I’m writing this to the ones who feel scared and overwhelmed right now. Who feel that heavy cloud come over them the second they read the news headlines. Who can’t seem to escape from under that darkness even when they put the news away.
I’m writing this to you, because I am you. I know what it’s like to be the anxious one in the group. I know what it’s like to think in worst case scenarios. I know what it’s like to have those hundreds of worries circle in your head minute after minute, night after night. Fear is not a new thing to you and me. We’ve been here before haven’t we?
But this is a new situation, and even for those of us who have kept our anxiety at bay, who have been able to handle the things that life has thrown our way, well COVID-19 has made that anxiety rear it’s ugly face again. And once again that anxiety is trying to run the show.
I want you to know that I see you, and your fear, and I don’t think anything less of you. You might be comparing yourself to your spouse or your friend or your neighbour and wondering how they are able to cope so well. Why do they seem so strong and you feel so weak? They read the same news articles as you, they live in the same city, and yet they don’t walk with that heavy cloud over them. You can tell. You know the cloud, and you know when it’s not there.
I want to tell you it’s okay. It’s okay to be experiencing this situation differently than them. Your response doesn’t say anything about your value, but it does mean you are going to have to navigate these waters more carefully. Because your mental health matters.
You need to be aware of when it’s time to turn off the news. Maybe you need to keep the news off for now altogether. Find a trusted friend who can be your source of information, and is willing to answer all of your questions.
In the midst of the chaos it’s difficult to think of anything else, to be doing anything else. But sitting in a bubble of worry doesn’t change a thing. So, to get out of your head…
Go and make a list of self-care ideas you can pull from when that cloud is hanging thick and heavy. If you’re able to go outside, put on your sneakers and go for a walk. Listen to the birds. Look up at the clouds. Feel the air on your face. Practice some deep breathing.
Brew a cup of tea. Drink it slow while you listen to your favourite album. Do nothing else, just listen and enjoy. Dance if that’s your thing.
Write down some helpful mantras you can repeat to yourself. Our doctors are strong, intelligent, and capable. They are fighting this virus together. We have been through crises before and have gotten through. I have friends who are walking through this with me. I am not alone.
Stack a pile of books on your coffee table that you want to make a dent in.
Make a list of shows and movies you’ve been meaning to watch but haven’t made the time for. Things that will inspire you and make you laugh. The Kominsky Method, Grace and Frankie, Chef’s Table, Brittany Runs a Marathon, or anything written by Nora Ephron will do the trick.
Fill up the tub, light all the candles, dig out the bubble bath, and soak.
If you have kids, remember that they can be our best gift to help us get out of our heads and into the present moment. Play games. Paint. Build a fort. Bake cookies. Notice the joy that flows in when we are able to let go and just be.
Make a new goal for yourself, something you can do from home. 50 push ups a day! 3 pages of journalling every morning! Read 10 pages of a book every day! Pick up the guitar every day!
Buy a few of your favorite treats that you normally never have in the house. Sour soothers and gummy worms. Banana split ingredients. Chicago Mix. Or just good old fashioned chips and dip. If you’re quarantined or in self-isolation, set up a Face Time with someone. Talk about what you want to do when all of this insanity is over with. Start a group Face Time and play a game of Heads Up. Laugh together.
Most importantly, be mindful of when you need to reach out to someone. Be honest to yourself and to them about the state of your mental health. I’m feeling worried about _______, will you help me figure out another way of thinking about this?
We won’t all cope with this pandemic in the same way, and that’s okay. Know yourself, and value your unique perspective. Sensitivity might make us more prone to anxiety, but it also helps us empthasize with those who are also struggling. Let’s be there for one another.
Virtual hugs to you all,