“Remember…this too shall pass…maybe like a kidney stone but it will pass!”
This pandemic distills things to the essentials: those of us who are healthy, have healthy families, are employed and able to work for home are incredibly, deeply blessed. That’s not to say there aren’t stressors: isolation, instability, financial uncertainty, sadness and anxiety, logistical challenges related to remote work and ongoing or sudden fire drills at work or at home to name a few. Even in the context of being deeply grateful, these challenges can be acute, painful and sometimes overwhelming.
A lot has been written about how exercise, setting a routine, getting outside, meditation, and maintaining connectedness with friends and loved ones helps through stressful times. These are incredibly valuable tools. Here are a few others I’ve found useful and hope others will as well.
Focus on Values vs Emotions
Emotions and reality may be related, and frequently co-habitate, but aren’t the same thing. By contrast, your values are core to who you are and consistent. Think about your value system and try to emphasize those values that are particularly useful at a time like this (e.g. perseverance, kindness, flexibility, initiative, grace).
Emphasize purpose – keep reminding yourself of your primary drivers and larger goals and do something daily to move towards them. If you’re caught in a cycle of fire drills, if the treadmill just sped up a lot or the “off” button has gone missing, remind yourself that you’re stronger than you feel and lucky to have a reserve of strength, however much you wish you didn’t have to use it.
In particular, try to recognize when you’re having emotions about having emotions. It’s much easier to stop being angry at yourself for being sad or frustrated than to stop being sad or frustrated. Plus it’s reasonable to ask your inner monologue to check the ‘tude a bit, given everything.
Set a Date for When Things Normalize
While this is anyone’s guess, a defined end date* can morph what feels like suspended animation into a time out where you have a window to do XYZ. Achievable goals and deadlines help with motivation and reinforce a sense of agency.
Another useful self-headfake is getting rid of your problems. Visualize a circle on the floor, put the issues you’re facing in it and put them under the sink or in the trash or just take a few steps back from them. It’s not a matter of changing your circumstances as much as cutting the circuit of your reaction to them, so you can power on.
*subject to change
Now is a good time to streamline, de-clutter, clarify and eliminate toxic elements (whether diet, people or something else). You will definitely feel better, calmer, more energetic and stronger…although everything in moderation, including moderation.
Donate. Volunteer. Help a friend. Lend an ear. Lend a hand. If you’re receiving deliveries, tip excessively. If you can; because you can – it will help people who really need it, and you will feel better for being able to help.
Get Noise-Cancelling Headphones
These are a game-changer generally, and particularly now.
Stay safe out there. You’ve got this.