As many of us are approaching three months of sheltering in place and the deep impacts of COVID-19, people seem to be getting “stir crazy,” and for good reason.
Tolerating and living with uncertainty for an extended period of time is hard!
We have all had to adjust to abrupt and unexpected changes. It takes a lot of energy to be hyper-vigilant about safety every time we go out in public or even have food delivered.
At this stage, there is much anticipation about what will happen next as political leaders begin to consider reopening society. We are living in such sustained apprehension and in some sense, an altered reality.
Much of the roller-coaster of emotions and behavioral responses that many of us are experiencing is a normal response to an abnormal situation. If you find yourself oscillating between being busy, feeling inspired, and being motivated to sitting on your couch, staring at your computer, and feeling down, sad, and hopeless with time flying by, as if you have done nothing all week, then you are one of many.
Remember, we are facing an exceptionally atypical and surprising way of life right now.
Here are five tips for this stage of quarantine life to support you and your loved ones:
When we have compassion for others, we express kindness, caring, and deep understanding, but extending this generosity toward ourselves can be difficult. We intellectually know what self-compassion means, and what it might look like based on how we support others, but actually feeling compassion toward ourselves can be challenging. This is an example of the head and the heart not being on the same page and is a common human struggle.
Self-compassion is a practice, much like meditation, and is something we must exercise. Start small. It is okay to be genuinely proud of yourself for little things such as, finishing a box of tea, getting out for a walk, or composing an email. If you feel like you are only living at one percent of your potential, that one percent is a unicorn. Treat it as something special, rare, and valuable. Shifting your focus from what you are not doing to what you are doing is a great way to cultivate self-compassion and to have a bit of fun in the process.
2. The Rebel Archetype
The news has been full of people protesting the stay-at-home orders. Some have not been wearing masks and are taking health and safety precautions lightly.
You may have considered a secret rendezvous with a group of friends that you just can’t bear to be apart from any longer. Maybe you have engaged in this behavior or have entertained these thoughts. Your internal rebel is whispering, “Shhh…don’t tell.” Or, maybe your rebel is yelling, “Rock ‘n’ roll baby!”
There is a strong voice and energy in individuals and in the collective that wants to push back right now. I often equate this developmentally to being a teenager, or maybe even a two-year-old. This archetype and internal desire to tantrum is worthy of care and attention. It is important to listen when you experience the power of your rabble-rouser and find safe and healthy ways to engage with it. Oftentimes, the “rebel” challenges injustice and walks the road less traveled. Much creativity and innovation can come from this state.
>> Start by identifying the need or desire behind your rebel.
>> Identify the feelings that come when you experience this need or desire not being met.
>> Then, identify creative ways to satiate that need that are safe for yourself and others.
If you feel angry and triggered, maybe put on some punk music and let yourself rock out! It’s a good idea if you live with people to let them know you might be yelling in your room for a bit, but that you are just releasing some tension and all is well.
3. Come to Your Senses
Literally. Getting in touch with sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste is a phenomenal self-care activity and is very grounding. Try exploring the micro and macro qualities of these senses. Notice what you hear up close and far away. What do you see when you zoom in your vision, focusing on small details, versus zooming out your vision, and taking in the whole picture? Engaging in sensory experiences can help you to get out of your head and see a bigger picture.
You can also try this with food. Spend five minutes eating a single piece of chocolate, cheese, or food of your choice. Involve all of the senses. Look at it, smell it, taste it, listen to the sounds as you eat, notice what it feels like. Then notice how you feel
4. Befriend the Silence
Silence can be uncomfortable. Many people have different needs and preferences regarding their need for space and silence, especially in relationships. These differences, if unclear or unspoken, can cause strain. The experience of unexpectedly being around someone, whether it be a spouse, a friend, a child, or a housemate, who has decided to become quiet, can lead to projections or assumptions that can cause concern and doubt.
Instead of silence coming up in a relationship unexpectedly or as a response to negativity such as in emotional/relational turmoil or boredom, set aside time to be in silence together. Give yourself and those around you permission to take space and be quiet, turning silence into a positive self-care activity. Set a timer. Decide if your silent time will be 10 minutes or 10 hours. Also set agreements in advance such as if physical contact is allowed or, if certain interruptions are acceptable.
5. Solidify Your Supports
We all need support right now.
Health experts are anticipating an unprecedented mental health crisis in response to the impacts of COVID-19. Setting yourself up with support sooner rather than later is a great way to care for yourself and your loved ones.
If you don’t already have a therapist; for yourself, your kids, and your family, now is a great time to find a provider who will allow you to discuss concerns as they arise and before they turn into a full blown crisis.
It is also a great time to reach out to friends and family to schedule regular hangouts or intimate time with them, even if the time is remote or virtual. Organizing a weekly group activity that is nourishing, such a sharing circle or poker game, tends to our human need for socialization. The same can be done for children.
Find your people and create your social pod. Who do you trust and want to socialize with during this time? Can you and a friend serve as accountability buddies for each other? Having activities on the calendar that support your emotional, physical, and social well-being is a wonderful way to care for yourself as we continue in these uncertain times.
In conclusion, the events of this year, 2020, are asking a lot of us. We are being pushed and pulled. It is not easy. In fact, in many cases, it is devastating. Even if you are not directly impacted by loss or economic insecurity you are still witnessing this virus ravage and disrupt the world as you’ve know it.
No matter what your personal situation is, we are all being invited to rise above and beyond. There is an opportunity for us to mature and to act as true adults. This includes feeling our feelings, letting our ups and downs be known to the people in our lives in a healthy and communicative way, asking for help when we need it, offering support when we are able, and finding new and creative ways to care for ourselves, each other, and the world.