LEIGH CAMPBELL: It’s okay if your usual methods of self-care aren't cutting it right now.

I landed back in Sydney after 12 days in South Africa last weekend, just before the government enforced two seek self-isolation for anyone who had been overseas.

Being in South Africa, now that I’m home, was bliss (perhaps ignorant, but bliss nonetheless). There wasn’t one case of COVID-19 over there when we departed and 13 by the time we got back. No one really talked about it, save a few Aussie tourists if you got chatting at a restaurant, and if they did, they were calm. The supermarkets were fully stocked with tissues and toilet paper.

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I returned to Sydney to live with my family while my apartment is renovated. Living with my family means sharing a house with my parents, both of which are elderly and one of which has terminal cancer. So although I haven’t technically had to stay at home this week, I have done so anyway. It’s the right thing to do by my folks and the general community.

It means I have spent a lot of time watching the news and scrolling my phone. And what I’ve noticed is that some people, and brands, are using self-isolation and social-distancing to tell us to use this time to do a face mask, or take a bath, or bake organic sugar-free blueberry muffins.

Which is well-meaning. And great… if doing so helps reduce your worry and anxiety right now.

But it’s also absolutely fine if it doesn’t.

I make a living out of recommending beauty products to people and I also have a baby, so ordinarily, I am the first person to tell my mum friends to have a long hot bath with a sheet mask on after a long day of wrangling screaming toddlers.

But the way a lot of us are feeling right now isn’t the same as we felt a little while ago. The anxiety of this week can’t compare to a touched-out mum come 6 p.m. or to scrambling to meet an impending work deadline by Friday.

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This week, my mindset has swayed from anger when I see people stockpiling toilet paper and hand sanitiser, to worry about my parents’ vulnerable health during the pandemic, to nervous anticipation when I think about what this might mean for my household’s income and the ramifications of that.

These feelings are real. I can feel them physically, and they are in people’s chests and stomachs all over the nation. So I feel a little gaslighted when I’m told to take a bath, or use oils or a clay mask to bliss out and take my worries away. Sometimes skincare just doesn’t cut it.

Many of us at home are trying to juggle kids and work, so there’s not actually more time, there’s seemingly less. The juggle is harder. The days seem longer and the space is smaller and all of that gets to you after a while. The news churns out the same scenes of disgraceful people fighting in supermarkets. All of this raises our cortisol and makes us stressed, wired and anxious. And I’m sorry, but baking chocolate brownies isn’t going to make that go away.

I really hope brands trying to spruke their wares don’t use the current state of affairs to do so. I’ve seen some doing so already and it’s pretty gross. Of course, I understand that small business is struggling right now and my heart goes out to the owners, but cute slogans and snappy catchphrases that use the pandemic as marketing are totally tasteless. Instead, tell us who you are, what your products are all about and make us care enough to support you. That’s how we’re all going to get through this together.

I’m using this time to engage in the less glamorous side of self-care. The stuff you don’t see on Instagram. I’m calling my psychiatrist to see if I can get an appointment with him, be it in person or over Skype. I’m making sure I have enough of my medication to keep me mentally well. I’m doing research to educate myself on the T&Cs of my home loan and talking to my partner about our financial plan in the coming months.

If a face mask helps you, that’s awesome. And if it doesn’t, I feel you.

Feature image: Instagram/@leighacampbell


The Australian Government Department of Health advises that the only people who will be tested for COVID-19 are those with symptoms who have either returned from overseas in the past 14 days or been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case in the past 14 days.

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.