For the time being, it seems the novel coronavirus may be losing its grip on Seattle. With a careful eye on case numbers, lawmakers have begun taking steps to return our cities to normal. Beginning this month, Washington State began the process of Phase 1 reopening. However, for others, self-isolation has just begun.
This week, officials stated that it’s unlikely all counties, especially urban centers, will meet the criteria to enter Phase 2 on June 1st. People with immunosuppressive conditions, older Americans over the age of 65, and others also remain at high risk for contraction of coronavirus, and will remain at home until further notice. What will they do in the interim? For some, the answer is self-improvement.
Seeking Self-Improvement While Social Distancing
In self-quarantine, “I just haven’t got the time,” isn’t an excuse anymore. We’ve got nothing but time on our hands! For some, shelter at home orders have inspired bursts of self-improvement. In an effort to battle anxiety, boredom, and lack of productivity, Americans have begun learning new skills. One popular language learning app has reported a 200% increase in usage, while others have seen a 50% boost in new sales. At-home workouts have also received more traffic, with YouTube yoga guru Adriene Mishler reporting her largest ever jump in subscribers.
Working towards these personal goals is not only admirable, it’s good for you, too. In an article about improving your mental health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness issues several recommendations. These include participating in activities that make you happy, managing stress through exercise and meditation, and trying something new. The article’s author, Chelsetia Davis, describes these novel undertakings as “an investment in yourself.” She’s set goals of becoming a pescatarian, trying new foods, and going water skiing, which she touts as a way to “keep things fresh.”
The research backs this up. Some experts say that like learning, self-improvement should be a lifelong pursuit. It can increase your self-awareness, enhance your strengths, and push you from your comfort zone. These factors help you to create a greater understanding of yourself and others, laying the groundwork for solid mental health, improved motivation, and lasting relationships.
However, like all aspects of life, even self-improvement can be harmful in excess.
The Cons of Constant Self-Improvement
The desire to live well isn’t a bad instinct – it’s adaptive. Human beings are designed to learn and grow throughout our lives, and if we stagnate in this process, it can leave us filling empty and unfulfilled. However, it’s possible for some individuals to become obsessed with self-improvement, especially if they have a history of addictive behavior.
Danish psychologist Svend Brinkmann has begun to speak out on the culture of constant personal optimization. He says that this process is one without end, explaining that “you can never say, ‘Now I’ve realized my full potential. Now I am actually the best version of myself.’” When left without limits, the relentless pursuit of perfection can exhaust even the most ambitious person, leaving them dissatisfied with themselves. This is why it is critical to set realistic, small goals for yourself, rather than cumbersome and vague ones.
He also points to the most commonly held thoughts of individuals diagnosed with depression or anxiety, explaining that these feelings can be exacerbated by a culture of self-improvement: “I’m not good enough, I can never be good enough, it’s my own fault why I’m not good enough.” Without careful consideration, it’s possible to jeopardize your mental health by obsessing over the ideal of perfection. This is best exhibited by people with orthorexia: an eating disorder that hinges around an obsession with healthy eating. In these cases, individuals have gone past healthful changes and actually damaged their own well-being by compulsively checking nutritional labels, cutting out an increasing number of food groups, and exhibiting distress when “safe” foods aren’t available.
Dr. Brinkmann asserts that there’s so much pressure in modern society to perform and exhibit productivity that people simply don’t have time to recharge. Perhaps we’re seeing a microcosm of this within self-quarantine; individuals have been given time at home, and instead of resting, we’re still continuing the grind towards self-improvement. So what is a normal amount of personal growth, and what is pathological? The key is to find a healthy balance.
Improving Yourself in a Healthy Way
Fortunately, Dr. Brinkmann’s fears don’t have to become a reality for all of us. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to self-improvement, effective journeys often share a few key components.
Gradual Pace – Change doesn’t happen overnight. Instead of trying to overhaul habits immediately, plan small steps that you can take in order to achieve your goals. For example, if you’d like to exercise regularly, decide what clothes you’ll wear, which days you’ll work out, and how you’ll hold yourself accountable.
Set Goals – To avoid overdoing it, set attainable, realistic goals for your self-improvement journey. This will keep you motivated and provide guidelines along the way.
Plan for Obstacles – The best laid plans are often affected by outside factors, such as the pandemic, the availability of equipment, or even weather. By planning ahead for these occurrences, you can ensure that you remain flexible in new routines.
Check in with Yourself – Self-awareness usually comes from three areas: physical, cognitive, and emotional. When you’re able to check in with yourself in these ways, you’ll uncover important information about how your new habits are affecting you. For example, are you energized by these new activities, or do you dread them? Do you feel stressed or anxious about not meeting your goals? If your check-ins reveal negative emotions, consider modifying your approach to self-improvement.
Become Your Best Self at Lakeside-Milam
If you want to change your life, there’s no better time to start than now. For those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, it’s important to seek care from an accredited, evidence-based facility, rather than trying to do it all yourself. Lakeside-Milam offers comprehensive addiction treatment tailored to your history and needs. For more information, contact us today.