You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup: Changing Our Perception of Self-Care During Isolation

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In this article Charlotte discusses how her perceptions/priorities regarding self-care have changed during the coronavirus pandemic for World Mental Health Day, and offers some long-term tips for looking after yourself as a student.

Before coronavirus, I thought self-care was not much more than what Instagram advertises it as: a commercial product or a hashtag such as “selfcaresunday”. Therefore, my perception was that self-care was doing a facemask to pass time on the never-ending Sunday evenings, and making yourself feel better or ‘cleansed’ after having one too many drinks the previous night.

Although I still think there is nothing better than a pamper night for a little pick me up when feeling low, my perspective on what it is to practice and be dedicated to ‘self-care’ has evolved. When lockdown hit, we were forced to spend more time by ourselves. Personally, it forced me to address my bad habit of neglecting looking after myself since coming to university.  

Therefore, I have compiled a short list of long-term self-care activities for you to practice to look after yourself at a time when everything feels so overwhelming and uncertain (which do not involve the purchase of an over-priced bath bomb).

  1. Be aware of the social media content you are consuming- Ask yourself ‘How do you feel after being on Instagram?’ Better or worse about yourself? I used to always come away from Instagram feeling pretty rubbish about myself and caught within the vicious comparison circle of thoughts such as ‘I wish I looked like her’ and ‘She has so many more friends than me’ which can be truly draining. One of the best things I did was unfollow all the people that made me feel bad about myself and instead followed accounts whose content was focused on positivity, reality, and wellness. We do not always recognise how much what we consume gets into our subconscious and makes us constantly compare our reality to someone else’s highlights reel.
  2. ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’– I know this is a slight cliché and sometimes when you are feeling down the last thing you want to do is tell anyone about it. However, having a cuppa with your flatmate or facetiming a friend can really help as vulnerability is often met with vulnerability and there will always be someone willing to listen and is often met with replies like: ‘yeah I felt like that the other week’ or ‘I’m also having a bit of a down day’ which is often oddly comforting as it serves as a reminder that these bad times will all pass.
  3. Learn your limits– Uni life can be hectic, what with different social groups, extensive reading lists and also trying to maintain relationships with friends back home and just generally surviving! It can often be hard to get enough rest and to completely switch off from the never-ending list of things to do. Therefore, one of the most caring things you can do for yourself and the people around you when you’re feeling drained (physically, socially or emotionally), is to admit that you need to rest and have a early night or a night in, rather than forcing yourself to go out! You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Header Image Credit: DIY Genius