The past few weeks have been a hard reality for many people with COVID-19 arriving like something out of a horror movie. No one has ever dealt with this particular situation before, not even our parents or grandparents. Yes, many of them have lived through difficult times, like the Great Depression or World War II, but nothing quite like what we’re collectively going through now.
With COVID-19, while we’re physically staying home in order to stay healthy, we’re also fighting a battle of the mind. In the beginning, I thought, “Okay, we can do this. We can stay home, cook three meals a day, exercise, and work, all while homeschooling—oh, and yes….while having zero social interaction.”
But let’s be real. It’s not possible to do it all. Nobody can do it all.
I started out with my game face on though, creating a schedule and trying to stay positive. But a few days in, I started having chest pains, which made me wonder if I had the dreaded COVID-19. This in turn led to me staying up late at night, Googling symptoms and reading all the statistics…ugh.
After a late night of “Googling”, I would have to drag myself out of bed, but drag I did, as I kept trying to do it all which only led to me yelling at the kids and feeling like I was a ticking time bomb ready to explode at any minute and for any little thing.
By lunch time I was done, hiding in my closet and feeling like the walls were caving in…and oh yeah, all while I couldn’t breathe. Again, I began wondering if this was a symptom of the virus. I also wondered if it was the return of my anxiety.
I had struggled with anxiety and depression back in college, and so many of my old symptoms were slowly creeping back in. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night with my heart racing as if I had just completed a run. During the day, I felt a constant pressure or “weight” on my chest, as if I couldn’t take a deep breath.
I quickly realized that I had to take control of myself and let some things go or anxiety would take me over. Even after that realization, I still have days that are hard and I’ve cried more than once, but here are a few things that have helped me in my own inward battle so I’m sure that they will help you too.
Make Time for Yourself
Not everyone has the ability to do this, but if you can find 20 minutes to be by yourself, do it. It may be a bath, maybe a walk, or even just hiding (meditating, or let’s be honest just crying) in the closet. What matters most is to find a sense of peace for yourself and just a few minutes to decompress. There are several calming and mediation apps that can also be helpful.
On the flip side and when you’re ready, if you’re sheltering in place by yourself, find ways to reach out. This can be through phone calls, Skype, Zoom—or whatever works for you. What’s most important is to find the right sense of balance between interactive times and peaceful ones, with some people needing more engagement and, others, more calmness.
Move Your Body
Find a way to move your body, even if it’s just ten minutes every day. It could be as simple as a walk outside or a basic yoga workout from YouTube. Fortunately, there are also plenty of free videos and free apps with easy workouts that you can enjoy as a family.
Spend Time With Jesus
For me, this has been the biggest help. I have been reading Psalm 91 every morning as a prayer over my family, as well as a reminder for myself. I’ve found that spending just ten minutes in the Word helps to change my mindset. We’ve also been having a family Bible study every morning, and it has helped to start the day off in a good place with the kids.
If you don’t have time to read, turn on worship music or even just take a few minutes to pray while you’re in the shower.
Journal: Putting Thoughts On Paper
I never thought I had time for this —and I’m not sure that I really saw the value in making time, either, but during COVID-19 I’ve found how helpful it can be to simply put your thoughts down on paper. There’s something cathartic about getting something out of your mind into a tangible form where you can read and digest it. You can write down everything you’re grateful for, or your prayers, or even just your goals for when this is all over. This may also be something for your children to have one day to remember this season by because, after all, this is going to go down in history.
Let Go of Normal Expectations
If you have ten things you want to accomplish each day, cut that in half. Try to be realistic and realize that if you only accomplish a few things each day that’s okay. If you’re teaching kids at home, remember that this isn’t really homeschooling. Real homeschooling is going out to explore nature, visit museums, and otherwise interactively learning. Instead, this is survival school. Seriously.
If you’re on a diet and you have a cookie, it’s okay. If you only get one load of laundry completed, that’s okay too. If you don’t get the floors cleaned, it’s okay. If you have to feed your kids cereal for dinner, it’s okay.
It is all okay.
Avoid Social Media & The News
If you scroll through social media too long it may look like everyone else has it all together…but let’s be honest people usually only post the good stuff. Try and stay away from the trap of “Comparison”, the problem with comparing yourself to other people on social media is that you really don’t know what’s going on in that person’s life and it will only make you feel worse. You never know, that mom may be posting about her perfect life while knocking down her 3rd glass of wine just to keep it all together.
The News has one job, to get ratings and keep eyeballs. I was a journalism major and there’s a reason that most of the stories are sensationalized and negative, it keeps people watching. Just turn it off for a while and save yourself the negativity.
Grant Others Grace
Everyone is going through a hard time right now. So, if someone else seems irritable or impatient, angry or scared, stop and think about how challenging today may be for him or her. See other people’s behavior through that lens and grant them an extra dose of grace and reward yourself for doing it. And, if needed, more than one.
Give Yourself Grace
Also be kind to yourself. Remember how this situation is new for everyone—and that everybody has their own ways of handling stress. This means that how you cope may not be the same way that your spouse copes…or your friends cope…or your parents or children cope. Plus, how they react on one day may not be how they handle a similar situation the next day.
So, day by day, handle what you can.
Find and celebrate the little moments in time, whether that’s a cup of coffee for a few minutes by yourself on the front porch or just closing your eyes and hearing the birds chirp for a few seconds.
So, day by day, handle what you can.
Day by day, just be you.