Life feels heavy these days.
Life has carried a nonstop heaviness for the past eight months. In what seemed like a split-second, the world turned into a scary place. COVID-19 ran rampant, claiming 250,000 American lives as of today; some sketchy math tells me that’s about 1,040 people dying from COVID-19 per day, every day, for eight consecutive months. That is the equivalent to three Boeing-747 jets crashing each day for eight months. Those figures are insanely alarming and incredibly sad.
Of course, life is heavy with statistics like that. Tack on the drama-filled election, the horrific events leading up to the Black Lives Matter movement, and wildfires ripping through the west, it’s just so much to take. Personally, I’ve had enough of the difficulties that 2020 has thrown at us. There have been several moments where I’ve just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep—wake me up when it’s all over, thanks.
2020 isn’t the year I wanted at all. Who would? Gross. But unknowingly, it’s exactly the year I needed. Despite the insanity and my feelings, I had choices. I didn’t crawl into bed like I wanted to. I took all of the pain, grief, and sadness being hurled around and turned it into an opportunity.
And now, while the world seems like it’s burning down around me, I am standing here, cautious, but still smiling. Thriving. Growing. Healing. You can too, and it all starts with our mindsets.
Want a more positive outlook each day? Start here:
Don’t just practice it—fill your soul with it. Gratitude is something I was trying to practice every day before the pandemic started. But it was easy to be grateful for all that surrounded me: life was easy and generally good. But now, the gratitude feels stronger than it ever has.
Gratitude brings joy.
Now more than ever, I’m more grateful for my health and for my friends and family. The way that they have shown up for me and been thoughtful and supportive is amazing. I’m thankful for the time I’ve been able to spend with my kids. Yes, having them home doing virtual school while I’m working full-time is chaotic and stressful, but when they went back to school face-to-face, it was like sending them to kindergarten all over again—cue the tears.
I missed having them in the house, missed their presence and the energy they brought. I was always grateful for their teachers, but man this year has dialed that up tremendously. These teachers are superheroes, like our health care workers.
What are the things you are grateful for?
Make a list as long as you can, full of things that fill you up. Focus your thoughts here.
Let go of the things you can’t control.
Trying to control things you actually can’t control is madness and can drive you to the brink of insanity. Things we can’t control include the guidelines of the CDC or our state governments.
We can’t control if other people follow the rules (or how loudly and often they bitch about it). We can’t control others beliefs or motives. Right now, the collective society feels out of control; pandemic stockpiling is a reaction to that. Because we can’t control the virus, the lockdowns, or how long this all will last, we head to the store and buy up all the toilet paper and paper towel in sight. Believing that we are prepared helps us to feel more in control. Pandemic buying is essentially a coping mechanism.
Rage and anger are at an all-time high because our sense of control has been ripped away. Lashing out is also coping mechanism. If anything, this pandemic has shown us how little control we actually have. So uncomfortable, right? If you can’t control it, stop trying to and focus your attention and energy somewhere else.
Focus on the things you can control.
You can control yourself. You can control your words, your actions, and your own positive attitude. You can control your compassion and your understanding. The media (social and otherwise) you surround yourself with is up to you. Make smart choices with who you surround yourself with; choose people who bring you joy.
Make small promises to yourself and keep them. You can set goals. Make them attainable. Goals give us a focus and keep us moving forward. Find a passion project. Immerse yourself in something new.
For example, during lockdown, I became a certified life coach and began practicing. It gave me something new to give my energy and focus to. It was educational and healing for me.
Healing and self-work have been another focus during the pandemic; not always cheery and fun, but life-changing for sure. So now, in any free time I have, I’m coaching other people. All things done safely from home. All things I could control while finding a new purpose.
Set your expectations appropriately.
Now is not the time for exceedingly-high, daily expectations. Take it easy on yourself, and give yourself and your kids some grace. Set yourself up to succeed and to feel joy. Do the same for your kids, your friends, and your family.
Is it possible to clean the entire house, do two loads of laundry, work all day, and help the kids with virtual school? I think not. And if it is for you, you have my sincere congratulations. It’s not realistic here though. My expectations for the kids and I each day is simple: do the best we can, laugh, work hard, love, and support each other—anything else is ancillary.
This translates to “do what makes you feel good.”
Spend time outside. Go for walks. Do yoga. Read. Zoom with friends and family. Binge Netflix. Lift weights. Paint your nails. Play games. Nap. Cook. Clean (if that’s your thing). Write. Meditate. Take a bath. Journal. Snack on your kids Halloween candy. Create something. There’s an endless list of activities to find joy in.
See how we always come back to feeling joy?
Self-care is nonnegotiable. Spend 30 to 60 minutes a day doing something that makes you happy. Now, this doesn’t mean self-destructive behaviors. As much as getting hammered every night might feel good in the moment, it’s not healthy. Sorry to be a party pooper.
We have the opportunity to come out of this more compassionate, understanding, empathetic, and resilient—an opportunity that I don’t take lightly. I want to be able to look back on this year and not feel like it was a waste.
I want my kids to remember that I made them feel loved and safe. I want to recall that I helped people and helped myself. We also need to keep in mind that right now, everything is intense, and it feels like it will never end. But there is an end in sight.
I am hopeful that we are closer to the end of the pandemic than we are to the beginning. We can do hard things!