“Oh my God, they just need to shut down everything! Why can’t they just shut it all down?” I screamed at the TV as my husband and I were watching the horrifying reality unfold. We were walking into a global pandemic. Sheer panic set in. “Unfortunately they can’t do that, the economy wouldn’t survive,” was his response. But shut down they did. This was in March– more than half a year ago. And since then we have all been living out some of science fiction’s most outlandish scripts.
My outlook during the last 6 months have been one of bleakness, confusion, impatience, anger, and at times, utter darkness. It was extremely challenging to reconcile how something that every person on this planet was affected by, was somehow making each of us feel lonelier than we’ve ever felt before. We were all in the same boat, yet oceans apart. Foreign terms and a new way of existing began to inundate our daily lives from N95s, PPEs to physical distancing. Everywhere you looked, covid was there– there was no escaping this actuality. The gloomy days lingered and the world somehow stopped going a mile a minute. We all slowed down but it wasn’t to do what we wanted to do, what we loved to do, what we sought time to do because there was nothing left to enjoy, nothing left to look forward to. I felt as if I was stripped of most things in my life that defined who I was as a person- the fulfillment of going to a job I loved, being surrounded by my extended family who knew me better than anyone else, my friends who I leaned on for support during difficult times, life’s simple pleasures- all this disappeared in just a matter of days. Nothing was the same and it was hard to see when it would ever be the same again.
What was the point in putting one foot in front of the other when the world was at an impossible stand-still? There were days where all I wanted to do was nap or watch YouTube mindlessly to zone out. In those instances, I allowed myself those graces because sometimes you just need a minute or two. Eventually as the days painstakingly blended into the next, I began to slowly adjust to the new “normal” and found strategies to cope with those trying days (which still come and go as we proceed into this new way of life).
Get to know your technology. We all love and hate our technology, and admittedly pre-covid it was a main form of communication for our social and professional lives. However, in this new covid era, technology is the ONLY form of communication- especially with our nearest and dearest. So if you’re unfamiliar with the zooms, video chats, apps, etc., I just have three words for you: Get. With. It. If this is the only way you can interact with family and check-in on friends to stay connected then this is what it’s going to be. Your very health depends on these small exchanges- if for nothing else than to bring you out of your darkest days and look forward to a brighter thereafter. My only suggestion is to be mindful of what types of technology to let in. I’m not on social media but I imagine if your newsfeed is constantly filled with near-death or tragic headlines you might soon spiral deeper into the black hole yourself. The same goes with keeping your ear to the news 24/7. While it’s good to be in the know and understand exactly how the world is or isn’t managing this pandemic, it’s also important to disconnect too. That little break is so important to decompress and unclutter our minds. In all the types of emergency training we’ve ever participated in, panic was never a state of mind we wanted to let consume us. And ingesting every bit of the news every hour on the hour will set off that panic button when really what we all need to do is stay calm, listen to the experts and do what we each can to strive for a stronger outcome.
Focus on health. Currently we have very little control about how, when and if we contract covid but what we can control is how we prepare ourselves, how we educate ourselves and where we choose to deposit our energy. One sure thing covid has given us is the gift of time (for most of us anyway). We are spending less time running around, commuting to work and fussing about the things that no longer matter (for now at least). And what better time than now to reflect on our lives pre-covid and figure out what wasn’t working before. I took this opportunity to focus on my own self-care, if for nothing else than to be a source of strength for others around me. As always, you cannot possibly support anyone if you, yourself, are not of sound mind, body and soul. I decided to recharge my spirit by concentrating on my fitness goals and I started a 12-week workout program. There are so many added benefits for staying fit but also studies show that exercise improves our immunity against a variety of health culprits. While finding the time to do the 5 exercises weekly required a lot of creative problem solving and flexibility on my part, it has absolutely reinvigorated my motivation to stay active and focused on my end goal.
Music, music, music! It is often suggested that if one of your five senses is lacking then naturally one of the other senses is bound to be heightened. Well, perhaps my non-existent sense of smell propelled my sense of hearing to another level because ya’ll, I’ve been feeling the music (and I mean the gospel, Jesus-praising type of feels here). I have to admit, motherhood has treated me rather kind thus far but the only complaint I have is the endless hours of child’s play that make me question my sanity and the mechanics of a clock (because why does the second hand always look as though it’s moving slower when you’re staring at it)? My child has boundless energy and goes from one activity to the next in a matter of mere minutes. She demands my attention to specific instructions every step of the way otherwise I’m in for an epic meltdown. Watching her play is as exciting as, I imagine, watching paint dry. So I created a playlist on Spotify of most appropriate music (you know, your top 40s, eclectic 90s and classic rap songs of my youth) and left it on ALL. FREAKING. DAY! It was sublime- simply magical. We often don’t give music enough credit when it comes to boosting our mental health. For me, music has always been a medium that I’ve relied on to quell my boredom and loneliness. Music has a unique ability to transport us subconsciously from our current state of mind to a vivid memory we associate with a particular time in our lives– a time when, perhaps, things were simpler or reminded us of how far our journey has been. Having music constantly flowing through the house just instantly changed my mood and provided a palatable backdrop to an otherwise mind-numbing, revolving groundhog day (I’m talking circa early lockdown days here, guys- my child is lovely 80% of the time I swear). I say, let music colour your world!
Eliminate negativity. We’ve all been there- something bad happens and many of us use that time to pray to the God we rarely acknowledge (other than for these rare instances when we call upon them for help; a last-ditch effort). “I will do this/anything if you just help me do/solve/save xx.” Well, this is precisely where my positivity derives from. Instead of waiting for something terrible to happen and only then bargaining for a lesser fate, I practice gratitude. If something negative happens (maybe something that has inconvenienced me or made my already-dragging day even slower, etc), I will tend to step back and think, “what is worse than what’s happening right now?” I take a couple minutes to imagine this new less-desirable scenario and then I thank God that that scenario isn’t my current problem. This state of mind helps me accept the issue enough to unpack it. It reminds me that “okay, it really could be worse but thank goodness it’s not.” It’s up to you to imagine what your “worse” is. This way of thinking forces me to make a conscious effort in my life to focus on what is working, what I have, and what I am grateful for. Another exercise I try sometimes is closing my eyes and remembering what my life was like exactly 5 years ago: where was I, what did I need, what did I long for, what was missing, what unresolved issues clouded my outlook? And then I compare it to where I am now. Five years ago my then-boyfriend and I were living in a cramped 550sqft condo, I was having an existential crisis over my career, I was nervous about the possibility of having difficulties with getting pregnant, and wondering when we would get married to start our lives. And now, exactly 5 years later we have finally expanded our space and made it our very own, we have the sweetest little girl who loves us more than anything in this world, and all the other things either fell into place or we grew accustomed to where they fell. Truthfully, the nature of it is that we will always have wants and needs but we have to remember to relish the successes in order to stay positive and be continually thankful.
Let’s admit it, the world is in utter turmoil. We are fighting race wars, watching bullies rule the world, trying to curb the negative effects of global warming, freaking out about killer hornets, and then this thing called covid won’t leave us alone. I get it, I get. But we have to remember that this world is still a wondrous and miraculous place: beautiful babies are born every second, biting into freshly baked bread is still one of the best food pleasures ever, and well, at least we still have each other.
We are a resilient species. We will survive this. And we will be better for it.