Hey, all you cool cats and kittens!
I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself there. No, this isn’t Carole Baskin. It’s just me, your friendly bilingual Realtor®, Bella. Like 90% of my Facebook friends, I’ve already binge-watched Netflix’s Tiger King. (If you haven’t seen it yet… It’s one of those things that can’t be explained, only experienced.)
With near-constant media coverage, it seems that the COVID-19 pandemic has left pretty much no part of our lives untouched. The governor has issued a shelter-in-place order in our state. Non-essential businesses have been shut down. Schools are closed, and parents are struggling to help their kids adjust to online learning. Some of us are lucky enough to be able to work from home. Others have lost their jobs or been furloughed. Employees that have been deemed essential are risking exposure to the virus every time they head to work. People are struggling to make ends meet, while others are hoarding basic supplies. And worst of all, we’re losing people to this illness at an alarming rate.
There’s no doubt about it, we’re living in unprecedented - and incredibly stressful - times.
So today, I wanted to change things up a little and check in with you. Yes, you, the one reading this post right now.
Real talk for a moment, here, folks: how are you, really? How are you holding up right now? Take a moment to really sit with yourself, and just feel. Are you scared for yourself or a loved one? Angry? Depressed, anxious? Hopeful?
I want you to know that if you’re feeling some type of way about what’s happening in the world at the moment, it’s okay to be experiencing these feelings. No, really, I promise, it’s totally normal. And you’re not alone.
I’m scared, for myself and people I love (I have a lot of family members and friends in retail, healthcare, and daycare/childcare - they’re at a pretty high risk for exposure). With every new report I see online or in the news, I can feel my anxiety ratcheting up a notch or five. I’m grateful to still have a job at the moment, but I’m worried about the future of our economy. I’m frustrated with our federal government’s lack of preparedness for this crisis. I’m upset with people who aren’t taking this seriously; I’m angry with the idiots who bought all the dang paper towels and hand sanitizer. I miss hugs and lunch dates with friends. Most days, though, I’m simply exhausted - a bone deep weariness that makes it hard to find the energy to focus or function.
If, like me, you find yourself struggling to deal with everything that’s going on, I’d like to repeat: it’s okay. It’s easy to find ourselves overwhelmed in times of crisis. So how can we find a healthy way to cope?
By prioritizing our own physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This is especially important if you’re a parent, caregiver, or an essential worker. After all, how can we take care of others when we have precious little to give? Rumi says, “Never give from the depths of your well, but from your overflow.”
Granted, it may be a challenge right now to be overflowing with anything but a deep and unabiding need to drink all the wine and eat all the quarantine snacks. However, you should be making time to refill your well. Here are a few ways to help keep you out of 24/7 fight-or-flight mode. You’ve probably heard a few of them, and some of them may seem a bit trite or cliched. But sometimes, you gotta take it back to the basics.
- Take break from news and social media: Occasionally, you just have to step away. Being constantly bombarded with infection rates, death tolls, politics, and other pandemic stories on the news and in social media is mentally exhausting. Take a step back from the buzz and allow your mind some time and space to not have to deal with information overload. That doesn’t mean you should cut out your consumption entirely - staying updated is important, too. But instead of absorbing everything all the time, schedule some time once or twice a day to catch up with the news. Otherwise, turn off the TV, or keep on scrolling through your feed. And, when it’s time to catch up, be sure you’re getting your information from reliable and trustworthy sources, like the CDC or the WHO.
- Stay connected with loved ones: While you’re disconnecting from the doom-and-gloom overtaking the media, make sure you’re staying connected with the people in your life who matter. Just because we have to physically distance ourselves doesn’t mean we have to shut everyone out! Call your parents or grandparents on the phone; use video chat technology like Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, or Google Meet to catch up with your friends. Check in with relatives via social media. I know there are some folks who are hosting pub-style trivia quiz shows and sing-a-longs on Facebook Live. Others are shifting their DnD (that’s Dungeons and Dragons for you non-geeky peeps) campaigns to the digital frontier. You can even play a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity online. We don’t have to sacrifice the connections that help make life meaningful in order to flatten the curve.
- Eat as well as you can: I know, it’s so tempting (and easy) to reach for that big bag of puffed cheese snacks or the package of sandwich cookies. And let’s be honest, sometimes fresh food is more expensive than the processed stuff, so eating healthy on a budget can be a challenge. But one of the best things you can do for your physical health is to eat a balanced diet rich in nutritious foods, like fruits and veggies. Getting enough nutrients - including vitamins, minerals, fiber, and essential amino and fatty acids - helps give your body the energy it needs to produce immune cells. There’s no harm in indulging in your favorite treat, though, as long as you don’t overdo it - moderation is the key. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated!
Exercise: Regular physical activity is essential for your body, of course, but did you also know it can have a positive impact on your mental and emotional health as well? If you find yourself alternating between your bed and the couch most days, it might be time to get moving. Even though the gyms are closed, there’s still plenty of easy (and free!) ways to get your workout on. We’re fortunate to have beautiful weather at moment, so why not take advantage? Take the family on a walk around the neighborhood, or play in the back yard if you have one. If there are parks or walking/biking trails open near you, this is great time to make use of them. If you’re not a fan of the great outdoors, put on your favorite playlist and have an indoor dance party. YouTube has tons of free exercise videos ranging from choreographed dances to serious cardio routines. But please remember, even though exercise is considered an essential activity in Florida, it’s critical to maintain the 6 foot minimum distance between yourself and others out exercising!
Make sure you’re getting enough rest: Sleep helps us function better physically, mentally, and emotionally. While it’s not at all uncommon to experience restless, sleepless nights during times of increased stress, having good sleep habits is critical to your overall wellbeing. Sticking to your “normal” bedtime (if you have one) will help keep your sleep patterns more regular. Most experts also recommend limiting screen time before bed, and giving yourself time to wind down before settling in for the night. Also, if you find yourself nodding off during the day or craving a nap, you might actually need the extra sleep - fatigue is often a response to excessive stress.
Take some time to de-stress: If you can, try to carve out some time specifically for you to unwind and relax. I know, I know - this isn’t always practical, especially if you’re an essential worker with a busy schedule, or you have the kids at home all the time. Unfortunately, high levels of constant stress can weaken your immune system. Although no can really book a spa day or a remote weekend retreat at the moment, there are still plenty of things you can do to help you feel a little less fraught. Meditation and deep breathing exercises can have calmative, grounding effects, and can also aid with focus. (I’m particularly fond of this quick 10 minute guided meditation.) Throw your headphones on and crank up your favorite tunes (check out these coronavirus playlists on Spotify). Draw yourself a bubble bath, indulge in that second glass of wine (or bottle - no judgement here!), or maybe pick up a notebook and journal your experiences and feelings.
Keep yourself occupied: Sometimes we just need a distraction from what’s going on. If you find yourself with extra time on your hands, don’t let yourself get wrapped up in obsessing over the news cycle. Instead, keep your mind focused on something practical or more enjoyable. There’s never been a better time to channel your inner Marie Kando and organize those closets you’ve neglected. Get caught up on your favorite shows, or start streaming a new one. Disney+ has released some big-screen movies ahead of schedule; Amazon has launched Prime Video Cinema, which allows users to rent or buy movies that are still in theaters. Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read, or start a puzzle with the whole family. Dedicate some time to those hobbies you rarely get to enjoy, or learn a new one with an online platform like Skillshare or Bluprint. If you’re still having trouble finding things to do for yourself or your kids, we’ve published a few blog posts that have some great suggestions, like touring museums virtually or taking cooking classes!
- Practice self-care: Along with taking care of your physical needs, you should also be taking care of your mental and emotional ones, too. If you are on medications, be sure that you’re taking them regularly as prescribed by your doctor and refilling your prescriptions as needed. If you are currently seeing a mental health professional, ask if you can continue to have your sessions by phone or video conference. Make sure you’re setting healthy boundaries with friends and family. Limit contact with people whom you find it difficult or draining to be around. If your family is pushing for a large get-together (holiday, birthday, etc), and you’re not comfortable attending, politely and firmly decline the invitation. And remember, be kind to yourself - this is a strange time for so many people. You’re doing your best to adjust and cope, just like everyone else. If you catch yourself struggling or wallowing in fear or negative feelings, cut yourself some slack - those feelings are valid! Then take a deep breath, and then pull your focus towards something more positive.
On a very serious note, pandemics and other disasters can seriously exacerbate mental illnesses. They can also cause increased use of alcohol and substance abuse. If you struggle with mental illness, thoughts of suicide, or addiction issues, please know that help is available to you. If you feel like you are going to harm yourself or someone else, please call 911 immediately. You can also call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990. They are a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster, including infectious disease outbreaks. They also have text services, which you can access by texting TalkWithUs to 66746. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center also has a great list of resources available on their website. If you are struggling to stay sober, there are online AA meetings available to you. I don’t know who needs to hear this right now, but you are important. You are loved. You matter. I know it’s hard, but reach out for help if you need it.
I know there’s a lot of really terrible stuff happening out there right now. There are some hard lessons to be learned here. Maybe, when this is all over and we’re headed toward recovery, we shift our overall focus. We make our families and loved ones more of a priority. We let go of the “grind all the time” mentality and make time for things that simply make us happy. We take better care of ourselves and our neighbors. And in the meantime, we stay at home when we can and we wash our hands. And, we realize that keeping our physical distance is, at least for now, an act of love.
I know one thing is for certain: I will never take having a steady supply of toilet paper for granted again.