How to Care for Your Mind and Body When You’re in a Pandemic Hellscape

The view from the toilet staring at an empty toilet paper roll hanging on a porcelain wrack, with the words "another one bites the dust" written in sharpie.

CN: general (but light-hearted) discussion of pandemic, cancer mention, Spoilers for Downton Abbey

Making content in our new world can be challenging seeing as we haven’t experienced it long enough to know what people most want to hear or what kind of content they’ll respond to. I have always enjoyed Liz Winship’s specific style of humor, as was brilliantly showcased in her previous articles on Yopp, but in today’s guest post, Liz’s amazing mixture of compassionate warmth and dry, biting snark when talking about the current state of the world, is exactly what everyone needs right now.

Ah, self-care! That collection of things that are actually really important for overall mental and physical health, yet are often categorized as luxuries in this so-called “greatest country on earth.” Because who needs joy or time spent with loved ones when you can work an extra shift and then maybe possibly be able to pay off that one medical bill from 2014, right?

Seriously though, self-care IS important, whatever your six-figure salary boss has to say about it. And it doesn’t necessarily need to cost money, despite what those targeted ads featuring thirty-dollar “wellness” candles might imply. Self-care can be as simple as going to bed a little early if you’re tired, or screaming swear words into a pillow every time someone tries to tell you that vaccination is a hoax because a four-minute clip they watched on youtube said so. Whatever your needs, self-care can help!

Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing an actual, literal pandemic. Because of this fact, our access to items and places that we might like to use in our self-care is somewhat restricted. Walks in the park are a gamble and trips to the grocery store are difficult and complicated. To make matters worse, there is no handsome cousin Matthew to hold our hand as we conveniently succumb to the Spanish flu and clear the way for him to wed the lady Mary Crawley, thus securing the future of Downton Abbey. Worst pandemic EVER.

Times are hard and the world is frightening. As a result, even keeping up with the most basic of current events has become an incredibly difficult task. These days, I find myself taking any excuse to avoid looking at the news for a bit (my toilet bowl is SPARKLING). Self-care is now more important than ever, but it can be hard to relax when every news update feels like a passage from a particularly dark chapter in a history book. “And then the Governor of Georgia forced some business to open because the state didn’t want to provide unemployment for its citizens.”

Unfortunately, we can’t ignore the outside world completely. After all, there are important things happening. For example, social media is now full of all those wonderful videos of zoo employees taking animals to other parts of the zoo, sometimes to see other animals! That’s not sarcasm. I truly believe this is important and helpful work. Consider this footage of otters playing in a tub with plastic balls. Watch it. Now, don’t you feel a tiny bit better? If you still need a boost, check out these penguins performing the simple act of going down stairs. Facing the crushing uncertainty of what the world will look like when all of this is over is much, MUCH easier when you take breaks to look at animals being animals.

But even footage of animals being amazing won’t always be enough, so here are some self-care tips. I promise that none of them involve making a sourdough starter =D But of course, you do you if that’s your thing!

A light skinned man wraps his arm around a light skinned woman's shoulder and holds her hand. Her eyes are downcast, her nose is red as if she's beeing crying, and she wrapped in a grey blanket.

1. Make sure that you give yourself time to grieve when necessary, which will be often.

If your best friend had their life turned upside down and suddenly couldn’t do 20-90% of their usual activities, would you lecture them for not using all that extra time to learn French or start a business? Of course not! You’re not an asshole! Don’t be an asshole to yourself.

Naturally, if you WANT to fire up Duolingo or start an ETSY shop, go for it, (although this might not be the best time for the latter unless you have a bunch of mask sewing supplies that you want to get rid of). But please don’t feel obligated to be “productive” just because you have a little more time.

Remember that part of what landed us in this mess in the first place was an economic system that relied on human beings being treated like machines. If more workers could have had the option of taking a quarantine break or working from home (or at LEAST some protective equipment and paid sick leave for Brigid’s sake) this pandemic would have involved far fewer deaths and far more Parks and Recreation marathons.

If we’re going to try to prevent this sort of thing in the future, we need to reject the mindset that limitless growth is worth the bloodshed of the working class. That’s right. Watching Ron Swan grimace as Tom chats about the glories of the internet isn’t just a fun thing to do- It is your civic duty, fellow citizen.

So relax. Take it easy. Guilting yourself about deep cleaning your closet isn’t going to get us a vaccine any faster.

A banner ad for Kella's Etsy shop demonstrating three Chronic illness themed products: A pillow with emotional support kitties cuddling, a hoodie with "Yes thank you I have tried yoga please suggest literally anything else," and a tote bag with an orchid and "needing extra care doesn't make you a burden" on it.


2. Try to manage your anger in a healthy way.

Now I know it’s hard to see politicians and media personalities downplay the severity of the virus, or imply that the vulnerable should sacrifice themselves for the good of the stock market. But please take care not to punch a hole in your monitor or television. Screens are expensive, and you could hurt your hand!

Anger in the face of such injustice is perfectly rational and healthy but too much anger with no outlet can become exhausting. If you have any interest in Electoral Politics, consider getting involved in one of the many campaigns seeking to unseat Trump and his enablers. This sort of work can be very satisfying for some.

If merely reading the words “electoral politics” in the previous paragraph made you throw up in your mouth a little, there are other ways to cope with anger. For example, you can organize a group text or video conference to check on any friends and family that you feel comfortable talking to. If you haven’t gotten in the habit of doing this once a week or so, I recommend that you try it. Being social can be soothing, and almost none of us are getting the same level of human contact that we’re accustomed to.

Don’t bury your anger. Just try to find applications for it whenever possible. And if you can’t quite get there, a nice snack and a silly movie will probably help. Or you can light something on fire. Just have some water handy in case!

A paper habit tracker with a list of habits like journal and do yoga, and a series of different colored check marks to indicate which ones were done on which days.

3. Follow a routine to help things feel more normal.

We’re all adjusting to some big changes, and routine can sometimes be helpful when we feel lost! For example: after gazing in horror at news feeds for several hours in the morning, consider some gentle stretches or meditation before gazing in horror at news feeds for hours in the afternoon =) Variety, but with a clear pattern!

Alternatively, you can come up with a loose, changeable-as-needed schedule for days when you would normally be leaving the house. You can still sleep in if you like but even something as simple as eating breakfast or taking a shower can be quite healing if you can comfortably manage it. Your schedule can be as relaxed or as strict as you need it to be, but just having one helps. Even if it’s literally a post-it note reminder that says “try to bathe before 3pm,” or, “try to eat at least one vegetable this week.”

Whatever happens over the next few months, the world has been changed. ALL of us will be finding a new normal in the weeks to come. So if you can, try giving yourself a little head start- Your future self will thank you. After all, you will probably need to wear pants, or pant-like garments again at some point. A little practice will ensure that you’re ready when the time comes!

4. Include a little bit of physical activity when possible.

For many, the quarantine lifestyle has made it more difficult to move our bodies in the ways that we prefer. But don’t fret, there are plenty of ways to make up for this quandary at home =) For example, did you know that playing Minecraft for ten hours straight is a good way to get your fingers moving? I mean, sure, I can’t actually feel my lower back anymore and when I close my eyes all I see are blocks blocks blocks blocks blocks…..

Sorry, found some gold blocks and got a bit distracted! Anyhoo, physical movement of some kind is important. Most of us would normally be leaving the house more often than we are right now, and so our physical movement routines have been severely disrupted. A little bit of extra movement as compensation for this disparity is probably a good idea. Generally speaking, muscles don’t appreciate it when you neglect them. Sooner or later, they will let you know.

A young light-skinned woman wearing dark fitness clothes and two buns at the top of her head, sits crosslegged on a yoga mat, her arm stretched above and over her so that she's leaning to the left, imitating the yoga pose of the instructor seen on her laptop screen in front of her.

Unfortunately, that means exercise. And finding a good exercise routine can be kind of a minefield for the already-stressed-out quarantinee. Even at the best of times, a lot of exercise-related information is tainted with the assumption that the ultimate goal of the activity is to lose weight. That’s alright if that’s what you want, but it can give off the impression that “exercise” means at least forty minutes of hardcore cardio with an additional twenty minutes of perfectly choreographed stretching. That’s great if you have the time and the inclination, but maybe not ideal if you’re new to at-home workouts and you just want a simple routine to help keep your lower back from feeling as though it is currently inhabited by hornets.

Luckily, exercise doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated. Our goal here isn’t to train for an aerial segment of a circus, our goal is simply to keep our muscles active. Any physical activity that you know is safe for your body will do the trick. Whether that means putting on your brightest neon spandex and rocking out to some 80s tunes, or simply doing some basic yoga while binging Star Trek: The Next Generation. Whatever works for you! That way, when it’s safe to gather in groups again, you’ll feel comfortable and confident as you march, pitchfork in hand, to Washington D.C.- I mean, to wherever the local pitchfork convention is! Yep, those are totally things that exist!

Oh hey, I see some DIAMOND blocks. Lemme just…. There we go, more blocks and blocks blocks blocks…..

5. ….blocks blocks blocks…wait, where was I? OH YEAH! Make sure you’ve got your social media feeds trained to give you wholesome content as well as radioactive nightmare fuel from hell!

Given that so many of us are homebound now, it isn’t really realistic for people to avoid social media entirely but we can ensure that it is playing a role in keeping our spirits up! Learning about the complete failure of our federal government to perform even some of the most basic preventative measures is easier when this information is sandwiched between corgi butts and kitty toe beans!

This is also a good time to seek out new sources of content that you like. Maybe a nature photography group, or a meme group that shares your interests. If you are religious or spiritual, seeking new forms of inspiration or comfort that are appropriate for your tradition can be a worthwhile exercise. Remember, we do have some control over our feeds, and we’re SUPPOSED to enjoy them. I know you love your uncle, but now might be a good time to put him on mute for a bit so you don’t have to hear about how the deep state is trying to control us with 5G towers.

6. Stay hydrated =)

Yes, I know it’s a bit cliche, but remembering to drink water at least a few times a day will help with your overall health and mood. And with all this extra rage-weeping happening 24/7, replenishing ourselves with that H2O is all the more important!

And if you want to change things up a bit, consider making some herbal tea if you can. Tea with caffeine is nice for when you want energy, but herbal tea is less likely to keep you up all night as you obsess about that time when you coughed once earlier that day. Many varieties of herbal teas and infusions can be purchased online, or from your local grocery store during your bi-weekly protective gear-laden journey to gather more nacho supplies and search (likely in vain) for toilet paper. Premium varieties of herbal tea exist if you have the funds, but a three dollar sampler will certainly get the job done if money is tight.

Herbal tea can also be a fun prop for quarantine shenanigans. Are you the owner of a large estate, currently sipping tea as you look over wine lists for an important visit later in the month? Or perhaps you are an elf living in an enchanted forest, and you must drink the waters of the sacred spring in order to maintain your health? Let your imagination run wild!

In front of a brown brick house with a turquoise roof, large black metal door, a white walkway, and squares of green grass, there are several delivery bags sitting on the concrete and a large window in the front of the house that says in large letters "All Things Must Pass."

7. Remember that this crisis will end.

Sure, things won’t ever totally go back to normal. Then again, “normal” in this country was kind of awful for like 70% of the population, so maybe that’s ok.

However, we WILL eventually be able to do things like hold live concerts, attend craft fairs, dance in a circle to summon the ancient ones that they might punish those who allowed this to happen- I mean, um, host a spirituality circle. Yeah. That’s what I mean.

After all, humans have thousands of years of socializing skills built into us. A season of quarantine might be unpleasant, but it would take much longer than that to take that drive out of us. You will see your family and friends again. Even better, you won’t have to explain how zoom mute buttons work seven times in a row!

So be kind to yourself, and see to your mental and physical health as best you can =) Before you know it, we’ll all be out in the streets, cheering along to the cries of mercy from the 1%- er, the sweet music of various local performers. Yes! That’s totally what I meant to write! Totally!

A large body of water at night framed by a dense row of fir trees, and a galaxy of stars above, which are also reflected in the water below.

About the guest blogger: Liz Winship is a Mezzo-Soprano/Writer/Chocolate enthusiast with a Masters in vocal performance. She enjoys music, reading, video games, cooking, and giggling at silly memes (especially when they involve cats). She on the West Coast. You can read more of her writing

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