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  • Cecily Sakai, PsyD

When Just Getting By Is Enough

Meditating, going for a jog, reconnecting virtually with family and friends, drawing, taking a warm shower, playing board games, journaling, doing yardwork, and baking are just some of the self-care activities you figured you ought to be doing to weather this corona virus storm. It’s true, self-care can help mitigate feelings of distress and activate certain parts of your nervous system that produce a greater sense of calm. And of course, taking care of ourselves helps us to take care of those around us. So, it is beneficial to engage in self-care during stressful times. But you already knew that, so why is self-care so hard to do when you know it’s precisely what you should be doing?

When emotions such as stress and anxiety increase, the amygdala (our fear and emotional processing center) begins working on overdrive. With this survival system activated, we begin to rely on primal functions that help to quickly react and protect the most basic parts of ourselves. Making sure that we’re able to secure basic needs such as food, clean air, and a roof over our head, (and of course toilet paper), may take priority over self-care. The thought of engaging in self-care may begin to feel like more of a luxury while self-preservation may feel like more of the priority.

If you’ve been in a state of high stress and unable to engage in self-care, know that it’s ok. You’re ok. You’re reacting to what’s needed of you in the moment, which may be something other than self-care right now. What you’re doing by just taking care of yourself in the moment, even if that’s doing nothing at all, may be engaging in self-care.

Sometimes the pressure and expectation to “do self-care” may not be conducive to taking care of your needs. The judgments that we have of ourselves for not doing what we think we ought to be doing often creates greater distress than our original feelings of distress. There is often a social pressure to be ok, to improve, to perform, to be resilient. Presenting to the world as ok is what’s encouraged, praised, and rewarded. But also know that there is a time to “do”, and there’s a time to “just be”. It’s possible that not doing self-care is actually self-care. If all you can do seems minimal, do just that. Just that, is enough. Relish in the relief you may feel when you listen and respond to your emotions, intuition, and body. Do what you need to do for you in this moment. That is enough.

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