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How ‘rona gave me the time and space to re-imagine my understanding of self-care

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It goes without saying that COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it—a ripple effect of impacts have challenged individual, business and societal ways of thinking and living.

And as we slowly emerge from the crisis, there is value in reflecting on the lessons learnt and their ongoing application moving forward.

We live in a fast-paced society—often deemed the hustle culture—proliferated by the advent of technology and the increasing social pressure and culture of productivity and doing.

But for many of us, the lockdown saw a shift to the contrary, as a down-turn in business and social commitments resulted in more spare-time.

For me, this increase in down-time created a more meaningful space for introspection that I typically would not afford for myself.

I admit I am not one to give myself the necessary time for thorough self-reflection and self-care. Having grown-up in this age of productivity, I subscribe to the typical millennial lifestyle of having one hand glued to my phone at all times, guided by push notifications and an e-calendar of back-to-back professional and social commitments.

Embedded within this lifestyle are pockets of self-care—the occasional trip to the spa, a luxurious meal out or a calendar block for a very necessary weekend sleep-in. However, a forced slow-down in my typical way-of-life gave me the physical time and introspective headspace to grow my understanding of self-care.

Research shows that a helpful way to conceiving self-care is to look at the four key components of wellbeing: physical, emotional, psychological and sociological. Maintaining all four components is critical to our mental health and wellbeing. And, in the absence of affording myself any generous time for such conceptions, I came to realise that my self-care plan had been purely characterised by only physical strategies of self-care.

During the lockdown restrictions, I came to realise how little time I scheduled for myself to emotionally reflect on my state of mind and understand the drivers behind these feelings. I brought regular journaling and reflective walks back into my weekly routine.

In this oddly physically disconnected period, I became more cognisant of my relationship dynamics and the importance of proactively checking-in and keeping open lines of communication and connection.

And, more important than ever, I came to understand the importance of cultivating reparative experiences for the self by deliberately investing more time in solo activities that brought me joy.

Self-care is not simply about choosing to do something nice for yourself every once in a while. An effective approach to self-care is far more nuanced and proactive.

It involves a deliberate and active personal action plan and commitment to the self, touching upon on the physical, emotional, psychological and sociological. It may seem like a simple concept, but it is easy to overlook when life gets busy.

There is often a misconception that one day we will wake up and suddenly have a self-care plan. However, what any individuals’ self-care routine involves will be unique to their person—what brings energy to one person will be completely different to another.

This means that for a self-care plan to be effective and meaningful it needs to be bespoke and personally tailored to one’s own needs. And this process of curating one’s own self-care plan requires generous time and self-reflection.

The pandemic birthed a lockdown that was not an ideal situation for many of us. But it would be superficial for me to claim that the experience was an entirely negative one without merits.

Perhaps some of our most valuable pockets of learning will come from within. I hope that my learnings on self-care during this period have re-imagined my approach to self-care to be more sustainable and meaningful.

Throughout August, Mental Illness Education ACT (MIEACT) is promoting Self Care Canberra—a free initiative created to address the increasing mental health concerns of Canberrans in the workplace and wider community.

Self Care Canberra provides resources and support, helping workplaces and community groups to understand the benefits of implementing self-care strategies and connect with local service providers.

All workplaces in Canberra are encouraged to register. Self Care Canberra is a free program, but donations are greatly appreciated through the Canberra Recovery Appeal so that we can continue to reach workplaces and community organisations around Canberra.


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