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Minding our Minds in Pandemic Year 2

During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was hurled into major changes in a short time. The uncertainty of the etiology, symptoms, and treatments, combined with conflicting reports, changing guidelines, and the often-sensationalized headlines, led to major distress and anxiety. Moving to telecommuting required continual juggling of work and family life for many, and the daily striving for some form of structure.

Long and chaotic days followed by long sleepless nights… and it wasn’t long before we were longing for our previous life, even if we weren’t happy with it when we were in it! Adding to the stress was that we didn’t choose the transitions, but instead felt powerless as we scrambled to craft a new lifestyle in what seemed like minutes. Having to maintain the outward semblance of control and decorum left many of us feeling inadequate, depleted, and exhausted.

To top it off, we felt guilt at not being able to “get it together,” at not being able to be fully present for colleagues and our loved ones, at being less efficient than we wanted and perhaps than expected by others, and at every misstep, we made or perceived.

Where are you now in this transition process? Keep a few important considerations in mind as we enter into the second pandemic year:

  • This is not the time for perfection or inordinately high expectations.
  • Maximum energy and complete focus cannot be devoted to everything every day.
  • You are adapting well enough and taking care of everyone else as well as you can.
  • Control anxiety and rumination with logical and consistent self-care practices daily.
  • Routines, schedules – structure in any way, is important for brain and body function.
  • Let others help you – if not family or friends, seek professional counseling – talking can be cathartic and insightful.

We all recognize – maybe more now than before this pandemic, the importance of assessing our mental health and avoiding perceiving mental health challenges as character defects, lack of strength, or other personal deficiencies.

To improve our coping and develop resilience, consider developing a mindset that enables small actions to be done consistently, with a pragmatic, optimistic, and hopeful frame of mind. Which of these can you allow yourself to think, feel, or do daily?

  • Recognize that self-care is necessary and not selfish
  • Nourish myself with healthy food & beverages, sleep, and movement every day
  • Acknowledge I can help others better when I am functioning well
  • Stop trying to be “super-human” and figure out what can be left undone
  • Set boundaries and step away from life for even a few moments daily to refresh
  • Focus on what I can control and define what my responsibilities really are
  • Practice steps to responding calmly and respectfully even when stressed
  • Feel and express gratitude each day, and consider why I am grateful for each one
  • Consider the influence I have on people and how I want this time to be remembered

Being gentle and compassionate with ourselves is essential as we walk each other through these life challenges, where we may discover new strengths that were developing while we thought we were just coping.

Lisa Elsinger
Lisa Elsinger
Lisa Elsinger, Ph.D., is a lifelong advocate for taking care of body, mind, and spirit, so we can live this precious life with vitality and give our best to the world. She leads the Live Well at Broward College employee wellness program, where she integrates health and well-being into employee experience and organizational culture-building strategy. Committed to helping people integrate healthy habits into busy lives, Lisa emphasizes a “no extremes” approach, and provides regular insights on lifelong well-being via Well-being Wednesday, a weekly newsletter; Purposeful Pauses, weekly mindfulness, meditation, and rejuvenation breaks; interactive department and class sessions on multiple aspects of health; and ergonomic workstation assessment and remediation. Lisa values being immersed in the College’s altruistic initiatives, advocating for student and community health, and empowering people to share their stories to support and inspire others. She loves the breathtaking seaside sunrises in South Florida, farm animal sanctuaries, learning about all things neuroscience, music, and the experience of waking up, getting up, and showing up each day to make the world a better place, one action at a time.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I loved this piece, Lisa. I was in the middle of a high conflict divorce when the pandemic hit. At first, it seemed like such a curse, but not having to see each other in the court room and having more time to negotiate terms in the safety of my home ended up being a blessing.

    Having both kids home developed their bond in a way that never would’ve happened with one in school and one at home.

    Working from home with both kids home taught me how to balance my work/home life better.

    Grocery shopping twice a month taught me how to plan meals better. It also taught me what I “need” and what I “want” from the grocery store. It taught me to be a better shopper.

    I was also able to talk to a few men before I chose to date one. And I think that process helped me weed out a few red flag waving types, before I met them in person and had a chance to be wooed. I think that one has set me up for a successful post-divorce relationship.

    Thank you for making me reflect on these points. <3

    • Thank you, JoAnna, for your thoughtful reply. Having children at home adds to the complexity of one’s life – I marvel at how people manage to get so much accomplished while having family responsibilities, but I agree that it does require learning how to juggle everything! And dating….cannot go there yet:-)

      Best,

      L

  2. Lisa, this is such a great perspective:
    “To improve our coping and develop resilience, consider developing a mindset that enables small actions to be done consistently, with a pragmatic, optimistic, and hopeful frame of mind.”
    Thank you for not only these reminders but calls to action. Much needed today and every day. Bravo and Bravo!

    • Thank you, Carolyn! I am a believer in small, incremental activities done consistently, rather than my former mindset and lifestyle of much higher intensity (intense workouts, as one example). Now, I prefer moments – moments of movement and moments of mindfulness throughout a day. It’s like maintaining blood sugar rather than allowing it to spike and drop. I’m glad my article resonated with you!

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