With so much time yet so little freedom, quarantine has almost felt like “limbo.” If you’re like me, you probably felt–or still feel–emotionally, physically, and/or mentally drained. I get it; I’ve been there, and in some ways, I’m still there. But having spent so much time alone, I’ve found two things I’ve searched for my entire life: inner-peace and self-love. By sharing my experience, I hope that I can also inspire you to begin (or continue!) your own journey to finding positivity in so much alone time.
Staying home and being isolated from everyone outside of your household can be difficult; after all, most of us are used to being out and around others. I even fell into a spiral of loneliness and hopelessness; it felt like every struggle, both at home and throughout the world, only increased my newfound pessimism.
As silly as it sounds, I truly believed 2020 would be “my year.” I had just got a job and my own car (I was commuting to campus) when the shutdown began. Everything seemed to fall apart as I was suddenly confined to my home, and as an only child, I became very lonely and began to retrogress into a depression I once had in high school. It hurt more to know that my best friend plans to transfer from community college and move away in a year; this last year we have together was turning out to be one we couldn’t even enjoy. I also no longer had access to a gym, where I would often go both to relieve stress and feel better about myself, so my self-esteem took a big hit too. [bf_image id="q8p3d9-4likhk-73w0b5"]
Once summer started, I got a lot more free time. Ideally, I wanted to spend it writing and playing music, but I had little motivation. I wallowed in negativity and I desperately wanted things to return to “normal.” Then I noticed self-care posts popping up on social media, and as I read through them, I realized that positive change had to start not only with me, but within me. It’s not like I could erase or fix all the issues in the world, but if my life is mine to direct, why not at least write a better story for myself?
I knew that I had to address my sadness/loneliness, my self-image, and my pessimism. The hardest thing to do when you’re struggling with mental health is to open up about it, but I assure you, talking about it out can lift weight off your shoulders. So after shedding many tears, I spoke to my mom. She was very understanding and reminded me that I wasn’t the only one feeling that way. She also said that, with time, I could hang out with friends again (safely, of course), and seeing how sad I was, she stayed true to her word. In June, three friends and I socially distanced in a secluded park with masks on and, although it was a new and strange way to socialize, I was overjoyed just to be around them. My mom always told me never to take any moment for granted because you never know when things will change, and now more than ever, I see how right she was. Now, every moment I get with my loved ones only becomes that much sweeter.
In terms of my body, I had been grappling with my negative self-image and quarantine only gave me more time to dwell on it. Social media didn’t help either; I felt like I couldn’t compare to the popular standard of “beauty.”
Then I stumbled onto self-love tips, one of which was this: every time you feel bad about yourself, turn the negative into a positive, and encourage yourself. For example, if you catch yourself saying, “I’m so stupid,” or, “I’m ugly,” turn that around and instead say, “I’m trying my best and that’s ok,” or, “I’m a uniquely beautiful individual.” I’ll admit, it took some reminders for me to make this a habit, but my confidence really improved. I began to focus less on my “flaws” and instead focus more on self-care, treating myself to a sweet treat or a favorite movie whenever I felt down. So I may not have the body type most people or media consider “beautiful,” but I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter. As long as I love myself, who cares what others think? I am my own soulmate and that’s more than enough for me.
I believe positive change both at home and in the world starts with us individually. As I began to cultivate a new appreciation for my alone time while also cherishing any time I could safely spend with loved ones, I also began to notice how, despite the situation, some interesting global insights have arisen. For example, during the shutdown, fewer cars were on the road, which resulted in an ease in air pollution. Many places around the world saw natural phenomena like in India where the Himalayas were visible “for the first time in ‘decades,’ and in Italy where the canals of Venice appeared clearer and wildlife flourished. Although these positive changes may not be permanent, they have definitely brought attention to issues we may have previously ignored, environmental and beyond. Knowing this, I have hope that we can use whatever we learn during quarantine to create a better future.
With fall approaching, going “back to school” will certainly not be an easy task. But it’s important to remember that before your responsibilities at work, home, and even school, your mental health and well-being should come first. Although you may feel alone during this time–whether physically, emotionally, or both–I can assure you that there is someone out there who can relate. So whatever you may need to do to get out of the rut and find joy during this time, I say do it. Go for a scenic drive or walk, call up a friend, watch that TV show you’ve had on your list forever. Once you’ve achieved inner-peace and self-love, nothing can stop you. So whether you’re beginning or continuing your self-love journey, you got this!