Perhaps at a time when most people around the world are under some sort of lockdown instruction due to COVID-19 and physical/social distancing is being mandated, the idea of creating more space for yourself, when we are already so isolated, might seem counterintuitive. However, this change in our circumstances can still lead to feeling overwhelmed and anxious, and one thing that can help ease those feelings is to create some space for yourself. Creating space can help you both process your thoughts and emotions and it can also give you a break to just be with yourself and regroup.
For me, the mandated isolation didn’t really feel like it had an effect because suddenly I was bombarded with online appointments, virtual conference calls, and a constant stream of LIVE Instagram videos. Add to that my grad school classes which had just moved online and suddenly I found myself staring at a screen for at least 6 hours a day, non-stop.
Voices through speakers, earphones, and the computer screen were all getting a bit too much for me.
I found myself withdrawing. Even within isolation, I felt like I needed more solitude.
For the first week after our lockdown was announced, I eased up on my morning routine. I was waking up a bit later than normal and I wasn’t as diligent as writing in my journal as I had been before. I had shifted my usual morning meditation session to the middle of the afternoon, which just didn’t feel as relaxed. I wasn’t liking it.
That’s when I realized that I needed to create space for myself.
There were demands I had to meet and I still had to communicate with my family, with work, and with my clients, and I didn’t want to give any of that up. However, I knew that if I didn’t change something in my routine, I was going to burn out.
That’s when, once again, I found myself setting my alarm for 4:30 a.m. to restart my morning routine. Meditation. Journaling. A bit of quiet time to myself before starting the day.
After the first day of going back to my ‘normal’, I felt better. I felt more energetic, more patient, and more present with the work I had to do and virtual interactions I had scheduled for the day.
journaling at sunrise
This is when I realized how important it was to make an intentional effort to create space for yourself.
This is the case whether you are on your own at home or among many family members.
If you’re on your own, it can definitely get lonely. However, just moving through time with distractions is not always healthy. A lot of times distractions are a way of avoiding dealing with uncomfortable thoughts and emotions that actually need to be acknowledged on some level. This doesn’t mean that every moment needs to be spent in reflection and processing – that’s not realistic. However, being mindful of how you spend your time and ensuring part of that involves nurturing self-care is a way to still create space for yourself, even when isolated.
On the flip side, if you’re not alone, but you suddenly have family members in the house with you 24/7, no matter how much you love them, the extra presence, noise, and interaction can have quite an impact! This is especially the case because most people find it easier to care for others than take care of themselves, thereby depleting their own energy and putting their own needs on the backburner. It’s worth remember that you cannot be present for others without taking time to be present for yourself.
Despite the necessary isolation, there’s a balance to be struck between solitude and socialization.
Constantly catering to the needs of others – whether they are physically present in our space or it is connecting through virtual means – can be draining. In order to increase your ability to be there for others, you need to first learn how to be there for yourself. This involves learning how to create space for yourself to process your emotions, acknowledge your thoughts, and just exist without expectations or demands from others.
Creating space for yourself starts with figuring out what a calm, enriching space looks like for you. It could be an actual physical space – your garden, an armchair by a window – or it could be something that gives you the feeling of space – a meditation practice, journaling, your favorite playlist.
When you have this space – this space to just be and just breathe, it opens up the opportunity to get to know yourself better. It allows you to treat yourself with compassion and listen to what you are saying to yourself.
Here are some ways you can start creating some space for yourself:
- Learn to say no, without feeling guilty. I think this is a tough practice for many people, but I assure you, it gets easier with practice.
- Communicate your needs. This allows you to clarify your needs for yourself and gives those around you the opportunity to support you. If they don’t know what you want and need, they will not be able to help you.
- Develop firm boundaries. Understand how much you can take and accept and don’t give in to somebody else’s expectations and pressures. Setting boundaries is an important component of standing up for yourself and what you need.
- Practice self-compassion. Be gentle with yourself. Embrace your ‘imperfections.’ Don’t be guided by somebody else’s standards or ideas of ‘perfect.’ We are all going through a process of self-discovery and self-improvement. It’s okay to have a few missteps and learn as you go along.
- Listen to yourself. It’s easy to ignore our needs and suppress our emotions. Give yourself space to express yourself and listen to what you have to say. Your voice is important.
- Create practices that fulfill you. Whether it is a meditation session at sunrise or a midnight solo dance party, take some time to figure out what energizes you and refills your energy stores.
- Ask for help. Sometimes finding space for yourself requires getting a bit of help from others. You can reach out to someone you trust and who cares for you. There are also many online services available to help you care for your mental health and well-being.
While it is taking some time to navigate through and adjust to these new circumstances. The most important thing to remember is that you still need to take care of yourself. Don’t be afraid to take that space or ask for that space when you need it. Invest in yourself and your well-being. You’re worth it.