When Coronavirus started, many did not know what to think. It was something that was happening in other countries. It will never happen here. Then things started to change. We had concerns about travel plans. We stopped hugging or shaking hands, and instead, we bumped elbows. We only hung out in groups of 10. Then we needed to practice social distancing, use face masks. We hear over and over “stay home” for some leads to isolation. All of these make sense as to the reasoning to keep us safe. Sense, that is an interesting term to use though. Sense involves understanding. For so many of us, having our daily lives so drastically shifted, is hard to understand or make sense of. There are so many unknowns, so many speculations, so many rumors, so many fears that inundate us daily that it is hard to know what is going on and make sense of what is happening. This is hard for many people.
Many of us want to be able to have an expectation of how our day will go, to know can get essentials at the grocery store, go for a hike or to the beach for some nature, to be able to run into a store real quick to grab something, and to be able to plan for the weeks/months ahead.
We like to look forward to a vacation, celebrate a graduation, have a wedding with loved ones, or attend an annual event that you look forward to all year. And many people are not without a job and have real concerns regarding their basic needs.
All of this unknown can create angst, anxiety, anger, frustration, intense dreams, headaches, or maybe some sadness. These are not comfortable feelings to be present with and so we may be practicing some of our favorite distractors as a way to not feel these. It may be cleaning out
every room in the house and the shed too. It may be painting all the rooms of the house. It may be online shopping, eating, drinking, or watching lots of television and movies. And, though these are not necessarily bad things, they are ways to avoid feeling whatever may be coming up with the unknown and the circumstances surrounding us with COVID 19? Whether it is fear, lack, panic, sadness, the belief that you are not enough, loneliness, concerns about your marriage, concerns about your parenting, concerns about health for you and your loved ones, or a myriad of other thoughts and feelings, most people are emotionally impacted by the effect of COVID 19.
The thing is, emotions, thoughts and feelings are most likely coming up sometimes. This is a time of increased stress, isolation or minimal time alone, no transition time between work and homelife, and changes to your work life including possible loss of job. So how are you being impacted? Check in with yourself and see what is going on. What messages are you telling yourself? Are you feeling any tension or pain in your body? How are you doing emotionally?
Once you recognize the thoughts and emotions that are coming up and/or the physical symptoms you are having the next question is, “What can you do?” Well that may depend on the situation and the amount of time you have. If you do not have a lot of time, you are in a meeting or you are with your kids, and you feel the signs and symptoms of increased stress, you can take some slow deep breathes.
Personally, my go to deep breath rhythm is an inhale to a slow count to 4, hold for a count of 2, and a slow count to 6 on the exhale and then repeat. The longer exhale will help with grounding. If you have more time, taking the time to sit with these emotions will actually allow them to be heard, felt, and pass. So that may mean actually embracing the quiet time. Turn off everything, listen, and feel… what do you hear? What do you feel? Breathe into any areas that have tension or tightness. What happens as you breathe into these places? Does the sensation shift, move to a different body part, increase or decrease? Just noticing this without judgement allows space for it to felt and often it will shift.
Giving yourself time to be present with your emotions and your body does not mean wallowing.
A great way to help with these feelings is to practice self-care. Some activities that may help with being present are taking walks (if you are allowed to in your area), finding an exercise class online (and maybe try something new in the comfort and safety of your own home), taking a bath, having a dance party, finding ways to give back to your community, or connecting with friends or family. One of the things that has helped me a lot is taking “beauty walks.” I will walk around my neighborhood and look for things that make me smile and then be aware, truly aware of the joy, awe, and/or beauty that is always all around. Being present in this way, using your senses to take in beauty, may actually allow you a brief moment of making sense out of the unique situation we are all in together.