Happy New Year, Lova Babe! Out with the old and in with the new … or is it? 2020 was a challenge for a lot of us, and will continue to be a struggle into this new year.
New Year is often seen as a cleansing and a rebirth – a chance to start afresh with new resolutions and motivations. But unfortunately, it’s not that easy this time. Here in England where I live, we have already had two national lockdowns and a plethora of ever-changing rules. And while there are glimmers of light at the end of a very dark tunnel as vaccines are being rolled out worldwide, now – more than ever – it’s important to look after ourselves and each other.
Whether you’re here reading this for a boost of positivity, or to know you’re not alone in feeling these things — first, a quick reminder that you’ve made it this far and we’re rooting for you (!), and second, a few self-care tips and tricks to help you get through the rest of this pandemic!
Staying at home has meant different things for different people depending on their situations. Some people who live alone have had to lead a far more isolating existence, but even those who live with other people might have found themselves trapped in a toxic living situation. It isn’t just these extremes which have been difficult to navigate. Young professionals or students who live with parents may have found themselves feeling frustrated or irritated, just because of the nature of being locked in a house 24/7.
In the month of June alone, the CDC reported that almost 40% of adults in the US struggled with their mental health in response to various lockdowns and COVID-related issues. These conclusions are similar in the UK, too, with 65% of adults and 75% of young people reporting that their mental health has gotten worse over lockdown, exacerbating already present mental health struggles.
But it isn’t just those who have existing mental health issues who have struggled. Anxiety disorders tripled and depression quadrupled compared to 2019, showing the incredible impact of lockdowns on those who didn’t previously suffer from mental health issues.
People have felt helpless at a lack of control over their own lives. I myself have wandered my small apartment in the city feeling listless and at a complete loss of what to do. At the beginning of the first lockdown in England, I made a list of all the things I had previously been too busy to do – films and books and Netflix shows and hobbies. Social media was full of trendy things to do during quarantine, like baking and crocheting. I was determined not to let this free time go to waste.
And yet I did. I was lucky enough to be quarantined with my partner, but I was still locked away with my anxiety and depression. The days blended into one even though each day on its own seemed to last for weeks. I had no concept of passing time and with every day that I didn’t read an entire book or knit a scarf, I felt even more useless.
I also certainly never thought that during a time when I couldn’t physically see my friends, that I would still feel so socially burnt out by Zoom calls. ‘I’m here in body, not in spirit,’ I’d said very tongue-in-cheek to my intern supervisor on the third Zoom call of one week. There was something so very draining about putting on my best self for an hour online, only to end the call and for my smile to immediately drop. My social needs are pretty low and easily met by living with two other people. But there is still no virtual replication of getting a group of friends together over dinner and a bottle of wine. Zoom fatigue is so real.
Even having diagnosed depression and anxiety didn’t stop new issues from appearing. When the first lockdown was lifted, I became so anxious to leave the house or go anywhere alone. It was like teaching myself to be a functioning part of society all over again. But just as I was getting used to my freedom again, along came the second lockdown and I was mentally right back where I started.
Feeling this way is completely natural, and rest assured there are things you can do. Try and leave your house at least once a day if you can. Even just a walk around the block or to the corner shop will help more than you know.
I also found it soothing to turn off news alerts on my phone to limit the amount of media about the virus. The only thing I could control was how I reacted and dealt with the situation – knowing scary facts and figures meant nothing as I couldn’t do anything about it.
Establishing new routines is also helpful. Note when you will eat, when you will leave the house for exercise, when you will video chat or call someone you love, and when you will do something creative or something for the mind. We have gone from having everything in our life centered around jobs to suddenly working from home or being furloughed. Introducing a gentle routine will help you not feel so listless.
Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby (or the lack thereof)
Mental health doesn’t just influence your everyday mood, though. It also has the ability to affect your sex life.
With lockdowns and stay at home orders being issued globally, couples are spending more time alone with their partners than they have done in a long time. Sounds like a great opportunity for 24/7 sex, right? Well, not for everyone! In the UK, 60% of people did not engage in sexual activity at all over the lockdown period. In another study, 44% of people from different countries reported a decline in sexual activity and drive. Clearly, these results are ubiquitous regarding COVID-19.
Anxiety and stress surrounding the virus and our financial situations and jobs are huge stressors in libido and 2020 brought a lot of uncertainty around these factors. This is yet another example in the mental health domino effect.
It’s totally okay to just not want to have sex. Sometimes you might just not be feeling it for one reason or another. But if you and your partner are having arguments about low libido, then the best thing to do is talk about it. Consider exercises to boost your mental health or even therapy.
Cohabitation with your partner can be difficult, especially during a pandemic, and a decrease in sex doesn’t have to mean disaster. Maybe try more casual expressions of intimacy like a massage, a foot rub, or even just checking in on how they’re feeling mentally even if you’ve spent all day together. Intimacy comes in many forms.
These feelings are all completely understandable, and if you felt like you are the only person struggling with this, please know that you’re not alone! But talking to your partner about how you feel, and why, will do so much good for your relationship.
Looking Out For Number One
My self-care definitely took a swift dive off a cliff in the first lockdown. I was eating badly, not even leaving the house to exercise, and I felt trapped in a constant spiral about the state of the world .
Self-care has become so widely capitalized upon that the true meaning has been lost in a slew of spending money on products to pamper and indulge yourself. But really, self-care can just be the most basic of tasks. In 2020 I learned how self-care could also just be about drawing boundaries and writing down one thing every day that I was grateful for. Some days that would be food in the cupboard, other days it would be my supportive family. Whatever it was, it ended up being a good exercise to push past the wide and infinite uncertainty and focus on the small joys in the present.
Pampering is a nice way of practicing self-care, but please don’t feel like you have to spend money to take care of yourself. Even just getting out of bed and eating is the best form of self-care sometimes. Mental health is tough right now for a lot of us. Just try and do the best you can with what you have.
New Year, New Us?
It is so tempting to write off the entirety of 2020 as a freak year that started with the Australian bush fires and ended with a pandemic. But the virus doesn’t understand our human compulsion to start afresh once the calendar ticks over to 1st January.
Things have sucked this past year. And it’s totally okay to say that out loud. You are allowed to feel sad or angry that things have been different or that plans have changed. But these things won’t magically be fixed just because we are now in 2021. A new year doesn’t mean we forget that COVID-19 is still prominent. We must still be thoughtful and keep each other and ourselves safe. Wear a mask and limit your time in public spaces and around those more vulnerable.
Regardless of where we are all living in the world, COVID is something that we are all united in. Whatever situation you find yourself in, and whether you’re in a relationship or not, we hope you are still taking care of yourself, Lova Babe.
About The Author
Based in the UK, Darcy (@dxrcyer on Instagram) is a BA and Master’s by Research graduate in History specializing in medical history. Her work focuses on violence on the body, the evolution of public views on anatomy, and corporeal metaphors through time. This also includes the presentation of the female body and the expectations of female dignity before public execution. Darcy is also a self-taught digital illustrator and this fascination with anatomy is also found in her work which combines messages of body positivity and female empowerment.