Expectations. We all have them, don’t we?
If there is one thing I have learned from how to stay healthy coping with physical distancing and quarantine it’s to managing expectations.
Even in the first few days it quickly became very obvious that my task list was going to take MUCH longer to complete. Between stores closing, parenting and homeschooling responsibilities and managing my own stress levels, the time and energy became a scarce commodity.
I began off looking at my new world through the lens of #learningtorest.
Learning how to slow and how to attune my inner ear to my need for rest.
I wasn’t good at it.
I’m not a very good listener…
So… I moved onto scheduling… trying to control what I could.
I created a beautiful chart. Yay!
I broke the day down into smaller chunks that allowed me and my children to focus on smaller more manageable tasks and goals.
This worked great. My kids thrived.
The days didn’t seem as long and I felt that we had a purpose and accomplished something in the day. We still use this chart with the kids. It brings clear boundaries my kids need and thrive in.
However, I continued to feel sluggish.
And it dawned on me… grief.
I have been grieving the loss of so much and struggling to adapt to the very rapid changes.
There is a fantastic article that features David Kessler, the world’s foremost expert on grief. In the article, David briefly outlines the 6 stages of grief. He describes the feelings of being low and distracted as grief and even outlines how anticipatory grief, or the feelings of what will be lost in the uncertain future, can turn to anxiety.
Grief is often a journey. Something that you go through when there is a loss.
There is movement and a person goes through the stages (although often not in order). In the end, there is acceptance and eventually meaning.
Have you ever experienced grief?
Grief is one of the most universally common experiences.
Most adults can point to a time when they were in grief. So we can all relate to the feeling of being stuck in grief.
When you are the one experiencing grief you do not realize there is movement. You shift in and out of the stages in a blur and although there are good days most of the time all you notice is the distinct feeling of being numb and in pain at the same time.
Right now the world is experiencing grief and loss together.
Collectively we are in isolation grieving the loss of our normal, our jobs, relationships and security.
And it hurts.
The depressed mood, low energy, anger, disbelieve, tears, distraction, difficulty focusing that you are experiencing is grief.
And it’s hard to believe but it is a journey. You are not stuck. You are shifting and moving.
Just as in any grief, we can slip into the more unhealthy space of anxiety and depression and get stuck. However, here are seven small strategies that can be helpful to process the grief, prevent us from getting stuck and keep us moving through the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19.
7 Strategies to Avoid Depression and Anxiety During Physical Distancing.
1. Managing expectations
Think about what you would normally accomplish in a day. Cut the list in half. Then, if that felt good. Cut it in half again. Grief is exhausting. To think that you are able to complete tasks and maintain focus like before is setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. Set realistic expectations on yourself and others in your home.
In Matthew 22:29 Jesus taught that loving others as we love ourselves is second only to loving God. At this time people may be edgier and you might not be feeling yourself. Being loving is to have compassion for yourself and others. Don’t beat yourself up if you meet the goal, take a breath before responding to a rude comment. Compassion isn’t just to have for others, but also for yourself. When you’re tempted to beat yourself up or that inner critic gets loud, try to think about what a friend would say and take that advice.
3. Finding joy
I don’t have a lot of hobbies and the activities that might be considered hobbies have to do with social events, outings or stores. These are not helpful at this time. It has been very valuable to find things that bring me pleasure. Working in my yard, going for walks without kids, reading for pleasure and I actually like puzzles. Finding something that you enjoy is valuable. Build in one or several activities that bring you pleasure. There are tons of free online courses and activities that have been made available. Find something that you find interesting and build it into your day. Every day.
4. Healthy habits
So much of our well-being is built upon the basics of eating, sleeping and moving. When these areas are out of alignment, our mental and emotional struggles are compounded. Although eating the whole bag of chocolate chips that you found in the back of the cupboard is tempting it’s not helpful and the sugar crash is going to feel awful… believe me, I know.
Releasing energy through movement lowers the tension, releases positive endorphins and is a great distraction. So go for a walk, bike ride or paddle. Use the dusty treadmill, get in the garden, paint that room. Engaging in physical activity is very beneficial to your mind, body and emotions. Plus you get the satisfaction of checking off an item on the to-do list.
Stress and racing thoughts can make it difficult to sleep. But getting restorative sleep is crucial to well-being. If you are struggling with sleep please take advantage of the free mini-course on improving your sleep. Sleep is Not a Dream has been made free for the duration of the quarantine. Check out the preview HERE.
We all thrive in routine, it’s not just for kids. Having endless days open with no schedule or having our normal routine flipped upside down, put in a blender and then tossed in the dryer (sorry… am I the only one that feels that way?) is very difficult. Take some time and create a new routine. Start by setting a time to wake up and a time to go to sleep. Add in meal and snack times to develop a schedule.
6. Guard your heart
Be aware of the content that you are consuming. I have had to lower my news intake, crime dramas and general negative storylines and increase the comedy and positive content. I’m trying to filter out “downers” not because they are inherently bad, but I know my tolerance for negativity is much smaller when I’m stressed. You might be the same way. At a normal time, I have no problem sitting beside my husband while he watches a drama TV show but I have learned that in times of high stress or when I’m facing some negative circumstances I need to limit it because it begins to impact my mood and perspective. I encourage you to self-reflect on the content that you are consuming and its impacts on you.
In a world of quarantine, connection with others seems like a bad joke. Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it before, you say (eye roll). But please listen. We were designed for relationship. We are instinctually built to have connection with others. When connection is removed hardship, depression and addiction is replaced. It is imperative that we find some way to connect with others.
Also, if you are in a house full of people, taking some time to go for a walk alone or having time when you are “off duty” can be very restorative. Your needs are going to shift and change so there is no prescribed solution. The key is to stay tuned to what you are feeling in the moment, why and taking the time to meet that need.