To say that, collectively, this is an emotional time in our society would be an understatement. In the past few weeks, my emotions have traveled the whole spectrum – from fear of the unknown, fear for the health of my family, grief for the lives we’ve lost (both fatalities from COVID-19 and the normalcy of our regular lives), extreme gratefulness for my health and ability to stay home, and everything in between.
I don’t work on the frontlines – like my mom, my sister, or my best friend. Rather, I work from the safety of my home. For this, I am thankful. I stay here for them. For all of the essential workers who still must show up and risk exposure. It doesn’t feel like enough and I wish I could do more. But this is my offering.
Still, I must work. I need to do the thing that I am paid to do. For an intense feeler, like myself, this simple task can be hard. Some days, I feel things so deeply that it’s paralyzing. My heart racing, mind clouded, the sadness all encompassing. It feels like overwhelm. Like panic. Like heartbreak. Like grief.
I’ve had about three weeks now to come to grips with this reality. Some days, when the emotions are loud, I let them be. I stay in bed. I cry. To ignore or bury these feelings would be a disservice to myself, I think. So I acknowledge them. My work will be there tomorrow.
But – we must eventually carry on. And I’ve had to develop a process that allows me to do so. None of this stuff I do is revolutionary but it helps me manage my emotions, stay focused, and make the most of this weird, extraordinary time.
I journal in the morning before I start working. It helps me get out of my head. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I doodle. Sometimes the words come easily and other times they don’t. But I make sure to put pen to paper.
I make a schedule for my day. I write down my work projects but I also schedule in other reminders – drink water, do 20 air squats, take your vitamins, go outside for 10 minutes. The world seems so chaotic right now, this allows me to feel as if I have some control.
I meal plan. When frequent grocery store trips were acceptable, it wasn’t so necessary to have a meal plan. I could get away with planning day-by-day or a few days at a time. But now, I really try not to leave the house at all. So having ingredients on hand to make nutritious meals is a priority.
I take a dance break. When I’m done working for the day, I go into my bedroom and close the door. I put my AirPods in, choose two songs (really into Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa, and J Balvin right now), blast the music, and don’t stop moving my body until they’re over. 100% of the time I feel 100% better than when I started.
I turned off the news notifications on my phone. When Coronavirus first started getting popular, my phone would blow up with notifications from CNN, Huffpost, Apple News constantly. And I couldn’t resist.
An hour later, I was 10 articles deep and my fear and overwhelm was at a maximum. I couldn’t stop talking to my partner about it. So much so that he eventually asked me to stop. At that point, we collectively decided to limit our talk about the virus and to turn off the notifications. Now, I check the news in the morning and at night. That’s it and it’s more than enough.
I remember to breathe. I know this sounds so simple – almost dumb. But your breath is so powerful. And in times where my feelings are intense, I’ve realized that my breath is short. Sometimes, it feels like I may even be holding it.
I use my Apple watch to remind me (there’s a Breathe app), but you could set an alarm on your phone. Every hour, take one minute of intentional, deep breathing. I breathe down into my belly – feeling it rise and fall with my inhales and exhales.
Seriously, try it right now. I bet you feel a little more centered.
These are the strategies I’ve been relying on to get me through this time. That being said – I don’t have children I’m responsible for. I still receive a paycheck. I am able to stay home and severely limit my risk of exposure. With these points in mind, my situation sounds pretty ideal considering the circumstances.
I realize that not everyone is so fortunate and my heart goes out to those people who aren’t. I wish healthy, safety, and security to all and send out a little prayer every time I take a breath break.
We’re in this together.