Social isolation, quarantine, lockdown – all names for a time in our lives we will remember – for the rest of our lives. This morning, as I walked downstairs and headed to the living room to workout, I was reminded that even though things feel the same, they’re not the same. I no longer have to get the kids dressed, fed, and out the door in the morning. There’s no bus coming to pick them up in a 10-minute interval of time. I don’t even have to leave right after dropping off my youngest at preschool to head off to work. These structures and schedules we built into our lives no longer exist. While this newfound freedom was appealing at first, a lack of routine started leading me off track. Eating comfort foods and staying up late into the night because the early morning schedule no longer exists. Not knowing when to shut off work and turn on life because they seemed one and the same. Raise your hand if that’s you. I thought so. That was me too.
Then something changed.
Four weeks into the quarantine life, I got tired of the feeling that I was being taken for a ride by a virus that swept into my life. With that feeling came a surge of energy and a decision. If this crazy time is throwing our lives into disarray, I’m not going to just hand over the keys to the car and let coronavirus start driving me off the road. It was time to take a hard look at my life and start putting the pieces back together. I was determined that I would come out of this social isolation a better human. I started investigating what patterns in my life created joy and determination, two critical factors of personal growth. After a month of test-driving my hypothesis and seeing that I started to feel more alive and in control of my life than ever, I am now sharing it with you. Here’s what I found.
1. Connection matters.
Forget the idea that we’re not supposed to be seeing each other right now and that there’s a quarantine. I want you to imagine that we’re now safe and able to freely see each other again. Who would you see? How often? Whenever you’re designing anything, including your life, it’s easiest to remove everything and start from scratch, adding one prioritized item at a time. For me, I saw that being with my family was such a gift and one of the most important connection points in my life. I always wanted to have the flexibility to work from home while caring for my kids. My wish was now granted. Maybe it wasn’t perfect, but I knew that this time was meaningful. Whether it’s your kids, your partner or your grandparents, we do start to appreciate each other more when the ability to easily see each other and create special moments is no longer present. Honor that connection and build a new structure of consistent connection made up of phone calls, drive-by birthdays, social distance porch hangouts, netflix date nights or video calls. Witness how good it feels to connect and commit to consistently showing up for the relationships that matter.
2. Giving is everything.
Of all the things we take for granted, having a job or an income that provides us with our basic human needs like food and shelter is often one of them. We complain about our work and how it’s too much, yet we’re now reminded that if you are able to have that complaint – you are one of the lucky ones. Why? Because not only can you provide for yourself, but you can give. To contribute and give is one of the greatest joys in life. During social isolation, I started ordering takeout as if I was living back in NYC again, trying to rotate through as many of the small, local businesses working so hard to stay afloat in these times as I could. I upped my monthly donations to CityMeals on Wheels. I started sending Girl Scout cookies and care packages to friends. I launched a podcast to share free spiritual and practical coaching tools each week. Whether it’s time or money, we all have a capacity to give in some way. Think of 1 or 2 businesses you can support in some way during this time and do it. Think of 1 or 2 people who could use a helping hand or a call. Do it. Make it a part of your DNA to share goodness, give freely, and love unconditionally – even after quarantine is lifted. Once you do that, you can begin to see life as a wheel of energy where nothing stays with you but is cycled through you to others and returns back to you.
3. Stillness is Sacred.
The illusion of free time is a controversial one during this period of social isolation. For some, there is more free time than ever – and for others, a lack of childcare on top of working at home is creating a scarcity of free time. No matter where you fall in that spectrum and whether or not you have kids, anxiety and concern over an uncertain future and the health of our community and loved ones is taking up more mental space than ever. As a result, the importance of finding moments where we can allow ourselves to be still and connect into the present moment, is clear. In this stillness, we remind ourselves that we are breathing, alive, and that all is well. We find the space in stillness to understand our triggers and begin to investigate how we can work through them. We might realize that we’ve avoided stillness in our lives because we wanted distractions like going out and spending time with friends so that we don’t feel so alone. We might also be realizing that when we’re still, our anxiety begins to come to the surface. Know that all of that is ok. It’s not just ok, it’s human. This time right now is sacred in our personal growth. All the scary, anxiety-fueled thoughts are showing us what matters to us and why. Honor your ability to witness it and develop a practice giving yourself space through stillness. Space in the morning to witness the miracles all around you. Space to take a breath between your back-to-back activities. Space at the end of the night to release the tensions of the day and ask yourself why these things bother you. Take these habits of self-reflection through to a post-social-isolation world because whether we realize it or not, our ability to be a better human lies within us in these moments of stillness every single day.
If I could tell each and every one of you one thing, it would be this: Let yourself be moved, disturbed, and saddened by the events happening in our lives. But also remember that in this time, we are given a chance to show up in our humanness while attempting to create a better tomorrow. Lean into the practices of connection, giving, and stillness. They relieve anxiety, foster a sense of safety, and decrease stress in the moment. What about post-COVID-19? Who knows? You may even come out of this social isolation a better human being.