About a month into my coronavirus quarantine, I saw a quote on Instagram from Australian dietitian @marikaday that really stuck with me. It read, “This is a pandemic. Not a productivity challenge. Not a weight loss challenge. If you make it out the other side alive and well, you win. That’s it.”
As someone who works in social media (and in the health and wellness world), I’ve always had a hard time stepping away from my feeds. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, though, it’s been more difficult to unplug. It’s hard to keep what I see on social media from seriously messing with my head.
Lately, my Instagram feed has been flooded with home workouts hosted by super-fit athletes, endless banana bread recipes from gorgeous bloggers, and a steady stream of fear-inducing news. The mix feels very unpleasant, and I can’t seem to turn it off.
To me, it seems that social media has become a place to promote being productive and healthy during quarantine. I feel pressure from Instagram influencers to transform my very small New York City apartment into a well-equipped fitness studio. I am overwhelmed with delicious “healthy” pantry recipes to make. I feel the expectation that I should somehow maintain my weight (or even shed pounds).
Whether well-intentioned or not, the internet has been telling me that not only should I keep my normal healthy routines during this pandemic, but I should do even better than before.
And, frankly, that just isn’t fair.
Note To Self: Quarantine Is Not A Competition
Since reading that @marikaday quote, I’ve worked on focusing on my personal well-being. Whether that be physical or mental, I’ve shifted to let my personal body’s cues guide me.
Though I still struggle with the mixed messages I see on social media, I’m now striving to find the routines and rituals that make me feel sane, in control, and kind to myself.
And if I don’t follow my new routines exactly? I cut myself some slack and remind myself that these are uncharted territories and weird times; that it’s okay to stray from routine, and that I don’t have to finally sculpt my abs and craft fancy meals every night for dinner to have a “successful” quarantine.
What’s Keeping Me Healthy And Sane These Days
If there’s one thing I’m learning in quarantine, it’s that there is no single correct, one-size-fits-all approach to getting through this pandemic.
Here what’s worked for me as I’ve navigated these strange waters.
1. Daily Workouts
I had a morning workout routine down pat pre-quarantine—and though I try to maintain it, I don’t put extra pressure on myself. If I had a late night or just am not feeling it in the morning, I give myself unconditional permission to skip a workout.
Most days, though, I try to lay out my workout clothes and choose a realistic workout routine the night prior. This way, the morning requires little work.
Some days my workouts leave me sweaty, energized, and fulfilled. Other days, my wine bottle “weights” just don’t give me the resistance I need and I finish feeling disappointed.
Either way, I give myself credit for starting my mornings with some kind of movement. And if it’s a day that I skip my workout, that’s okay too.
Read More: Can You Build Muscle Without Weights?
2. Nutritious But Realistic Meals
Before quarantine I meal-planned like crazy. I mapped out every recipe for my week, hit up multiple supermarkets to secure every ingredient, and spent hours prepping and packaging my food. It worked well for me. I found it easier to stick to healthy choices and knew I was doing my body good with a solid mix of proteins and veggies.
These past weeks, though, I’ve found myself needing to loosen the reins my meal planning and get a little more flexible with my cooking.
After one big grocery store stock-up, I decided to avoid my weekly trips as much as possible. I ordered pantry-staples and a case of wine (let’s call it self-care) online and signed up for deliveries of farm-fresh veggies from a local restaurant chain.
As a result, I’m pretty much winging it for my three meals a day. Not every meal is perfect, or interesting, or different—and not every meal has something green in it (breakfast today was just eggs and potatoes).
Without my rigid planning, I still aim for healthy choices, but do my best to be kind to myself when the night calls for just pasta and sauce.
3. Taking Breaks
While I used to reheat prepped foods and eat at my work desk, breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner have all become moments in which I can step away from work and just be with my thoughts.
Even if it involves just five minutes of frying eggs, these moments spent cooking make all the difference.
I’ve also been allowing myself judgement-free breaks throughout the workday to reset. Sure, some days I feel energized and productive, and don’t feel the need to take breaks beyond my meals. Other days, though, I feel antsy, anxious, and unmotivated.
On these days, I remind myself that I do not need to be a machine or pump out quality work every single second. If I’m feeling uninspired, I can take 20 minutes to stretch, watch a YouTube video, or run across the street to pick up my laundry. I’ve learned that being kind to myself doesn’t make me lazy.
4. Cutting Down On Screen Time
Without a commute, quarantine has meant two extra hours of potential screen time each day. At first, I found myself logging onto my computer earlier in the morning. I’d answer messages from co-workers late into the evening. The line between work time and personal time blurred.
Not only did this leave me stressed, but I also started experiencing headaches and dry eyes.
Recently, I’ve been setting clear boundaries around my work computer—and trying to limit my Netflix time. Some nights, I try to avoid screens altogether. Instead, I’ll try a more complicated recipe, take a long walk outside, or sit down with a book or magazine.
When I do allow screens into my personal time, I try to use them to interact with friends by catching up or playing games via video chat.
Even though we may think we have to live up to what we see on social media right now, I think we all need to remember that what we see on social media is never the whole picture. In fact, I’ve had friends reach out to me, expressing jealously over the food I’m cooking and workouts I’m doing. They don’t realize that my days are often filled with stress and anxiety, too.
Finding the routines and habits that work for me has been helpful—as has finding self-compassion when they don’t quite happen. After all, you can always plan on prepping perfectly curated meals and working out at the crack of dawn. But, sometimes, life has other plans for you.