What seemed impossible a few months ago is now a palpable reality: the pandemic may soon be over. Unfortunately, however, the physical and psychological consequences of the worst public health crisis the world has experienced in more than a century will remain with us for some time to come.
From anxiety to the abandonment of our eating habits, returning to a so-called “normalcy” in the post-pandemic era will not be a simple matter — much less during the summer.
That’s why it’s urgent to redefine the outdated concept of the “hot girl summer,” or the perpetuation of unhealthy stereotypes that have subjugated women and men alike to a standard that has done more harm than good.
It’s time to practice self-compassion — after all, 1 in 50 people suffer from some form of body dysmorphic disorder, according to figures from the International OCD Foundation. Add to that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and the imbalance can be much more costly.
While some brag on social media about losing weight and achieving that “desired body,” others suffer in silence from eating and body disorders that are more difficult to manage in the wake of a global pandemic.
However, there are ways to counteract this pressure and keep our mental health in balance.
The answer? Body Neutrality
Healthline describes body neutrality as accepting your body for what it’s for (think of it as it is what it is type of mindset): “Your body contains all the vital organs that keep you alive and functioning. It also contains your mind, heart, and spirit — aspects that drive personality and self-identity, making you the person you are. Body neutrality promotes acceptance of your body as it is, encouraging you to recognize its abilities and nonphysical characteristics over your appearance.”
It makes sense to rationally separate the more romanticized “body-positive” we are accustomed to. While this is in no way saying that it is wrong to love your body in any shape, size, or form, why not take a step further to stop the pressure of it involving anything more (*ahem* those emotions) than what it is used for? “This movement aims to decentralize the body as an object by challenging the myth that the way you look drives your worth. It also creates room to step back from body conversations in general,” the same article of Healthline explains.
Now that we have the gist of it, let’s look into helpful tips on starting (or continue) to practice it.
Tip #1: Be mindful throughout your daily activities
This could be while doing anything. Be grateful you have the means and body to be able to do the dishes, to exercise, to pray, to read, to take care of your loved ones. Take it a step further and be mindful while you eat: be grateful your body digests and is nourished by the meal. Your body functions as healthy as it can to give you the energy to do your next task. Be mindfully grateful for the simple things we are so fortunate to be able to do. I like to practice this while I’m hiking — it’s sometimes challenging for me to get into the exercising groove. Still, while I am walking (and haciendo mis berrinches), I am also thinking how fortunate I am to be able to carry myself up those steep hills and feel the sun that is radiating vitamins into my skin.
Tip #2: Body Neutrality implies thinking of what your body needs
This tip from Insider resonated with me. They spoke to the psychiatrist and medical director Elizabeth Wassenaar who expressed to do this by pausing throughout your day and ask your body what it needs: “The more that you do that, the more that you’ll be able to develop that practice and become more tuned to your body and learn how to live at peace in your body. Your body will be more at peace because it’s getting what it wants or needs.” This could come into play while you feel hungry. Are you hungry, or are you bored? If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re bored, do something else. Think of what your body is asking for. Is it thirsty? Do you need to take the day off to reset yourself? Do you need to stretch out specific muscles? Often I will ignore my minor ‘inconveniences’ like a tight muscle. Still, lately, I have been learning to take the time to stretch a little more until it eventually becomes second nature and a response to what my body is asking for.
Tip #3: Find your inner peace
This might be the most important tip. For achieving body neutrality, in the long run, you have got to sit down and think of what brings you tranquility. How can you ease your anxiety to allow yourself to become more mindful? What steps can you take to get closer to your idea of inner peace? It truly is hard work to speak to yourself and learn how to love yourself better. But it isn’t impossible. It’s setting the time to figure yourself out and then putting effort into solidifying your goals. This will bring you closer to exploring body neutrality or being curious to do more self-love activities to levitate your daily moods and habits. It isn’t a secret that your mind is the most important thing to pay attention to.
Personally, the third tip is what works for me the most. Although, I do have curiosity and anxieties on how we will all “come out” of this pandemic as a collective. What will change? How are we different now? What disorders or insecurities will spike up? What changes will be noticeable in my friend and family’s mental state? But what eases these anxieties for me is that we can hopefully find our inner peace and collectively move forward with more compassion by exercising practices such as body neutrality by spreading these suggestions. So, here’s to hoping we come out of this darkness in a better mental state. We are all in this together!