The global Coronavirus pandemic has us all relearning how to live our day-to-day lives in a system that is learning on the fly.
There is no certainty.
There is no previous experience to draw on.
This is new and it is our reality.
I keep hoping that somehow I will normalize, that life will normalize.
But it hasn’t yet.
Is this the new normal?
A world where I feel a mix of completely numb and absolutely overwhelmed all at the same time.
It’s like there’s way too much to process, but absolutely nothing happening in each moment.
It’s messing with my mind and emotions.
I feel both:
- Responsible and helpless.
- Invigorated and exhausted.
- Stressed and calm.
I feel everything and nothing.
This is my every day now.
I know I’m not alone in this.
3 Big Struggles During the Coronavirus Pandemic
The focus of this Friday Focus is really about areas where I am struggling and learning (slowly but surely) to get through this changing, pandemic-filled world.
However, before I continue talking about the struggles I’m facing, I need to note two important things:
- I have it pretty easy. I still have my job, as I work from home. Though I’ve felt the strain of the economic struggles plaguing us globally, I am OK. I have a roof over my head that I share with my amazing family. I have my health and safety. I have access to food and medicine. I am truly blessed.
- I am beyond grateful and forever indebted to everyone working on the front lines, risking their health to provide essential services to people like me. From ER nurses to grocery store cashiers, I thank you from the depths of my soul for your service.
I wanted to be clear on my position and acknowledge that there are so many stories, journeys, and realities we are all living – with some being so much more difficult than others.
Here are the three main struggles that I have been facing during this Coronavirus pandemic, and want to address:
- Struggling to focus on and complete tasks both for work and home.
- A feeling of responsibility for things that are beyond my control.
- An inability to find joy in my days.
I’m Struggling to Focus
The struggle to focus was the first thing I noticed taking over.
My days became a blur with little to no schedule.
This was particularly strange to me because I usually work from home.
Nothing had changed on that front.
Somehow, though, as the world around me lost it’s schedule, mine went along with it.
Focusing and completing tasks can be a challenge for me in my regular life as well, so that part wasn’t new to me.
But the ongoing, never ending lack of focus with no ability to break the cycle?
I reached out a couple of times to others to express my frustration with this “stuck” feeling I’ve been experiencing.
It has been helpful to me to know I am in good company with this one.
So many people are experiencing this difficulty as well.
My chats with others helped me to remember some skills that I had learned over the years to help myself get unstuck and accomplish tasks, which was great.
The most helpful of those skills that I have started to implement in my day-to-day life (and am using it to write this piece in fact) is called “Chunking the Day”.
I learned this technique in a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy class.
It has been incredibly helpful to me both in the past and now as I struggle to get through my days and get things done.
How does “Chunking the Day” work?
It’s quite simple.
The idea is to focus on something that is attainable in the moment I am in right now.
(I can also use it to plan ahead. But a long list can be overwhelming. So I need to consider this when planning ahead so it doesn’t become a liability or add stress.)
I choose to use different time frames at different times, but I’m always careful to be sure they’re not too long.
Maybe 20-30 minutes.
Currently, I’m working in 10-minute chunks at a time.
So the chunking comes to play when I set out to work on a task for 10 minutes rather than setting out to work on a task to completion.
If, at the end of 10 minutes, I feel ready for another 10-minute chunk, then I will move into that. But if not, I will take a break (also for a set chunk of time).
There is no guilt or judgment allowed in regard to not completing a task.
The goal was to do 10 minutes of work on a project and that was attained.
That is the focus and success.
Chunking the day only works when used along with self-compassion.
It can be easy to go into negative thinking and say “but I didn’t complete the task.”
That isn’t at all helpful.
What’s a better approach?
To say: “I am grateful I was able to get that 10 minutes of work done.”
I’m Feeling Responsible
This one has been an intense emotional journey and continues to be.
I honestly didn’t realize until a recent event just how much emotional weight I was carrying and responsibility I was feeling about the well-being of our essential service workers and first responders.
I was awoken by sirens and lights flashing right outside my window.
I bolted out of bed at 2:30 a.m. in an absolute adrenaline-filled panic.
When I looked out the window, I saw multiple fire trucks on the street outside my house.
Firefighters were running about, hooking up hoses.
Smoke filled the air.
It looked like the fire was coming from either the gas station or grocery store nearby – so I knew my family was safe and we weren’t in danger.
But then, suddenly, I started absolutely sobbing.
I was completely overwhelmed.
My son had run upstairs noticing the sirens as well so he was there with me as I completely fell apart.
I, in an absolute blubbering mess, unloaded.
I expressed my overwhelming fear for:
- The front line workers (the nurses, police, firefighters, etc.).
- The essential workers (grocery store workers, pharmacists, truck drivers, etc.).
- Our highly vulnerable citizens (the homeless, abused, addicted, etc.).
It just all came spewing out.
Just an endless stream of fear for all of them and undying gratitude for all they are giving of themselves and anger for the position they’re being put in.
I realized in that moment how much fear and worry I am carrying for so many people around me.
The worst is yet to come.
It pains me to stand by with my only help to offer being to stay home and do nothing.
I am feeling responsible for the safety and well-being of the world and want to help them, but I simply can’t.
This breakdown was exactly what I needed to bring some clarity to what has been stewing underneath the surface and growing for some time.
I had been feeling very irritable.
It was incredibly uncomfortable.
Accepting and facing this feeling of responsibility has been helpful for me in moving forward.
I’ll bring up another nugget of knowledge I learned in my Cognitive Behavioral therapy class:
If you can name it, you can tame it.
So now that I have been able to name it, I am now in position to be able to tame it.
A good friend reminded me that while I can’t be there for everyone, there are still many people I can be there for.
Her exact words:
“Do for one or a few like you wish you could do for many.”
At times like this, it is important to focus in on what I’m doing to help rather than what I can’t control.
I Can’t Find Joy
I almost feel guilty talking about this one.
I feel like it’s unfair to focus on my need for enjoyment at a time that is literally dealing with life and death moments for so many.
I am in no way wanting to compare my struggles to those that are facing extreme loss, fear, and pain due to COVID-19.
That said, our mental health relies on us experiencing joy – and that is important to discuss, so I am.
I have dealt with depression before. It’s no stranger to me.
Struggling to find joy in a day can be a real struggle when I have been in a state of depression.
I think some of that applies here.
There seems to be a heightened prevalence of depression globally, which makes sense.
I can’t expect myself to find joy in the way that I may have at a time where our entire globe wasn’t under such massive threat and experiencing such loss.
But I can find the areas of my life that shouldn’t be consumed with this pain.
I can work to find ways to find joy in my days, but I am having to look for it in new places.
Typically when I am in search of enjoyment I head out.
I love my home. But my home is also where I work.
So getting away from my home is a way for me to get away from work, which is important for me to be able to unwind and let go.
When I am at home I struggle to not have the many tasks and jobs that need doing swirling around in my head.
When I get away, it is much easier for me to find joy.
This is a hard struggle to address during the current circumstances.
We all keep hearing over and over “Stay Home!”
I am faced with challenging myself to learn to let go and relax at home (a.k.a., at work).
This is very hard to do!
It’s a work in progress.
I have been trying to encourage myself to do things that don’t really excite nor interest me. I know that sounds weird but it’s a start.
I must be honest, I’m not super excited to re-watch my ridiculously large DVD collection that I meant to donate to goodwill long ago, but I’m working through it.
I have found there are nuggets of joy in there waiting to be discovered.
For instance, the other day we as a family watched “The Day The Earth Stood Still” and found ourselves chuckling together at how cheesy the whole thing was.
We were able to find a way to enjoy an experience that I really did not expect.
I didn’t enjoy the movie per se, but I did enjoy the family movie critic extravaganza.
It’s something I now can look forward to doing again that I wouldn’t have expected to like.
Another activity that I have taken to doing each day is to walk across the street from my house with my husband and spending a bit of time sitting on the bleachers at the baseball diamond.
On most days there is a family or a dad and son or a couple there (safely socially distancing, being only with those in their household) playing a game of some sort.
The other day we saw three young children playing a totally disorganized – but incredibly cheerful – game of baseball with their parents.
I found joy in witnessing their joy!
No, it’s not quite the same as maybe going to watch the World Series live at the local pub with a bunch of friends.
But it is something new to look at.
It is a view that isn’t within the walls of my house.
I am learning to find joy in these smaller moments filled with laughter, cheers, and fun.
While I’ve been able to provide you with a couple examples of ways I’m trying to address my struggle to find joy, I’d be lying if I said it’s always that easy and simple.
Some moments of joy seem to reveal themselves much more clearly and easily than others.
Again, this is a work in progress.
I realize it will be an ongoing struggle as I continue to be unable to go to my usual sources of entertainment and fun. Like going for my favorite Lemongrass Vermicelli dish at my favorite local Vietnamese restaurant or looking forward to and planning my upcoming trip to Mexico (which is no more).
So how do I get through this crisis?
I must continue to push myself to look for the joy in each and every moment where it may be hiding.
It is imperative for my mental health.
Coronavirus Is Affecting Us All In So Many Ways
I am beyond grateful for my health, my family, my job, my home – for all of the things that so many people around the world may lose and have already lost.
I am so incredibly fortunate and blessed and I do not take any of that for granted.
My heart goes out to the world, to each individual that is struggling, no matter what their challenges may be.
I know that at some point this pandemic will be a memory of a time where so many lost so much and so many learned so much.
It will be a time we all look back on with immense emotion without a doubt.
I hope that for us that time when we are able to “look back” comes sooner than later.
Of all the diseases to plague the world it seems especially cruel that it be one that takes our ability to hug each other away right when we most need it.
On that note, please do all you can to share your struggles, share your joys, reach out in whatever ways you safely can.
Do not experience this thing alone or let others be alone either.
As socially distanced as we all are right now, we truly are all in this together.
Featured Image Credit: Paulo Bobita