Kindness in The Time of COVID

Writer Dina Zaman reminds us that as much as we need to be kind and loving to those around us, don’t neglect to be kind to yourself.

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Each time I am on Instagram, which is most of my non-working time really, I come across friends’ and public feeds and stories on self-care and being kind. I save them in a collection and refer to them when I am flat out knackered. My life has changed in the past six years.


After a long time in the media, and a fellowship in Indonesia, in 2015, I left all that I knew to found, with my friends, a research outfit. In a nutshell, I joined my friends in the Third Sector, which is about development, non-governmental and non-profit-making organisations or associations, including charities, voluntary and community groups, cooperatives, and so forth. I have no regrets joining this sector. It’s dynamic, fun, bonkers and intense. There is never a dull moment. My friends and I have made long-lasting friendships with our peers in the region, and there is something to be said for these relationships. We are united and committed to making the world a better place.


However, the stress and the emotional toll on us can be severe. You hear about friends developing gout, suffering from chronic illnesses, and let me tell you, the process of peacebuilding and preventing violent extremism means one has to deal with a lot of strong emotions and working relationships. On WhatsApp, we talk about working out, trying out the Keto diet, what “jamu” to buy when we are in Indonesia next, and loving our families. However, though we remember that being kind to our families and loved ones is important, we somehow forget to be kind to ourselves. There is no way of us helping anyone when we can’t even take care of ourselves.

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The wellness culture and industry have taken off, especially so in the times of COVID-19, and are a multibillion-dollar industry. There’s a bit of a pushback against toxic positivity, which is about no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset, and that one should grit his or her teeth, and not acknowledge the pain and situation, to instead chirp, “Stay positive! Be positive!” Self-care is only for the privileged, but truthfully? Caring for ourselves cannot be disregarded. After all, if we can’t take care of ourselves, how can we take care of others?


Like the readers of this magazine, COVID truly opened up our eyes to what was truthful and real. We decided to focus on what was meaningful. What surprised many of us was the realisation that we had to be kind to ourselves. Was this even right? To be selfish? The pandemic gave us a lot of time to reflect, and realise that in our pursuit of happiness, wellness and success, we abuse our minds and bodies. We tell ourselves that we have failed at parenting, at work, even at cooking. And we do it relentlessly!

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What does it take to be nice to ourselves? I’d like to share some of the things I learned (as well as my friends) from websites the likes of and (yes I know a lot of people don’t like Gwyneth Paltrow but I do. Her website has enlightened me on lymphatic massage, for instance).



When you remember how you berated yourself on something that didn’t work out, tell yourself that you’re not deserving of such self-hate. Yes, you made a mistake, but today, well, you’ve learned your lesson. You want to be at peace with yourself.



…to workout, to burn the midnight oil, to whatever that may be detrimental to your well-being. Tomorrow is another day. Be easy on yourself.


Dina Zaman

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When the pandemic hit us all around the world, and we had to stay home, I for one saw that I had many, many hours, minutes to spare. I never believed in naps before (really!) but decided to allow myself a two-hour nap. Initially, I felt guilty for being…‘wasteful’. Now I nap whenever I can. This has become a habit that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.



This is still something I’m working on. But thanks to the amount of work and research I have to do, I use it as an excuse to skip non-essential meetings and socialising. I’ve created my own social diary SOP. I’m no social butterfly, but sometimes I have to meet people to network. Having known an actor or two, I know how to fake a cold and cough, which is a no-no during this pandemic—everyone is scared of COVID. I tell some that I have to do footnoting for a paper (footnoting is citing references for a research paper) that may last weeks. Sometimes I use the lockdown as a reason to decline an invitation. I also use online workouts as a way to get myself out of a social situation. It’s nice to meet people I really, really like and care for, and not have to fake-smile my way—that hurts my cheeks. (I don’t know whether I should have said this but I am all for authenticity.) And yes, being authentic, is a form of self-care too.

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This is something I have been doing for a long time. This work my friends and I do is so intense that if we internalise it, we’d be in the hospital. Everything is fiction, unless proven otherwise, and have a good laugh. The way this country is heading, you’ll need to. A lot. We all have our ways of caring for ourselves. My way may not be yours. What is certain is that we take care of ourselves. 


Dina Zaman is one of the co-founders of IMAN Research. She writes on and off.