediately when I saw every person wearing one (and giving me dirty looks) and went back to get mine, but it’s interesting how my mind hasn’t made the 2020 switch yet. Whenever that happens, which is nearly every time I go into the public, I make a desperate comment like, “I can’t believe I still forget my mask” with a smile, but I suspect the back of my head is getting lots of scorns and eye rolls.

Whether you’re one of the few who can relate to my struggle or you think I’m a loony, I think we can all agree that this year has been tough; in general, our mental health has never been put to such a challenge. Suppose you’ve managed to skate around the everyday anxiety that comes with not being able to freely go into the community and thoughtlessly socialize with friends, first of all, good for you. I caution those same people to limit their intake of world news and politics, and maybe they can continue to evade the distress that everyone else is feeling.

For the rest of us, though, mental health and supporting ourselves has become a priority more than ever before. How do I support myself; you ask? Well, that’s a good question.

  1. Show some grace. Whether it’s because of the pandemic, the heightened racial tension, or the Murder Hornets that everyone seems to have forgotten about, we’re taking this year day by day; the world is slipping back and forth on a giant learning curve. The word “unprecedented” is used to define nearly every phenomenon on the news networks. Understandably, we’re feeling lots of emotions, learning how to absorb continuous tragedy, and recognizing new truths about ourselves. The best thing you can do is to show yourself some compassion and patience. Use this time as a lesson in self-growth, instead of letting your heart harden.
  2. Keep your boundaries. This has always been a hard one for me; I have a hard time saying “no,” and tend to stretch myself beyond what my emotions can handle. I credit my mother for that trait and my father for teaching me how to stand up for myself. Especially now, I’m using a mix of the two: I’m balancing being loving to the people around me, but also respecting myself enough to know where to stop. This lands at the top of my “Self-Care” list and, despite my much-preferred setting of working from home, boundaries are still essential. Whether that looks like working all day and Facetiming until bed, or turning your phone on Airplane Mode at lunchtime, show yourself some love. You’re not a Fruit Roll-Up – don’t stretch yourself thin.
  3. Give yourself an endorsement. This can come in many forms, but I’m talking about the affirmations you give yourself in your head. Like I’ve said before, self-confidence is a game-changer in both your recovery and lifestyle. First and foremost, pay attention to your self-talk and be sure that it’s positive and encouraging. Don’t allow comparisons to get in your head but do allow yourself to feel all the emotions. You have to spend all day, every day with yourself, so why not take the time to love you?
  4. Stick to your goals. Figure out who you want to be when you come out of this pandemic, and how you can make it a better version. Use your time wisely – whether that means writing in a journal, reading a religious text, or taking an online class to get you closer to mastery, set aside time to do it. The more secure you are in yourself and your abilities, the better and more helpful you’ll be to other people.
  5. Look around you. Do you spend your time with people who make your space feel safer, who support you, and who love you? This can mean your online company or your physical one. I learned the hardest way when I was in college that the people. Who I surround myself with has a large effect on my mental health and happiness. Put your own needs first and pay attention to your inner voice when choosing who to spend your time with.
  6. Get your butt outside. This is the last on this list, but it’s my favorite and, often, my first intervention. I love sitting outside and reading or riding my bike until my face is as red as a tomato. The solitude of nature has always acted as a RESET for my mind. It is an escape from the chaos of my every day. Often, I use the solitude of my porch-sit or my bike ride to reflect, pray, and just be present with myself. I don’t have the luxury of being able to steal away every day but, when I’m able, it has a renewing effect. Life just gets so hectic, and, for that reason, I’ve learned to prioritize time with nature.

Self-love and self-confidence are two topics close to my heart. I’ve written about them many times before because of my struggle to find them after an accident that left me paralyzed almost 15 years ago. We still have a long path out of this pandemic, and the most important way to support ourselves is to tune in and take control. Take good care of yourself. We need you.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.