I went to bed one night in early March and when I woke up our entire world had changed. At first, I ignored the significance of it, dismissing it as someone else’s problem. That will never happen here, my husband and I reassured each other, with blind, ill-informed confidence. We shared that perspective because the alternative was terrifying.
But now here we are. People in our own country, our own state, and our own county are dying by the hundreds every day. Our healthcare workers are beyond brave, being asked to do the unthinkable, balancing their call to serve others with the risks to their own health and their families.
The rest of us are stuck in our homes, missing our friends, taking on the burdens of working from home, teaching from home, parenting from home, socializing from home. We feel both completely isolated and alone and yet at the same time overstimulated, craving a break from our families, and then we feel guilty for feeling that way. We fret over what to eat and where to get it from. Late at night, when all is quiet, our deepest and darkest fears arise: Will my family get sick? Will someone I know die? How are we going to afford to continue down this path? How will this all end?
This reality is truly devastating. At times it’s so overwhelming that it literally takes my breath away and I randomly start crying. It’s a lot to wrap my mind around.
When we feel overwhelmed, threatened, and scared, the tendency is to resist our new reality. To deny the situation. Ignore it. Downplay it.
The problem with resisting something is it creates a lot of conflict and tension in our minds and bodies, and we feel stuck. We find ourselves binge-eating dark chocolate and pretzels and pretend we don’t know why. We become irritable and impatient. We can’t focus and we are unproductive.
The truth is we can’t really ignore or deny that COVID-19 is here and ravishing our country. We can try to push it away but inevitably the reality comes back and threatens us all over again.
So my suggestion is to accept our new reality. Yes, schools are closed indefinitely. Millions of people are out of work, falling into poverty, and our collective health is at risk. Alcohol use is on the rise, as are reports of child and domestic abuse.
These facts and so many more are scary and overwhelming.
Allow yourself to feel that.
It’s OK to feel angry and frustrated. This situation is horrible. It’s pretty much impossible to work from home AND teach your kids AND manage a household AND figure out how to feed your family AND keep the house clean. You have every right to feel mad and throw your hands up.
It’s OK to feel sad and grieve the things we are missing and losing. I cry every day with grief for yet another reason: seniors missing graduation, my kids not playing with their friends, people dying, healthcare workers being put in danger, my sanity slowly slipping away. I miss my friends too. Deeply. I would trade anything to go back to my old problems, instead of these new, much scarier ones.
Allowing yourself to feel all the “COVID-19 feels” is part of the process of accepting what’s happening.
Once we start processing our feelings, our perspectives shift and new feelings arise. For instance, I’m now incredibly grateful for our teachers, because I am learning first-hand how incredibly difficult it is to teach my kids literally anything. I’m reconnecting with my love for cooking, finding ways to get creative with the long-ignored food in my pantry. I’m realizing that my pre-COVID grocery habits were a bit excessive, and I’m learning to be content with less.
I have more gratitude for my health than ever before. I’m grateful for the support from my family, as I now connect with my sisters at least twice a week to check-in, as well as regular family virtual happy hours. I have the time to play games with my kids, every single day. My mornings are slower and calmer. My husband and I have long and meaningful conversations in the evenings.
Once we have accepted this new reality, so many more things become available to us. We stop resisting and we can move forward, seeking out the good in the situation while painfully aware of all the bad.
I encourage you to get in touch with all your “COVID-19 feels.” Use this as an opportunity to reflect on what you’re learning about yourself and how to make the most of this time of isolation. Get back into touch with how to take care of yourself. Reach out to others, support your loved ones, give to places in need and express gratitude for those that are keeping your community safe. We will get through this!