“You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.” – @neilmwebb
“My boss just called and said ‘how are you’ and I reflexively said ‘fine’ and she was like ‘NOPE, START OVER, I am not fine and you are not fine and no one is fine, let’s have a real conversation, how are you’ and I was like ‘super terrible’ and she was like ‘MUCH BETTER.’” – @clairewillett
We have all seen memes online or that were sent to us by friends and co-workers perfectly describing the lousy situation we are all in. Regardless of whether you are single or married, quarantining with or without kids, this is a difficult time. However, every time I complain, I feel a pang of guilt. I am not serving on the frontline like so many of my friends and family who are doctors or nurses or other essential workers. Unlike other families right now, my children (a two-year-old and a 4-month-old), husband, and I are safe with a roof over our heads and food in our pantry. I tell myself that I have no right to complain when tens of thousands of people have died, and so many more find themselves in desperate circumstances. While it is certainly true that there is a lot to be grateful for and many people to thank for their sacrifices, it is also true that for our own mental well-being, it is important for all of us to acknowledge the difficulties we’re facing even if we are “just” staying home, quarantining and trying to survive.
I am not an expert in mental health, but in these weeks of isolation, I have found that the following have made this time more manageable:
Self-care looks different these days. For me, self-care used to entail brunch or happy hour with friends or mani/pedis at my favorite salon. While our typical go-tos may no longer be options, find a way to have “you time” doing something that re-charges your battery. Maybe it is enjoying a glass (or three) of your favorite bottle of wine or taking your clubs to an empty patch of green. Binge on your favorite show, read a new book, ask your spouse to watch the kids for an hour so you can scroll through your phone and just relax alone, or take a long hot shower or bath. Whatever it is, try to carve out time for you to decompress and feel like yourself again – even if it means leaving those toys on the floor or the dishes in the sink.
While acknowledging our current limitations, it is important to continue to do things that feed your spirit. I have friends who are outdoor runners, and while their workouts look different these days, they have adapted new routines that benefit their mental health during COVID-19. I have never been – and never will be – a runner. But I realized that after three weeks in the house, wallowing in the sadness I saw on the news all day long and the frustration building from wanting to help but not being able to, I had to “do” something. I am a do-er – I like to be on my feet, doing something tangible, no matter how menial the task. So, I “did” something that was meaningful to me – my husband and I coordinated food delivery of Krispy Kreme donuts, Chick-Fil-A, and pizza to the hospital where we delivered both of our children. Since the first delivery, our friends have joined in our efforts and we have provided food to multiple floors and departments of three local hospitals. Organizing and contacting the hospital representative made me feel more like myself again. I was able to fulfill my need to help while giving me something concrete to concentrate on other than all the negativity. Try to find ways within our current restraints to do things that tap into your essence and fuel your spirit.
While it may seem cliché at such a difficult time, I have found much to be grateful for over the last few weeks. I am thankful for my (relative) youth and healthiness – something my parents and grandmother always say I – like many millennials – take for granted. I am grateful for my friends. Ironically, I have seen more of some of them in the last month than I have in the last year. I have weekly scheduled check-ins with my sorority sisters and college friends – some of whom live thousands of mile away, I have Zoom happy hours, and even my 78-year-old father learned how to FaceTime so he can see his grandkids every other day (well worth the 2 hours of being his tech-support). I have enjoyed family dinners with my husband, who is typically home for meals only on the weekends. Furthermore, I have had fun during this “forced” family time that I would not have had otherwise. We are usually so busy and consumed by our “to-do” list that we often take for granted those who are the most important to us – family, friends, and loved ones. The requirement to stay home has forced us to find altenative ways to be social, whether it’s making dance videos with your family or learning how to bake banana bread with your mom or having game-night with your friends over Zoom. Yes, it has been a traumatic time, but creating moments of joy and laughter in between those moments of fear and frustration can not only bring normalcy to extremely abnormal times, but it can also create memories that we can cherish for years to come.
Be kind to yourself. We are all doing the best we can. Process the bad but cherish the good. If you are struggling, reach out and confide in someone. Even if you have never met me personally, do not hesitate to let me know if you need a person to vent to or groceries for your next meal. I am here to help.