By now, we know the precautions to slow the spread of Covid-19 have taken a toll on social lives, work habits, daily routines and mental health – and the virus remains an unsolved threat. As the world adjusts to its current state of affairs, the phrase “new normal” is getting thrown around quite a bit.
But what is the “new normal” and how do you adapt to it? That depends, largely, on who you ask. For some, the new normal includes more time spent talking to family and friends, while others are throwing themselves into art projects or meditating and connecting with themselves on a deeper level.
We spoke with four Washingtonians on a group Zoom call: Sense Salon and Gallery’s owner Erin Derosa, chiropractor and integrative life coach Dr. Darrien Jamar, event and wedding planner Andrew Roby, and photographer Farrah Skeiky, also the creative/culture director of The LINE Hotel. It was clear to these District Fray writers post-interview that to get through and thrive in our new normal, our lives will have to involve a lot of self-care and (virtual) human connection.
Seeking Self-Care. Long before social distancing became a way of life, the idea of cultivating self-care practices was tossed around friend groups, social media and even in places of employment. But what does that really mean? Vague platitudes often conjure images of expensive retreats, products and carefully curated Instagram feeds showing followers just how balanced one actually is. But now that some of those things are out as options, and we’re all spending much more time with ourselves, self-care looks different to everyone.
“When I look at self-care, I think of things that have no monetary value,” Roby explains, noting that at the heart of his practices lies the idea of getting back to his happiness, in whatever simple form that may be. “I think of self-care as being able to take a bath and just sit there and clear my mind, and maybe have a glass of wine or some whiskey. I think [of it] as meditating, and really just understanding my peace of mind.”
Jamar also notes that meditation is an important part of his practice, as is slowing down and moving away from the rush of things that was so common for all in prior months. Currently, he’s honing in on a new self-care strategy relative to how much news he consumes.
“I watch the news twice a day,” he says. “I don’t watch it an hour after waking up, or an hour or two before going to bed, and I watch it for about 10 minutes. So that way, it’s not the first thing I’m thinking about when I wake up, or the last I’m thinking about, and that’s been very, very helpful.”
For Derosa, self-care has consisted of giving herself permission to use time in a way that will serve her best and ultimately, create happiness.
“[Before], I was taking in what was happening around me so much that I was barely listening to myself,” Derosa says. “This time has been so incredibly meaningful for me to literally just do what I want to. Just having that kind of wherewithal to say, ‘I don’t have to go outside even though it’s sunny and nice. I can stay in and read a book or fill my time with whatever is meaningful for me.’”
In a similar vein, Skeiky’s definition of self-care can take on many forms, but at the crux of it is this: “Self-care is the verb of self-love. It’s really just saying, ‘How do I put into action loving myself, [and] reminding myself that I value my time and deserve nice things?’”
“As a couple of other people said, it doesn’t have to be trips or bath bombs or things like that,” she continues. “It could be as simple as saying, ‘Yeah, I’m home, but today I’m going to dress up and do the opposite of casual Friday. I’m just sitting around my house and I’m wearing lipstick, and I deserve that just to feel good.’ If it makes you feel good, it’s self-care. If it feeds your soul, it’s self-care.”
Connections in the Time of Corona. In a time of hyper connectivity, it seems we have never felt more alone than we do right now due to lack of physical connection with those we love and care for. Video calls and virtual interactions now hold so much more value than they used to as the only reprieve from the constant loneliness we are collectively facing. Now, staying in contact with people in any and all ways is a reprieve from the constant loneliness we are collectively facing. From Zoom happy hours and FaceTime dinner dates to sending snail mail and posting on Instagram, people are finding surrogate connections and maybe even building deeper bonds than they had previously.
“Before it was always, ‘I’ll FaceTime you when I find time,’ and now I get to talk and catch up with everyone,” says Derosa on reconnecting with friends. “I’ve felt good about having a pause in time.”
Those who own businesses that depend on in-person interactions are also finding new ways to connect with clients on a personal level. As an events and wedding planner, Roby has increased his online activity to maintain relationships with followers and check in with them, while also letting them see a more intimate side. Instead of posting with hopes of netting business when everything resumes, Roby is opening up about his feelings and asking followers how they are coping in turn. These posts are not necessarily optimistic affirmations, but rather a raw look at what Roby and his team are going through.
“We’ve been saying, ‘Look, today is a day we cried, today is a day we got pissed off, but today was also a good day because we got photos back from an event we did or we landed a new client,’” Roby says. “There’s a difference between being positive and not being real.”
Some businesses have been able to remain open, but operations and interactions have transformed. Though Jamar’s chiropractic office is still operating, light banter with clients has evolved into deeper discussions about what they’re struggling with.
“[I’m] listening to how people have been adapting to the situation in their own homes, especially people with families and kids at home,” Jamar says, reflecting on a particular client who is attempting to form a deeper bond with their teenager. “[I’m] just trying to help people navigate the situation and figure out what they can control, even though there is so much that’s out of our control.”
Being present for others in any capacity will help us get through this. Something as simple as letting another person know you’re thinking about them can improve their day. Whether you send a handwritten letter, send a text to a friend or connect with others on social media, these small actions create moments of happiness. In a post-coronavirus future, we hope to take these lessons with us and continue to spread joy whenever we can and not forget the times when we could only communicate from afar.
“We’re going to remember the people that made this time less scary and less isolating for us,” Skeiky says of the future. “I don’t think [people] are going to let us go back to normal, because I don’t think we can. We didn’t learn anything if we do.”
For more information, follow our interviewees on Instagram.
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