In these calamitous times dealing with our new normal due to COVID-19, I feel like everyone falls into two categories: 1) “Don’t worry, this too shall pass. I’m good.”; and 2) “HELP!” . . . Well, I fall into category number two. With that in mind, I’d like to speak to you fellow number two’s out there about what we are going through.
It’s okay to be scared.
It’s okay to feel like crying.
It’s okay to actually cry.
It’s okay to be anxious.
It’s okay to be sad.
Let’s first deal with feeling scared. If you’re not scared, you either fear next to nothing, or you haven’t been paying attention. There is a highly contagious virus ravaging literally the whole world and overwhelming healthcare systems. And even if you and your loved ones make it out of this, no matter where you are, the economy has tanked and will take a long time to recover. Those are objective realities to be fearful of.
Given everything in the previous paragraph, getting emotional is a fine human response. Nothing remotely to be ashamed about. Some of us deal with emotions in stoic manners and some of us wear our hearts on our sleeves. If you fall into the latter, like I do, being moved to tears is not a bad thing.
Being sad happens to the best of us. A lot of people won’t allow themselves to deal with the sadness emotion because they think they’ll be seen as weak or feeling sorry for themselves. As to being viewed as weak, screw that. And it is important to note that being sad and feeling sorry for yourself are two completely different emotions. It’s okay to be sad when your entire life has been flipped upside down, leaving you without your usual outlets of joy. It’s hard to maintain a happy state when you don’t get outside, when you don’t get to see family and friends, when it’s more difficult to exercise, when your hobbies get cancelled. Sadness is natural. It is more than fine to have a human emotional response.
As to anxiety, it is tough to deal with anxiety in normal times, but when you experience a jolt like this, your anxiety meter can go through the roof. It is important to remember the tools you use to deal with your anxiety in normal times, whether they are breathing exercises, meditation, or any of a number of tools. Keep using them. It is next to impossible not to be anxious right now but remember that you are not alone and that it’s fine to need some mental breaks here and there. Just remember to keep giving it your best shot and taking it from one moment to the next.
So, now that we’ve established that reacting to our new shocking reality in our own ways is natural, let’s address what we can do to improve our moods. Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic serum for you, nor do I have a “one size fits all” trick. What I do have is something I’ve incorporated into all facets of my life: There are things you can control, and things you can’t control. Do your best at the things you can control and be proud that you did.
So, what does “do your best at the things you can control” mean when coping with COVID-19 daily life? That’s a question you need to ask yourself. For me, it has meant, first, trying to convince myself that everything I wrote about above about emotions is true. After that, it means having a rough outline of what you want to accomplish throughout the day.
Personally, I’m splitting time between working and watching my 1-year old daughter while my wife teaches via video conference. When I am with my daughter, I try to keep my little girl smiling. I will do the best I can and let the chips fall where they may. As to work, I make a checklist of tasks I want to get done. I try to feel good about getting through the list, while also putting out any fires that pop up along the way.
Next, I make sure that I put in a solid effort to be present throughout the day. That means, having a good laugh now and again, being engrossed in meaningful conversation, and yes, crying if I have to. It also means appreciating the little things, like those walks outside. As Coach Jim Valvano famously said, “[i]f you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.” So let’s have something special for as many days as we can.
Finally, I turn to my support system for help in dealing with all of this while also being there for those who rely on me. We are all in this together. We are all having a tough time. But we are all equipped to get through this crisis and we WILL get through it, together. Stay healthy and good thoughts to all of you.