Boy has this been a wild ride since February! Our whole world has come to a screeching halt due to what many have called “the hidden enemy”. We have lost so much of our freedom and our lives. Some people even feel like they have lost their sanity due to the undue stress and frustrations that are present.
Sometimes I can feel very sad about all that I have lost or cannot do. The loss of physical connection with others is particularly difficult. Humans are designed to have attachment and positive connection with one another so, social distancing is antithetical to who we are. Our emotions and mood have taken a beating, because of the changes and uncertainty.
We long for what we once knew as normal. We long to “just get back to the way it used to be.” But that is not going to happen right away. We have to look at what is this new normal we are living in. We have been in a process of grief. Process being the operative word. The feelings of shock, anger, loss, sadness, frustration, irritability and overwhelm are all part of this process.
But for some, they are moving into a deeper layer of acceptance and at least tolerance for what we are living through. With acceptance comes hope. With hope we can look toward the future and trust in our hearts that things will get better; that we will not be stuck in these feelings, in this process forever. What are the lessons we are learning as we continue this process? Perhaps the invitation needs to be looking at what is gained rather than lost.
I went out for a walk the other night after dinner and was delighted and surprised to see how many families were riding their bikes together or walking together. I had no idea so many families have a family dog or I’ve never seen them walking around the neighborhood before.
We all stayed 6 feet apart and had on a face mask to do our part, but the joy and laughter I witnessed was lovely. Then I realized that something that some families are gaining is quality time together. Parents are not coming home from work exhausted and stressed out after commuting for 1.5-2hours. Yes, there are other stressors, and I don’t’ mean to minimize those.
Parents are having to learn how to home school their children, couples are having to learn how to communicate in new ways, frustrations are having to be managed in new and creative ways, financial distress is exploding; but what else might we be gaining?
- Cleaner air
- Less need for gasoline and being in our cars
- More connection with family and friends
- Time for introspection and figuring out what is truly of value
- Creative problem solving
- Renewed focus on doing things that do not require a computer
- Improved flexibility and patience
- Better time management
- Kindness and support towards one another
- Figuring out what is really necessary in life and what we can let go of
It wasn’t until I had to be home so much and use my computer to stay in touch with clients that I realized just how busy my life had become. I just took my overloaded schedule in stride, accommodating each new thing as necessary and important rather than giving myself permission to slow down, have better balance and improved quality of life. It is to be expected that there will be emotional ups and downs throughout this process.
I too have good days and bad days; but the bad days are getting fewer and I am more able to focus on the positive and have hope that we will all be okay when this is done. I look forward to being able to hug my family and friends again, to have dinner at my favorite restaurant or to just sit close to a friend. Until that can happen here are few ideas to help us all cope a little better.
Coping strategies for managing the stress:
- Create a structure to your day – i.e. get up at the same time, shower, get dressed in real clothes not just sweats or pajamas.
- Take breaks from work – go outside, step away from the computer, stretch for 5-15 min at a time.
- Go for a 20 min walk outside every day. Being outdoors improves mood and is said to boost your immune system.
- Create Zoom group calls to keep in touch with family and friends
- Find hobbies that allow you to be creative in some way – creativity is healing and allows the analytical side of ourselves to take a rest.
- Practice yoga and meditation to feel calm and focused
- Eat your veggies! Reaching for snack food is so easy, but it doesn’t give our bodies what it needs to be healthy and regulated. Try to have a balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
- Laugh when you can – “laughter is the best medicine” – check out YouTube videos of Saturday Night Live or your favorite comedians – work on knock, knock jokes with your kids. It is okay to get your mind on other things, why not it be something funny?
Sometimes even when we have done everything, we can to cope we still need a little help, that’s when you need to give Treehouse Family Counseling Services a call. We are available for telehealth sessions or in-person sessions where we follow a strict social distancing protocol. We are here for you and your family. You don’t have to walk this path alone. www.tcservices.org or call 925-820-8447. See you soon.
Mary Ruth Cross, MS, MFT, NCC, RPT-S
CEO/Owner Treehouse Family Counseling Services, PC