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.