We all know the feeling. A new year starts and we are resolute. “This is the year I will take better care of myself”. Shortly thereafter, for many of us, life happens and we slowly start to lose sight of our promise to ourselves. Typically speaking, we just cannot find the time! From a skin care perspective, the consensus is that most patients want perfect, glowing, and youthful skin. This takes effort, consistency, and for most people, a great deal of time. It is after this realization that the inaction inertia begins. Rather than face the challenge of a multi-step skin care routine, we decide it might take too much time. Instead, we do nothing at all. The same can be said for many other lofty goals, such as routine physical exercise or clean eating.
What happens though, when we are presented with a situation where we do have the time? What happens when we are free to choose what we do?
COVID-19 has devastated the lives of many, and the shock has been felt all over the globe. Those who are quarantined are doing their best to help neighbors, donate to individuals on the front lines, and contribute by staying home. Even when trying to think of others, isolation and new found free time inevitably results in assiduous introspection. The outcome? A flurry of activity in the self care arena. For most of us who are working from home, we have more time than ever to better ourselves. Now is the time to try that recipe we never had time to make, or take up a musical instrument, or start reading for pleasure again, or reorganize your entire closet, or begin a new workout plan, or learn needlepoint, or hike that beautiful nearby trail, or finally move forward with that 15 step skin care regimen, or try a different face mask every night…..or maybe it is time to just do nothing. Yes, we are all struggling with indecision and no one is confident they are taking the right approach. Do we take advantage of time to relax and binge watch every TV series we never had the time to enjoy? Or is it wrong to relax during a pandemic, while first responders are risking their lives? Shouldn’t we be more productive? Should we do something more “active” and less “passive” with our extra time?
This question of advocacy versus complacency is plaguing the psyche of the world. It is not just manifesting in our personal lives, with what we are doing to stay busy or to take care of our skin. It is also affecting our perspective on the pandemic. How does the mind grapple with the decision of whether to take action, or to do nothing? Even in medicine, there are theories arising that suggest staying home and closing the economy cannot be credited with flattening the curve. Some epidemiology specialists, in Sweden for example, are hypothesizing that the vulnerable will get sick while the rest of the population gains herd immunity faster, and that is the reason we will slowly come out of this. Most experts, however, are urging the public to be wise and act in the best interest of the collective by sheltering in place and practicing strict social distancing. Do we do everything we can to stay home, only grocery shop once a week, wear a mask any time we leave our home, and avoid seeing friends and family for months? How much is enough?
In this unprecedented time, we are seeing many driven people, who seemingly always have their next move already calculated, navigating the uncharted territory of complacency, apathy, and resignation. At the same time though, we are also seeing incredible acts of kindness, charity, and creativity. Factories are shifting to production of necessary PPE, neighbors are delivering groceries to the elderly, landlords are freezing rent payments. The consensus must be that we do not give in to learned helplessness, regardless of how long we are still feeling the ripple effects of this virus. There is always something we can do, but at the same time, it is okay to take a breath and do nothing. Forgive yourself for not working out every day. Allow yourself to start a new skin care product, without either feeling guilty for indulging or not ambitious enough for only using one or two. Do what you enjoy. If you are not experiencing the same hardship as someone else, try to stay positive for them. Recognize that those that have been hit the hardest will need to be lifted by the rest of us in order to return to some semblance of normalcy. Many families, and our first responders, are seeing tragedy every day, and they will need us to help them carry that weight. Let’s all work together, while we are forced to be apart. Whatever you can muster is enough.