Coronavirus COVID-19 is here. Every day and every minute life is changing. Social distancing is now a thing. Schools are closed, parks are closed, activities are shut down. None of this is news at this point.
We know businesses are affected, lives are being turned upside down. Those that can't afford to not work are fearful of getting sick. People are "bored and not wanting to be stuck at home." My kids have repeatedly told me that I am the meanest and most overreacting mom there is! My husband can work from home, but as a small business owner, I only have income if I work. I can do some of my work via video tele-health platform, but not all of my clients will want to. Some because insurance won't reimburse, some don't have a quiet, safe space to have therapy via phone or computer, and/or not everyone is comfortable with using technology. So I will do my best without any in-person meetings or classes for the next few weeks, but it is not going to be easy. On the home-front, my kids are complaining, and annoying the crap out of me already and we are just beginning. My husband will be on conference calls all day, telling the rest of us to keep the noise down. So many extracurricular activities that we were looking forward to have been halted before they even started. The next weeks and/or months will be really hard. Beyond that is uncertainty. I have loved ones who are immunocompromised and elderly and I worry and pray they don't get sick. I worry because even though I feel healthy right now, have a lingering cough from a month ago when I had tested negative for the flu but had fever, cough congestion and was treated for a sinus infection. Thinking it was a sinus infection (which I pray is what it was) I still saw clients in my office, taught two classes, attended a Post Malone concert, saw OKC dominate the Knicks (sorry NY), and attended a ton of middle school basketball games all over NJ. Knowing I have a social responsibility to do what is best for my community and keep my and my family at home, I thought it was important to focus on the good. I know you may be thinking I am a bit naive, (I get that a lot) but there often is some bit of positive that comes from awful situations. It is hard to find the good when in the middle of chaos, but it is there. For example, in my home, family time is an important value I hold and yet and we don't really get that much of it anymore. My husband and I spend most of our time outside of work watching our kids play soccer, baseball, lacrosse, basketball or field hockey. We don't really spend time together as much as I would like. Yes, right now they are angry, they think I am mean, they think I overreact and they don't want to stay home when their friends are still hanging out in groups and socializing. I agree, it sucks. I miss hanging with my friends too, but I am also grateful for the family time that is happening in my home. In a few short years they will be away at college and I know I will desperately miss it. Today I went for a run with my little one and then we did a workout app together in the basement. Yesterday, I lost to him in a game of HORSE and then husband and I lost a wiffleball game in the back yard to our kids 8-0. Another silver lining is seeing the helpers. That Mr. Rogers quote to "look for the helpers" when tragedy happens has been evident on social media. People are reaching out offering help in their community, looking for ideas to help small businesses, suggesting paying for cancelled services and offering online cooking classes, workout videos and art classes. My town started a facebook COVID-19 Voluneer Group as well as a FLAG (Front Line Appreciation Group) for people to meet the needs of those in our community. FLAG is collecting money to order meals for hospital staff on the front lines. There are FLAG groups popping up in many communities around the US. The emergence of kindness and community reminds me of what it was like working in downtown NYC right after 911. Look for the good. Find something you are grateful for every day. We notice what we focus on. When we focus on how much this sucks (which it does) we lose sight of the blessing (which there are). We are in uncharted territory and there is a lot of unknown and uncertainty, so for that reason I want to provide some tools for managing anxiety and overwhelm. These are things I am using myself to manage my own anxiety about all of this.
- Acknowledge your feelings. It sucks. It really fucking does. It is ok to feel uncertainty, frustration, sadness and just plain anger. Understand that you are not alone. Practice self-compassion which means acknowledging how you are feeling, know you are not alone, and talk to yourself the way you would comfort someone you love. To check out self-compassion practices by Dr. Kristen Neff, you can check them out at selfcompassion.org
- Look for the good. Ask yourself, "what am I grateful for today?" Maybe it is still having toilet paper, feeling healthy, the ability to work from home, family dinners without crazy sports schedules, seeing your teenager laugh... Whatever it is, look for the good. Here's a gratitude practice you may like to try: #FillYourBAGHappy
- Meditation and breathing exercises are so helpful. If you have never practiced mindfulness or meditation, some great apps I use are calm, headspace, insight timer, 10% Happier. Just sitting and focusing on your breath can help you calm and recenter yourself.
- Write it down. Notice your thoughts, write them down.One of my favorite apps that uses a cognitive behavioral therapy tool in the journal part of the app is called Fear Tools. It also has breathing exercises and helpful videos.
- Help someone out. Perhaps call up a local store or restaurant that is open, purchase gift card or a gift. Call neighbors, see if anyone needs anything. Look for ways to help. Doing kindness for others helps them and helps you increase well-being and happiness.
- Catch up on reading for fun and escape from what is happening. If you want self-help books, some of my favorites are:
- How to Stay Human in a F*cked Up World by Tim Desmond
- Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius
- Option B, Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sanberg and Adam Grant
- The gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
- Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers
- Self-Compassion by Kristen Neff
- Do some online online learning with Khan Academy, Udemy, and Sounds True. Here's a link to an online FREE 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course: PalouseMindfulness.
- Here is a great video by Dr. Elisha Goldstein called STOP (Stop, Take a Breath, Observe, Proceed). This can be very helpful when we feel overwhelmed and need a quick refresh.
- Here is a video with a tool called VERGENCE. It is something I use as a certified Brainspotting Therapist in my clinical practice. A therapist, Melinda Olsen made this video to help those who are struggling with triggers and anxiety and I want to share it here: Calm Yourself Down Using Vergence. It seems simple, but is really powerful.
- Another Therapist-made video which you may find helpful on this link on how to do an EMDR tool called a Butterfly Hug.
So please know that it's ok to admit this sucks, but it also has a silver lining if you look for it.