Body Positivity & Mental Health Amidst COVID-19 Lockdown
By Saumya Khatri
The times we are living in are eerily resembling a dystopian movie where a deadly virus is killing thousands of people everyday throughout the world and the cure is yet to be found.
We can’t do anything except stay indoors, wash our hands frequently, not touch our faces and pray for those who have contracted the deadly virus. ‘Staying indoors’ has become the new trend contrary to what was trending a few months back. But is it as simple as it sounds?
Most of us would agree that the answer is ‘no’. Staying home is surprisingly a daunting task for our mental health, especially when there are millions of lives at stake and uncertainty has engulfed our future. We see ourselves in the mirror wearing the repetitive set of t-shirts and pyjamas and wonder what has life come to. The undone eyebrows, the breakouts and dark circles due to irregular sleep schedules and the muffin top tummy doesn’t make things easier.
Body image issues are not new to us but they used to cause breakdowns less frequently than now. We all know the correlation between our mental health and body image issues. You cannot be mentally fine if you do not feel completely fine in your own body. Body positivity was easier to practise when we were stepping out, getting ready and had less time to look at the mirror and point out the flaws.
Increased social media hours just add to the problem. Like when you see people being ‘productive’, putting up pictures in their regular clothes, messy hair and no makeup and still managing to look pretty. It is not easy to look at all those workout videos and nutritious meal photos being uploaded by people while you find getting out of the bed difficult and don’t feel like cooking anything except Maggi.
I know a friend who used to love gymming, not because she wanted to lose weight but because it made her feel she has done something good for her body and gave her a sense of relief. I know a friend whose friend loves to experiment with makeup, to quote her, ‘makeup gives me a sense of self’. Another friend of mine told me yesterday on our bi-weekly Zoom calls that she feels sorry for her new clothes, she was about to experiment with a new look with an entirely new wardrobe this summer. Another friend who joined us on our call told me she had planned to join the swimming club this summer in order to get a toned body but that plan sank even before she could get inside the pool. Her boyfriend wanted to get his entire arm tattooed this summer but who knows when tattoo parlours are going to open, evidently that is not an essential service. Then I recall how we all complained about our hairy arms and legs and even tried to compare our upper lips. Someone also made a joke which was painfully funny – the salon visit after the lockdown is going to be more painful than our last break ups.
For a generation which has constantly been oscillating between accepting our own selves and running after our perfect self, it is not easy to face our bare skin everyday in the mirror. The hedonistic pleasure that clicking aesthetic pictures of ourselves can hardly be achieved through your messy hair selfie. Everyday in quarantine is a gentle reminder of how clumsy our body is and how far we lie on the beauty scale from the acceptable standards of beauty. The realisation of our actual ugliness just adds on to our already existing anxieties caused by uncertainties.
For a problem as grave and recurring as this, there is not a pill that you can swallow and get over with it. It is your mind which needs to be reminded and trained in such a way that can deal with dark and inappropriate thoughts caused by body image issues. Practicing body positivity is one of the ways to deal with it but again, it requires time and there will be times when it will seem next to impossible to think about your body positively. We need to ask more important questions, questions about lookism, set standards of beauty and the politics behind it. We need to take our mental health in account when we measure productivity. One does not need to workout the same way others are doing it, one doesn’t need to work 24*7 just because it’s WFH, one doesn’t need to cook fancy dishes everyday. One only needs to practice what according to their mind and body allows. Do a mild workout or some yoga, cook a simple salad and work when you please.
Take time out for yourself, read, write paint or just lounge simply. Watch movies, star gaze, dance or nap at odd hours if you want to. Your mental health is dependent upon your comfort within your body and vice-versa. It’s okay to feel a bit annoyed by how you look because it is maybe the first time you are looking at your raw self, but remember you are not alone in this. Millions of other people are facing their raw bodies for the first time too, they aren’t pleased too, and it’s okay for them to do so too. Be kind to yourself and others, it will help you get through this.