The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all of us across the planet.
The news is relentless. The confinement can feel stifling. The fear and anxiety can be crippling. We’re all struggling with our varied emotional rollercoasters and the difficulties associated with being trapped at home while large parts of our economies are shut down.
And yet, as helping professionals, we may also be helping our clients cope with the repercussions of the pandemic on their lives, relationships, and emotional states. How do you balance caring for yourself while also caring for others?
If you’ve taken our Core Certified Sex Coach™ training program, then you know how highly we value self-care as an essential practice for a sex coach. Through self-care, you are able to keep yourself a clean container to help your clients. Self-care helps you stay mentally and emotionally healthy, helping to prevent burnout or overwhelm. And taking care of yourself first ensures that you can give your clients the best possible support.
The need for self-care is no less important in times of crisis. Indeed, it may be even more vital to the health of both you and your clients.
First Steps: Awareness & Acceptance
In one way, the current situation we find ourselves in seems to have happened rather suddenly. A month ago, no states in the United States were on lockdown. Now, more than half of all U.S. citizens are under some level of shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order.
On the other hand, two or three weeks of being shut in can seem like an eternity. Living with this new fearful reality is starting to feel like our new normal, and so the acute panic might be wearing off. We might think we’re doing okay, only to discover anxiety has quietly lodged in our subconscious, affecting everything we do. We might be experiencing difficulty concentrating, short tempers, forgetting things, making simple mistakes, and going into overwhelm. We may feel more tired than usual, but we may be experiencing more insomnia or nightmares.
Without even realizing it, the fear and anxiety is taking a toll on us and having an impact on how we show up for our families and our clients.
Have you experienced any of those symptoms this week? Be honest with yourself and shine the light of awareness on both how you’ve been feeling, and also on how you’ve been acting. Sometimes it feels more functional to suppress our emotions, but our actions will betray the truth we may be ignoring.
If you have been suppressing your fears, anxieties, and worries—that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up. Just accept that these feelings are normal, as is the desire to ignore these uncomfortable emotions or suppress them to be able to function. Take a deep breath and tell yourself, “What I’m experiencing is normal and okay, given the circumstances. I accept all of my feelings.”
Ground the Excess Anxiety
Anxiety, and its cousin, fear, exist for a reason. They are messengers, whose job is to keep us alive. The anxiety about catching COVID-19 while grocery shopping might actually help remind you not to touch your face. However, in times like these, it’s easy for our brains to go into anxiety overload.
Once you’ve acknowledged and accepted your anxious feelings, the next step is to ground the energy. There are numerous ways of grounding energy. Here are just a few ideas:
- Can you get outside away from other people? If so, find a patch of bare ground or a tree trunk and lay your hands on it. Visualize your worry and panic flowing out of your hands into the soil or the tree. Allow Mother Earth to absorb all of that energy. She can stand it and will recycle it. And if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of working with energy, look up the recent academic studies about the microorganisms in soil that actually help ward off depression and anxiety. That’s one reason why gardening is so therapeutic.
- If you live in an apartment setting in a crowded urban environment, you may not want to leave your home at all. Water has a good emotional and energetic grounding properties as well. You can do the same sort of visualization while holding your hands under running water, allowing it to gently rinse and carry that energy away.
- Hugging someone can help you ground your worry. A long embrace helps release oxytocin and other feel-good chemicals in your brain, which have a calming effect on your whole system.
- Living with pets? Whether you have other humans in isolation with you or not, if you have pets, you can gain the same sorts of benefits from interacting with them as from hugging your two-legged companions. There are many ways our furry family members help alleviate our stress.
- No matter who you’re sharing quarantine space with, masturbation is an excellent way of releasing and grounding anxious energy. Feel free to show yourself some self-love today.
Another aspect of self-care is learning to replenish yourself. Imagine that your inner stores of patience, compassion, understanding, and calm are a well. Every day, people and situations dip from your well, gradually depleting your resources. Eventually, if you don’t refill your well, you’ll run out. You won’t even have enough for your own needs, let alone the needs of those who depend on you.
So, what replenishes your well? It’s going to be different for everyone. Think of the types of activities that usually help you feel centered, calm, grounded, and happy. Maybe it’s exercise, or meditation, or sex. For some, cooking or gardening soothes the soul. Others may need to curl up with a good book and a hot drink for a while. Still others may need to spend some time on the phone or doing video calls with loved ones.
Whatever it is that works for you, do it. Regularly. Schedule this time into your new routine. Don’t skimp on your self-care.
Celebrate the Good
Also consider allowing yourself to celebrate the good. It’s okay to feel relief if you’re not having to be super busy, or for having the opportunity to smell the roses, literally. You can feel two things at once: worried about your family AND happy that you have the time to do some gardening, or work on that memoir project, or organize that pile of papers once and for all.
There are other positive things coming out of this pandemic, too. Yes, the fear, the economic upheaval, and the losses are/will be significant. But so are the changes that might make life better in the long run for so many. Can you find and focus on some of those?
Celebrating the good is another way to replenish your well.
Self-Care is NOT Selfish
Many people worry that taking time for themselves is a selfish act, especially when we’re in the midst of a crisis. But even those on the frontlines understand that you’ve got to squeeze it in or you risk collapsing or burning out. And then you’ll be no good to anyone.
Do you know the analogy of the oxygen mask on airplanes? If your cabin loses pressure, the oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling above you, and the flight attendants instruct you to put the mask on your own face first before helping others. This is because if you run out of air while helping someone else, you’ll both collapse.
It is only by taking care of ourselves first that we can hope to support those around us. So once you finish reading this, we encourage you to do something that cares for YOU. Release some anxiety and replenish your well. Do it now. Then you’ll be ready for the next thing that happens or the next person who needs you.
Continue the Conversation
How are you coping with this pandemic? How are you taking care of yourself? How are you advising your clients to take care of themselves? What are your best self-care suggestions during a crisis? We’d love to hear your thoughts and strategies. Please join us in our private Facebook group, Sex Matters, to continue the conversation.