The past two weeks have been really freaking weird. I know I’m not alone when I say what I do for work is pretty much in limbo right now until further notice. Most states’ legal systems are not in session, with the exception of emergency hearings. All “non-essential” jobs are basically non-existent or severely modified, and even “essential” businesses have had to adapt to online structures (or other business models) in order to reduce the exposure and/or spread of COVID-19.
What started out as an anecdotal illness from the other side of the world a few months ago has quickly turned into something affecting every person on this planet. It doesn’t matter if you live in Europe, North America, or elsewhere on the globe, you’ve likely had to dramatically change your daily routine because of all that’s going on.
Gone are the days of getting your nails done at the salon, enjoying a meal inside a restaurant with loved ones, and mindlessly browsing the aisles at Target. I know I’m not alone when I say the past several weeks have left me with copious amounts of anxiety and very few outlets to resolve them. I’ve tried to carve out a routine in what has started to feel like an endless sequence of days with too much unstructured time.
I’ve tried to feel useful, but it’s hard when I’ve been told by the government and health officials that the best thing I can do is to stay at home.
So how do you eek out a sense of calm amidst all of this chaos?
The simple answer is you don’t.
The longer answer is you do, but it will always feel a little bit unsettling, hence it may never truly feel “calm.”
I’m one of those people that likes to plan ahead. Whether it be for our upcoming wedding, which, if we’re being honest, who knows if that’ll even happen at this point because gatherings of any kind aren’t allowed right now . . . or even trying to plan to make meals and not knowing if the grocery store will have every ingredient in stock . . . there is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now.
Uncertainty and anxiety don’t mix well, but as unsettling as all of this has been, it’s allowed me to slow down and think about ways we can find calm amidst the chaos.
- GOOD PEOPLE STILL EXIST. “Look for the helpers,” as the famous quote by Mr. Rogers goes. Yesterday I read about local fabric stores offering free supplies to people who are able to sew materials into masks for hospital workers to combat PPE (personal protective equiptment) shortages. If you’ve recently found some extra time on your hands, look for ways you can help out your community. There are lots of opportunities you can do from the comfort of your home, or if you’re able to, ways like make homemade masks (they drop off the materials into your car and you drop them back off once you’ve finished sewing them; they take care of all of the distribution).
- KINDNESS IS STILL COOL. It doesn’t cost you anything to ask how someone’s day is going, or offer a waive to someone you see passing by in the street or through a window (#socialdistancing). Right now, it might feel impossible to spread positivity, let alone kindness, but I’ve found even if I’m not feeling in the mood to ask how someone’s doing because my world feels like it’s crumbling is a shitty excuse to not show up for someone else who might really need it in that moment.
- SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESSES. If you have the cash to spare, try to direct your purchases to small businesses right now, as many/most of them do not have the cash reserves that larger chains and big box distributors have to weather what’s going on. I’ve seen businesses get creative in their marketing strategies, delivery options, and what kind of goods they offer. One of my favorite restaurants is now doing veggie and fruit delivery boxes, in addition to their normal menu (for takeout or delivery). You don’t even have to interact with anyone . . .they’ll leave it at your door and ring your bell or give you a call to let you know it’s there (#contactlessdelivery).
- CHECK IN ON YOUR TRIBE. A quick call, a Facetime, a virtual workout . . .whatever it is, take the time to check in on those you care about. Heck, I’ve even been checking in on some of our wedding vendors, because I can’t imagine what kind of stress and uncertainty they’re going through with weddings being cancelled and postponed left and right. Again, totally free . . . it just takes time and effort to pencil in these check-ins during your day.
- TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. I’ve tried not to overcomplicate this. Some days it’s a bath with epsom salt for ten minutes, other days it’s just laying outside on the ground in the sunshine. I try to get a little movement in each day because #endorphins. I also try to remind myself that I don’t have to clean the whole house or master a bunch of new recipes all in one day. The other night I made a stirfry out of leftover veggies in our fridge and it didn’t taste bad, so I considered that a win in my book.
I know some people still have work as usual (whether that’s in a hospital, working from home, or something else), and others have loads of free time they’re trying to repurpose. Whatever your circumstances may be, know that this period of uncertainty won’t last forever. Even though you might have moments of frustration throughout all of this, remind yourself that they’re just moments in the grander scheme of things.
Also, something else I’ve found extremely helpful during all of this is to turn off the news and focus on something else: gardening, a new hobby, video games, playing with pets, etc. Whatever it may be, rereading the statistics of how many new cases there are in your state/city/etc. isn’t going to (a) make those people get better or (b) reduce your anxiety. So instead of fixating on it (I’m guilty of this, too), put your device(s) on airplane mode and shift your focus to something more productive (even if it is the new tiger show on Netflix).
Stay safe. (Try) to stay sane. We’ve got this.