As we move into the 6-month mark recognizing how COVID-19 has changed our lives, the stress is palpable. Many parents and students are struggling with online learning, childcare, and trying to work from home while also supervising virtual education for young children. That challenge intensifies if those parents have returned to a place of work beyond the home.
Those who have work are adjusting to the new normal of perpetual Zoom meetings, a lack of privacy working from home, and a Groundhog’s Day routine that often leaves you wondering what day of the week it is.
The stress is most acute for those who are unemployed or underemployed, as well as those who are struggling with health issues, and the many who have COVID-19. The news is confusing, and the message depends on what media platform you tune into. Some say the virus is under control and getting back to normal is imminent. Others report a more dire outlook with startling COVID infection rates, geographic hot spots, and super spreader behavior leading to increased COVID cases and death rates.
While you may not be able to dramatically change much living in the time of a global pandemic, you do have the power to exercise control in other areas that can help you and those with whom you interact to better cope.
Be Present in the Moment
Full disclosure, I’m future minded. Futuristic is one of my Top 5 StregthsFinder themes and I thrive in scenarios when I can set goals and plan for the future. Our current state with COVID has left me flummoxed, since planning for the future is difficult at best.
I’m trying to embrace the Zen of being in the moment. While this is not my natural state, I find that enjoying the simplicity of things has helped me recalibrate and let go of my default tendency to worry. I’m doing my best to appreciate things with all of my senses and be more observant in small incremental ways. Here is an example:
It’s a sunny day and the humidity is hanging in the air. I can smell the scent of my basil plants hanging in the air as I stroll by my garden with my dogs on our morning walk. Little things like smelling the basil give me moments of gratitude and a sensory connection that for a while allow me to focus on something of my choosing.
I am learning to live with perpetual ambiguity and to let go of worry and the things I can’t control. Sometimes I suck at this – but I start new each day.
Give Grace and Space
Pre-COVID there was a viral video from a BBC newscast with a Dad giving an interview from home on live TV when his young kids barged into his office. I thought about how wonderful this real-life moment was and laughed it off but secretly hoped something similar never happened to me.
We gave space and grace to the Dad in the video and to his wife who rushed in to clear out the kids, clearly mortified that they escaped her watch to barge into Dad’s home office.
COVID has taught us that real life continues to happen. Consider how you can be more tolerant, forgiving and bring levity to the mishaps that happen to all of us. My dogs have been the guest stars in many a Zoom meeting but when a UPS delivery is dropped off at my door – I can’t get to the mute button fast enough to silence their deafening barks.
Showing Vulnerability is OK
Some are more stoic than others as we navigate the ongoing COVID crisis. I have found that showing my vulnerability with family, friends and colleagues has helped to create a safe space for others to authentically share.
You don’t have to always be brave or have it all together to appear that you are strong. Honor your emotions. Rant and rave, cry or shout, or exhaust your frustrations with a long walk or run. Being vulnerable is good for your health, your peace of mind, and can give others space, grace, and confidence to do the same.
Create the Habit of Checking-In
I read a great piece by Stephanie Knouse about the space between self-care and reflection during a pandemic. She shared the following prompts to remind us about what we need to do for ourselves and how we can support others during this unprecedented time.
- How can I show more kindness and grace to myself?
- How can I extend this kindness and grace to others?
- How can I reframe “should haves” or “ought to’s” and view what I have done as valuable and commendable?
- How can I reframe “should haves” or “ought to’s’” and view what others have done as valuable and commendable?
- What two or three practices will help me through the uncertainty?
- When working with others, how can I model reframing for them? How can I help them process their experiences, emotions, and expectations during this time?
My work team has a weekly virtual staff meeting and I have started a new tradition at the beginning of these meetings by asking each of us to share something we are doing to honor ourselves that week. My intention is to help each of us prioritize self-care, which in a pandemic is self-preservation. We are trying to give each other space and grace as a reminder that the current reality is still difficult. One day at a time.