What I Learned About Self-Care I Learned During a Pandemic

by Alakananda K.

Self-care. This term has been circulating around more often these days than ever before. It’s easy enough to slap on a face mask and call it self-care, but what does it truly mean? Lockdown and quarantine made me face this question head-on and ask myself what I had to do to, well, keep myself sane and happy. The first week off from school, an unsuspecting early April break, was a good time for me. I was close to burning out at that point, from midterm exams to science fair pushing me too close to my limit. I saw it as a blessing in disguise, a quick two-week break before resuming my everyday life at school.

I caught up on my favorite shows, made whipped coffee, and learned a whole bunch of new K-pop dances that I’d perform in front of my mirror. Oh boy. The days became weeks, and the weeks became months. Now, it has almost been a whole year. The first reality check I had was my privilege; having a roof over my head and food on my plate was never taken for granted again. As an ambivert, the lack of social interaction didn’t bother me too much either. It seemed pretty okay. But I didn’t realize how much it affected me until junior year started, entirely online. It was my choice to stay home; it felt like the better bargain of risking my life on the daily. I started to feel nauseous and anxious for no reason. I don’t consider myself a very emotional person, but this confused me even more. It became harder to eat and sleep, two things that I loved doing before. Where were these new emotions coming from? Why can’t I get them out of my head? Was I doing something wrong?

One day, I sat down in my room and asked myself just that. The only answer I came up with was junior year stress. Fourteen hours in front of my computer screen affected me physically, but I then realized that it was affecting me mentally too. What can I do to help myself? This, this is where I realized the importance of self-care. Small actions, a few moments even, of kindness to yourself can bring so much happiness. I had let myself go a bit during those first two months of school, but it was time to collect myself again and force myself to set aside time to do the things I love.

The single most important aspect of my self-care routine is music. I thrive on music. I listen to it whenever I can, and I dance to it, even when somebody is watching. Every half an hour or so, I’ll get up from my desk, put on a song, and just vibe to it. Sometimes I know the choreography. Other times, I just move to my heart’s desire. A sweet melody or upbeat track in my ears is a quick three-minute escape from the world we have to put a brave face in front of every day. My favorite artists, BTS, make songs that speak to my soul. Their music is my comfort zone, and they are my happy pill.

I wanted to ensure that I was doing something for my body as part of self-care too. It took some willpower at first, but doing a quick 10-15 minute workout makes me feel alive. I know I am doing something good for my body, which is very reassuring. I also try to eat dinner at 7, or before 8 at the least. I am able to sleep better and have an appetite for breakfast. Food is fuel, and I remind myself of that every day. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t eat junk food. The way I like to think of it, a nice dessert or piece of chocolate is food for my soul. As long as I don’t overindulge, it makes me happy and content without sacrificing my health. The key is balance, everyone.

I feel like face masks, and fancy serums are the cliché of self-care. But you know what? It’s for a reason. I take my skincare very seriously. This is the one thing that I refuse to let go of, even if there’s a zombie apocalypse happening. It’s not only good for my skin, but it is ten minutes of my day, twice a day, that I slow down and truly take care of myself. I feel comforted by the warmth of my own hands coaxing the products into my skin, making them glow in the sunlight. Skincare time is me time and nobody else’s. That’s what self-care is all about, right?

It’s easy to let oneself go during these times where we seem to live through historical events back to back. I tell myself that with each passing day, we are getting one step closer to normalcy. We can only move forward, and that is reassuring. I hope that you can find comfort within your own company by doing things you love. Self-care looks different for everyone, but once you find your path, you can travel through it with ease. As BTS said, life goes on.

Here are my favorite lyrics from “Fly To My Room” by BTS that make me feel a little less alone…

Better way,
I just found a better way…
Sometimes we get to know,
Broken is beautiful!
My body is light
And it flies somewhere far away.
This thing so surreal…