$Monday: Make Space for Survival

Never underestimate the value of empty space. To stay virus-free, you need literal breathing space. To stock up your pantry, you need shelf space. To stay physically flexible and strong, you need workout space. To do anything meaningful, you need space in your schedule. To stay sane, you need personal space and the time to enjoy it. To eat something wholesome, you need space in your belly. To save money for the next emergency, you need a sustained, negative space between your expenses and your income--no matter how much you earn.

This is a critical time to avoid extremes. Invest in efforts to protect balance wherever you can in your life, because the national crises of pandemic, economic and supply chain disruptions, natural disasters fueled by climate change, and the rise of fascist ideologies are all continuing to ramp up. This winter, aspire to be a metaphorical fat bear with a den big enough for you to hibernate in.

However, literal human body fatness should be neither a goal nor an issue to obsess about at this time. There is a lot of toxic stigma surrounding human fatness, which should be avoided and discouraged. Your value as a person is not determined by your size. At the same time, in the case of Covid-19, excess body mass in and of itself is actually a risk factor for serious complications. If you can safely avoid or reduce excess body mass this winter, it's worth the effort. Make some space in the waistband of those sweatpants. Go for it. Just don't bother with unrealistic, ineffective, or unhealthy ways of losing weight, like self-abusive fad diets or working out too hard, which could do you more harm than good. This is not the time to push yourself to the max in any way. Strenuous exercise can cause serious Covid-19 complications. Take gentle care of yourself, avoiding both excessive indulgence in vices and excessive attempts at weight loss or athletic training. Keep a healthy space between your daily habits and any extremes.

Get enough rest and sleep, not too much. 

Take your meds as needed, but don't fall into a self-medication doom spiral. 

Do not convince yourself to take on any kind of voluntary debt, of money or sleep or self-control, that you think you will "make up later." This is just the beginning of a long, cold winter of hardship and tragedy, and the sooner you accept that, the better.

Identify indoor and, better yet, outdoor spaces where you can move your body in ways that are just a little bit challenging--where you can stretch, do gentle yoga or a fun exercise video, or go for a refreshing nature walk--a safe distance from other people who do not live in your home.

Health is better than money in the bank. Illness can be a devastating expense.

This is a challenging time for everyone. Refocus your emotional energy and personal time on those people who support your growth and who truly benefit from your care. Use this time of social distancing to prune away unnecessary drama, dysfunctional relationships, and patterns of interaction with family and friends that do not serve the mental and physical health of all those in the relationship. Commit to stop hate-following on social media and making efforts that aren't appreciated. Don't be unkind, remembering that mean people are usually suffering people, but do unfollow, unfriend, and block as needed, and set real-life boundaries around people and behaviors that aren't healthy.

Don't let feelings of financial instability push you to hustle too hard, complicating your logistics and setting yourself up for failure. Welcome a little bit of boredom, learn to sit with discomforts and anxieties, develop a taste for il dolce far niente, and shoot for a larger margin of free time than might have been necessary before the pandemic. Remember that as unexpected personal crises become more and more frequent, your community more than ever needs your presence and your availability.

Finding a space between your income and your expenses can be accomplished by obtaining more income, but it can be accomplished just as well by reducing your expenses. Do either or both in whichever ways are easier for you and less dangerous to your mental and physical health. Toughen up and learn to make do without hoarding. Soften and let yourself off the hook for obligations you can let go. 

If you don't have a comfortable financial cushion, don't be guilt-tripped into donating to every plea for help you see on the internet. Scams are on the rise, so reach out to protect your elders from con artists, and keep on the alert for yourself, too; some criminals use more sophisticated tactics than you may  have seen before. Also, alcohol and drug abuse are on the rise. Take care not to accidentally enable an addict with cash assistance. Be kind and generous but wise. Don't fall for the bad romance of victim-and-rescuer or martyrdom cycles. Set a good example of taking care of yourself and holding healthy boundaries. Only give what will do more good in someone else's pocket than in your own.

Make space for yourself to grow--spiritually, behaviorally, mentally, socially, and financially. Hold space in your heart, your mind, your calendar, and your budget to take care of yourself and all those you love and are loved by in return. Value your empty spaces as opportunities to heal and to be present. Keep a safe physical distance from others, as needed, so that more of us can be together after the pandemic ends.

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