Imagine you were approached by a time traveler ten years ago, and he said, “Look, I don’t have much time but the year 2020 is going to be a train wreck. First, Australia just about burns plum UP and everyone’s hearts are broken by koala bears and kangaroos with burned paws, and the near obliteration of the continent. Before the fires stop smoldering, a virus appears to originate in Asia when someone eats an undercooked bat—which, of course, is nothing for US to worry about, being all the way on the other side of the world—and people are getting sick. This diabolical virus aims its malevolence primarily at our grandparents and people who are already sick, and it makes its way through the world, looking like the zombie apocalypse. People are told to stay indoors, work from home if possible, and keep at least six feet from others at all times. Small businesses are closed, airlines are grounding 80% of their fleet, people are stuck on cruise ships for weeks, (apparently, this is not the dream situation one might imagine) and THEN DISNEY IS CLOSED!!! Sea World and Universal close down, and Las Vegas shuts the strip! People begin to panic and, apparently, the only way to protect ourselves is to build a fort out of toilet paper, so Charmin becomes the One World Bank and sheets of TP are the new currency. In the midst of this chaos, the one thing people can agree on is that this crazy tiger hoarder in Oklahoma and his cast of eccentric misfits is about the most entertaining thing ever.” I’d probably say, “Go smoke some more weed, you stoner, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
And then something really spectacular happens: people are staying at home with their families doing simple things, many are struggling and the outpouring of generosity and help from our fellow man is heart warming. The Earth gets a break from carbon emissions and begins to clear up; blue sky photos are coming out of some of the most notoriously polluted places known: India, China and California. People gain a new appreciation for being outdoors, and connecting with nature. We begin to reassess our priorities and just…slow…down. This is happening because we don’t have any choice, which is another way to say that this situation is outside of our control. And we don’t know what will happen going forward: will we need to stay inside for weeks or months to come, will we need to stagger ourselves so as to never be within six feet of another human, will we lose our jobs or our homes, will we get sick?
There seem to be few concrete answers available, and uncertainty abounds. There is a lot that we just don’t know, and to not know is incredibly uncomfortable and scary to many. What can I do? Whom can I trust to give me accurate information? Is the world coming to an end? We humans don’t like uncertainty, especially at these levels when so much is unknown. We have lost our illusion of control and we can feel frightened. Yes there’s fear, but then there’s the love…
Neighbors are helping neighbors, (from a safe distance) people are finding the humor in this situation and there is some funny stuff to make us laugh during a pandemic, and healthcare professionals have become the new Avengers, saving the world one patient at a time. People, while stuck at home, are working on home improvements, self improvement, virtual connection to friends, family and groups. Others are finding time to just be and do nothing: bingeing The Tiger King, The Mandalorian or Game of Thrones, catching up on sleep, sitting outdoors on the patio in a rocking chair, drinking iced tea–the idyllic life of leisure we never imagined we’d experience.
It is a situation that can cause us to cycle through our emotions, from annoyance to fear and anxiety to grief, peace and acceptance…and then back to anxiety and panic again. Whatever you’re feeling, don’t judge yourself, don’t compare yourself to others and try to be self-compassionate just as we extend compassion toward others. We are our own harshest critics, so pay attention to the self talk that’s going on, and speak to yourself as you would to someone you love. The sky is not falling, we will get through this and life will return to a normal that may be different from what was before, but may also be the biggest gift we never knew we wanted.
Here are some of my go-to methods to stay grounded and calm:
- Establish a daily routine. We tend to feel better when there’s a certain flow to the day.
- Incorporate things that tend to your mind, your body AND your spirit each day.
- Read an article about another culture or learn a new word
- Engage is some kind of exercise, as little or as much as you prefer (no comparisons)
- Try meditating, like you’ve been telling yourself you’re going to for years.
- Prepare and eat healthy foods, while also allowing for indulgence and fun.
- Reach out and communicate with people each day, whether it’s a conversation with a neighbor, each from his own driveway (six feet apart), over the phone, by text or Facetime/Zoom/Skype.
- Practice gratitude today for all that you have, while holding space to empathize with those who are really suffering through this shut-down.
- Get outdoors and do your thing! Get your hands in the dirt, sit or lie down in the grass, be near or in the water, feel the fire of the sun powering your spirit, breathe in the fresh air.
- Learn to go inward and assess your emotions. There are two main motivating energies in the world: love and fear. Being motivated by fear typically causes panic, bad decisions, anger and other negative consequences. Choose the loving response: calming yourself through your breath, connecting with others, accepting where you are and trusting in where you’re going.
- Be present. I truly believe that this is a unique moment in time that will become legendary, with people sharing their quarantine stories for decades to come. Be here now, and try not to worry about the future, which we cannot control. (this is the very nature of anxiety)
If you are struggling with pandemic anxiety, depression or if you have any emotional issues that may be heightened during this time, honor those feelings and make your mental health a priority. We here at Life Skills Resource Group have therapists who are skilled in dealing with any emotional need you may have. We have therapists who will work with you regarding fees, as expenses are a big concern for many right now. Call us at (407) 355- 7378 and take that initial step toward feeling stronger and moving toward the best version of yourself. Be safe, be well, Namaste.