As the “current situation” rages on, I’ve had an uncomfortable amount of time to reflect on my life. (Read: I’ve reached my weekly limit of dog walks and virtual happy hours.) This abundance of thought leads me to revisit my personal blog for some productive emotional processing.
Like any good speech or essay, I’ve condensed my random musings into three ways I’ve mentally benefited from this crazy COVID-19 quarantine. Hopefully it’s a springboard for writing more frequently and chipping away at my backlog of blog posts.
1) I can do a fucking pull-up now.
Since I started pole fitness in August 2019, I’ve been saved from debilitating anxiety in ways that therapy and meds never have. My friend Kadey sold me on the idea when she said that pole is about building community, getting stronger, and practicing self-love.
Every single day of pole has lived up to that.
Growing up, I was never the athletic or competitive type. In addition to being painfully shy, I saw myself as a lanky, clumsy, awkward nerd with glasses, braces, and overplucked eyebrows. I wasn’t exactly your first (or even second-to-last) pick for any sports team.
It wasn’t until reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset in May 2016 that I realized I was holding myself back with a fixed mindset, not low self-esteem. For 25 years, I’d mentally pigeonholed myself as someone who simply wasn’t capable of being sexy or physically strong.
This epiphany also came at a time when I started constructing and facilitating leadership trainings for non-profit organizations. Turns out, imposter syndrome (and even narcissistic personality disorder) are much more common than I thought.
If I wasn’t willing to adopt a growth mindset, how could I lead others to believe they had the capacity to change?
Admittedly it was tough to keep this in mind when stepping foot into San Francisco Pole & Dance for the first time. I felt “fat, weak, and ugly” but no one else was making me feel that way, just my own self-doubt. Very quickly I started having so much fun, there wasn’t time for these thoughts.
Everyone I’ve encountered in the pole community has made the experience approachable and enjoyable. I finally found a fitness activity I get excited about! And as someone who would never even attempt a pull-up, I learned that strength-building is a winding journey, not an inborn trait.
2) My anxiety has come in handy.
When my husband Scott and I moved to Denver in January 2020, I was set on finding a doctor that would reduce my dosage of Zoloft. Note: I previously discussed this with my San Francisco doctor, so please don’t take anything in this section as psychiatric advice.
In the midst of multiple rescheduled appointments, COVID-19 blew up but I was like, “Fuck this, I’m still doing it.” Perhaps I wanted to test my mental resilience during this pandemic, knowing I could always increase my dosage again if needed.
I’m happy to report it’s been a positive change so far, but only because of the previous work I put in. Going to therapy and taking anxiety meds over the past few years helped heal past wounds and equip me with tools for future mental battles.
Here are a few things I’ve trained myself to remember in the face of uncertainty:
- Social media is draining. Even if you have HOURS of free time, they don’t need to be spent catching up on other people’s lives. Do it out of leisure, not necessity or habit.
- Feel first. Process after. Instead of trying to analyze unknown feelings as they’re happening, I’ll ask for 30 minutes of me-time to let it all out then figure out what’s going on in my head.
- Evaluate the why. Whenever I’m stressed about not meeting my own arbitrary workout and diet expectations, I have to ask, “What’s the benefit of being so hard on myself?”
Obviously the lessons are different for everyone, but mine allow more forgiveness and love towards myself. At least that’s the goal. I want to be swole-as-fuck by the end of quarantine not at the cost of getting sick from self-imposed stress.
3) I’m afraid of asking for things.
Part of my mental health journey is trying to be more honest with myself. I’m constantly questioning whether I’m a “good” wife, daughter, friend, coworker, etc. (usually my answer is “no”) so oftentimes you’ll catch me engaging in appeasing behavior.
Is there anything you’re afraid of asking for?
My husband made me realize I’m terrible at articulating what I want. I strive to be low-maintenance as a partner and friend because I’m convinced it’s better than causing inconvenience. If I’m honest with myself, it’s that I don’t feel deserving.
For the past three years, Scott has been the primary chef in our household, but whenever he asks what I want for dinner, I’ll think of something he would want to eat, disregarding my own cravings. He finally sat me down and said he wants to cook for me, even if we’re eating two different things.
Since we moved, Scott had been growing out his “Colorado mountain man beard.” I kept saying I didn’t like it but couldn’t accept how much it was affecting me. Finally I blurted out that his beard turns me off, and he said of course he’d go back to being clean-shaven if it improved our marriage.
The question that keeps cycling in my head is, “Who are YOU, Stefanie, to ask anything of others?”
It scares me when I’m asked what I want, including acts of intimacy. I’m great at going along with someone else’s decision, taking solace in the likelihood they’ll be happier than me. But I forget that it can bring joy to others when they see me at my happiest.
Turns out, certain things are a big deal to me but insignificant to others. I thought I was an effective interpersonal communicator, but especially when quarantined with a partner, communication needs to be taken to the next level. It’s a work in progress… as is marriage in general.
It’s easy to block out thoughts and feelings that rise to the surface from quarantine by drowning ourselves in social media or virtual happy hours. I’ve found that this is an ideal time for self-reflection, especially for those of us whose days jobs are affected.
Another widely-observed benefit of quarantine is rediscovering old hobbies, kinda like this blog post. Scott, on the other hand, prefers being out in the community by collecting and distributing supplies for the homeless. I decided to be his chauffeur, bringing both of us joy.
I’m aware that my defense mechanism against anxiety is overt positivity, but not to the point of disillusionment. It’s served me well so far, and I’d love to learn more about how you are handling the stress of uncertainty and processing the learning moments that come from it.