I’ve been at home for about six weeks now, and while the state of Missouri is easing restrictions this week, the St. Louis stay at home order is still in effect until at least mid May. My employer intends for us to continue working from home for the foreseeable future, and I’m grateful we’re in a position to make that work. As some areas are beginning to slowly reopen, there’s a lot of talk about “getting back to normal” or “the new normal”, but the truth is that we’re a long way from feeling any level of stability.
We value a feeling of normalcy because it helps give us a sense of control and purpose and keeps us from being in a constant state of fight, flight, or freeze. Being in crisis mode exhausts our minds and bodies and negatively affects our immune system (see this post for more on that). However, these days we have a lot of extra hurdles.
Instead of focusing on things getting back to normal, now is a time to recognize that there’s still a long road ahead of us, and that our focus should be on creating a feeling of normalcy and stability, so we’re able to cope with the challenges. Here are some things to try:
1. Evaluate your routine.
Routines and schedules provide us with a sense of stability, security, structure, and control. From the beginning, experts have urged us to establish schedules, follow old patterns, limit our pajama time, etc. I’ve talked to a lot of people recently who say that they started well, but their routines have been breaking down as more time passes. Now is a good time to reflect on your current practices, and see if you need to adjust what you’re doing on a daily basis, or recommit to things you’ve let slide (and I want to urge you again to maintain a consistent sleep schedule). If your situation is changing, such as returning to work or beginning to resume other activities, this is definitely the time to think about how you’re going to adjust your daily life.
2. Take time to process your emotions.
Emotions help us recognize our wants and needs, and it’s important to do emotional check ins, especially since we’ve all been under consistent pressure. Covid has brought a unique wave of stress, anxiety, depression, and grief. What are your emotions and body telling you? As I pointed out last week, it’s important to validate your feelings. Take time out to process your emotions, and to practice coping skills.
3. Monitor your information intake.
You can choose how you receive and consume information about the outbreak. Start by really assessing how much information is good for you, because that varies widely from person to person. My father is one of those people who gets calmer the more he knows, so watching the news is actually a stress reliever for him. My sister Audrey, on the other hand, has found it difficult to emotionally process a lot of what’s happening, so she avoids the news and relies on others to summarize the important information for her. Find the level that’s comfortable for you, and stay there. You might consider stepping away from social media and TV for a period of time or limiting your daily intake. Also, I encourage you to seek out a balanced perspective, especially if you live in the United States, where the pandemic has become sadly politicized.
4. Utilize self care practices and coping skills.
Self care is always important, but right now it’s imperative. Make a list of things that give you peace, stimulate creativity, provide escape, feed your spirit and offer healing. Pursue your hobbies. Employ coping skills that help keep your mindset positive and calm, such as thanking yourself, forgiving yourself, or making a gratitude list. This can be a great opportunity to develop stronger coping skills and new healthy habits.
How are you handling things at this point?