We’re roughly nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic and our “new” normal isn’t feeling so new anymore now is it?
Instead of going about our daily routines of our old lives, we’ve upended them entirely. Now, we’re at home googling the best mask brands, while many are working through the tremendous loss of our loved ones, friends, jobs, old pastimes, and so much more.
These times are terribly tough.
When the rules of life seemingly go up in smoke — as they have this year — it’s no surprise we are turning to vices to get through it. Whether it’s alcohol, marijuana, junk food, or something else entirely, we are overindulging.
So as we look ahead for the next few months (or, sadly, longer) of COVID-19 and the notorious decadence of the holidays, Sexual + Being is here to help you better manage your consumption habits and build a healthier you.
1. Identify the behaviors you want to change
To start this journey, you must look at your life as-is right now, pick the behaviors you’re looking to change, and explore the “why” behind your unhealthy choices.
What most specifically are you doing that you want to work on? It can be something as small as “I am eating way too much take out!” or something larger like “I am drinking way too much alcohol.” Once you have that answer, you can start your journey to better health.
2. Cut out the shame
Before we go any further, here’s a reminder: Do not beat yourself up for pandemic-induced changes in your habits.
We are living through unprecedented times and, as humans, it’s natural for us to take a greater hold of our comforts. It speaks to our need for a sense of control where it feels like we have none. As such, what we drink and eat and imbibe with are ours to choose, and that initially may feel like it puts us in the driver’s seat. In the long run, it doesn’t and we risk being driven by our unhealthy behaviors.
I get it because I am right there with you. Those extra glasses of weekday wine felt like something to do or an escape from reality … as did the sour Skittles and endless bags of Goldfish I’ve been snacking on incessantly since March.
Do not shame yourself for these changes. End of story. It’s a waste of time and it will defeat you before you even try to adjust what you’re doing. Focus instead on your self-awareness and the strength you possess in noticing it’s time to change. Those are things to be proud of.
3. Make a work plan
Once you have named the issue at hand and pushed past your ego enough to start working toward change, it’s time to start putting in the work.
To best set yourself up for success, come up with your overall goals as well as a list of personal steps you’re willing to take to become healthier. The keyword here is “personal” because you are the one who knows yourself, your triggers, and how you best succeed long-term. Taking a moment to think critically and plan will set you up for success.
For me, I work best when I remove temptation and eliminate things entirely. For example, I noticed I was often drinking during quarantine because it was something to do and I was bored.
A few months ago I made a personal promise to myself to strike out purposeless drinking on weekdays. That meant I would only drink alcohol on the weekends and, if I was to sip during the week, I had to have a legitimate reason or obligation. This small move proved transformative and helped me curb the senseless quarantine cocktails because it was manageable, tailored to me, and fairly easy.
Make a plan that is tailored to you. If you need help, reach out to a friend, loved one, or perhaps a medical professional to bounce ideas off of. Their guidance may make all the difference
4. Repeal and replace (your bad behaviors)
There’s a reason it feels like everyone has been baking bread and completing puzzles for the last few months: they, like you and me, are trying to fill their time with new hobbies.
What you may not see is the motive behind such changes. While some just love new diversions, I’d venture a guess that they are also using these moments to replace something else.
That is crucial in your journey to better health. Success in the long run involves you both scratching out the unhealthy behaviors and filling them with others that are better for you.
If you’re a smoker, for instance, quitting cigarettes is a goal that will only be tenable when you’ve figured out how to fill the time you used to spend taking smoke breaks. Finding a new outlet to channel the newfound energy from your old habits will prove crucial in your success.
When you feel like you’re depriving yourself, you fall off the wagon. Find new distractions.
Speaking of falling off the wagon, we need to round out this discussion with a dose of realism.
You are undoubtedly going to slip up and make a mistake as you work to manage unhealthy behaviors. We’re flawed by our nature and it will likely happen — I mean, do you really think I haven’t had some wine for no reason at all on a Tuesday post-promise to myself?
But, while I was upset for breaking a promise I made with myself, Wednesday was right behind me and offered a new opportunity to fall through. When you get knocked down, there is no use falling to pieces or lingering in your breakdown. Give yourself some grace and wake up tomorrow with renewed intention.
Before I go, one reminder: I am not a doctor or medical professional. These are simply personal tips that can help you get ready for a healthier return to the “old” normal before COVID-19.
If you’re deeply concerned about your drinking or something else, it’s critical that you reach out to your doctor or therapist. Unhealthy habits can spiral downward and they will be there to help. If you’re looking for more information, go to sexualbeing.org.