• Tshepang Pooe

Coping with Emotional Struggle During Coronavirus

Hey sis!

I hope you've been keeping well. I wanted to reach out to you today to tell you about how I've been doing these past few weeks. It hasn't been easy, but I'm also really privileged to be safe and healthy. I wanted to let you know that whatever you're going through, you're not alone.

I've had my own share of the motions since this pandemic really landed in South Africa. I'm so grateful to be spending this time surrounded by the love of my family, but the lifestyle at home has stark differences to the lifestyle I lead when I'm by myself, so I have experienced some challenges. The reason I want to share these with you is to help anyone who is struggling with their feelings, either by being confused by their emotional experience, or questioning its validity. Whether or not we've been dealt the worst hand in this situation, this change in pace is bound to affect us, in unique ways, at some time or another. So remember that you're allowed to feel whatever you're feeling, and your feelings are valid.

In addition to sharing my experience, I also thought it would be great to share some podcast episodes that have really helped me understand why I've experienced certain feelings. I hope that they'll be able to provide you with some relief too.

Alright sis, let's jump right into it!

In this post you will discover...

. the challenges I've been facing during lockdown

. podcast episodes to help you feel better

. the 2 things I'm grateful for during this time

Finding emotional space in slowing down

This time of extended slowness and possible solitude is giving us all the emotional space that we so lack in our everyday lives. Because of this all the feelings that we consciously or unconsciously run away from are finally getting some airtime. I'll tell you about some of the things that have been popping up for me.

Since one of my core characteristics is perfectionism, my core limiting beliefs mostly stem from self-imposed standards. These include: my productivity level, how well I'm eating and exercising and even sometimes whether or not I'm waking up at the same time every morning. Any area in my life where I feel like I'm not reaching the bar I've set for myself is highly likely to make me feel really terrible about myself.

Another thing is that I also value myself based on how much meaning I derive from the things I've been doing. Why I'm telling you all of this will make sense in a moment.

I just want to note that in stating these limiting beliefs of mine, I don't just take them as they are. I'm aware that it doesn't serve me to attach my self worth to external factors. Yet I am a work in progress, like the rest of us. So I'm giving myself grace to meet myself where I am right now.

My emotional challenges

So I've just told you about the relationship between slowness and our emotional state. I've also shared with you some of my core limiting emotional beliefs. I've spoken about these on the blog before, but if you need a refresher you can just click this link to learn what limiting beliefs are.

When the whole pandemic started getting serious in SA, I was quite chill about the whole thing. I was still living by myself in Joburg and was working from home. I focussed only on what was in my control, which is washing my hands and pretty much just staying in the house, and I was not watching the news. Emotionally I was rather unaffected, because I knew my family was well and my life was pretty much continuing on as normal.

But things started shifting when I left my little bubble and came home. Before I go on, let me paint a picture of what life has been like at home. My family is pretty traditional, which is quite different to how things were while I was growing up. To make the picture clearer for you, I'm a member of quite a big blended family. It was just my mom and me for a while until she got married. So when I say 'traditional' I mean in the sense that the women in the house are expected to do all of the domestic labour. This is just a cultural norm, but I especially feel it when I'm at home. It becomes a problem for me when I get roped in and have to be part of a system that I think is completely unfair. It's not that I just want to sit around while everyone else works, it's just that I can't turn a blind eye to the inequity and limitation of it. This has been the first source of inner conflict for me these past two weeks, which brings me to my first challenge:

1. I can't turn a blind eye to the patriarchy

Not to say that the men in the family don't add value, but it just seems to me that the women are carrying the household. My mom works so hard looking after her little baby, whilst also working her full-time job if I might add. On top of that, she's also got to do her fair share of cleaning in the house and cooking when she can. It all seems like too much weight for one woman to carry (my step dad has been great with looking after my baby sister in the afternoons; I've loved to see him step up in this way.) And as for me, I've had about two days in these past two weeks where I've felt downright overwhelmed by the workload of domestic chores. I've wondered why it is that I had to be born a woman and be subjected to this. The feminist within me really struggles to accept what she considers to be unjust, even if she knows that the situation is only temporary. I've had moments of feeling really disgruntled because of having to do this work because I'm a woman in this family. It really makes me feel like jumping right out of my skin.

Before we go on any further, I don't want you to get the wrong impression. Domestic labour is important and highly valuable. And there's nothing wrong with women doing the house work and men doing whatever they do. I just disagree with the rigidity of patriarchal gender roles that so often leaves women feeling like they have no options. We do have options, and it's our right to exercise them.

2. Feelings of worthlessness

Again, because of all the cleaning and cooking, I have experienced a real sense of worthlessness. As I mentioned earlier, one of my core limiting beliefs is that my worth is directly determined by my productivity. Even through domestic labour is productive, it doesn't feel productive to me because it's not what I'd like to be spending my time on, and I don't derive a sense of meaning from it. This has made me feel like I just spend my days doing work that adds no value to my life, which has made me feel pretty bad about myself. It took me a couple of hours to decode my feelings and understand that my self-limiting beliefs were really being triggered by the situation around me.

3. Diet struggles

In the past few days I've also felt a bit defeated concerning my diet. I've adopted a slight "whatever" or "laissez-faire" attitude when it comes to eating. This is really making my inner perfectionist freak out, and is also shifting my body perception in a not-so-nice way.

Because of the constraints of the lockdown, and also because we have an old fridge that's giving up on us, we run out of fresh food pretty quickly. This is literally a huge portion of what I usually live on! I mean, yesterday I cannot even remember eating a single fruit, which is like major for me. I probably sound like I have major first world problems right now. But this is the truth for me at the moment. Not having access to the foods which keep me healthy has lead me to feel super uninspired. I could still be a bit resourceful and try to make healthy meals with the dry stock that's available, but I just haven't been feeling up to it. My skin is breaking out, and I can't help but blame myself for it because " I could be eating more healthily." And because of this, whenever I look at my body in the mirror, I can't help but notice all the things that I would like to change. If I was eating as I usually do, I know I'd feel a bit better about my body. This is also another one of those "I know my worth shouldn't be attached to external factors moments". But this is reality right now.

All the things I've been loving about this time

I definitely don't want to sound like a Negative Nelly, because I'm not. If anything I'm more like a Positive Penny who has an off day here and there. I didn't want this just to be a post with all my complaints! So here are some things I've really been enjoying:

1. Down time

I've actually been deep diving into a book I've been trying to read for over a month! And it's been so good. I can sleep and wake up whenever I want to, which is so refreshing. Since I started work, 3 out of 5 mornings I'd wake up super early to try beat the Sandton traffic (which I defs do not miss).

2. Family time

I'm sure my body is so much more full with oxytocin (the love hormone) because of the bonding time I've had with my mom and sister. Although there are major perks to living alone, I would much rather be surrounded by the people I love every day. This is such a bonus and I'm super grateful.

And now, some resources to support you

As promised, here are two podcast episodes that should help to clear the emotional mess (if you're feeling like things are a mess), or simply give you insight into others' emotional experiences during this time. They are both fairly recent, so they should be easy to find.

1. Hey girl by Alex Elle, ep: "Terra on Mindfulness + Self Awareness"

I loved this episode because it reminded me about a simple tool that's available to all of us: mindfulness. Alex and Terra also just have such beautiful and easy voices to listen to, you feel like you've just been given the best hug ever. Also, I love listening to black women speak. It makes me feel represented, which is important.

2. Deliciously Ella, ep: "Coping with the Current Uncertainty"

This was amazing, firstly because I love Ella, but also because the expert insight was really useful. On this episode, Ella interviews a psychotherapist, Anna Mathur, who explains why we are struggling in this situation. It really put things into context for me, helping me to understand my feelings. Most importantly it helped me to embody that my feelings are valid.

Alright sis, that's it from me today. I hope you'll give these episodes a listen, it will really be worth your while. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and please share this with a sister who you know will benefit from reading it!

Remember that you're not alone in this. And always offer yourself grace.

All my love

Other posts you might like:

Healing anxiety: an ongoing journey

10 Self love rituals to make yourself feel good

Let gratitude be your guide

#emotionalwellness #mentalhealth

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