Thinking back to the beginning of 2020, like many of my companions and colleagues, we thought the pandemic would disrupt life for a couple of months. We would work remotely, social distance, wear a mask, and soon enough things would be back to normal.
Now that we are wrapping up the same year and have yet to really progress towards the way things used to be, we are all searching for ways to cope with present realities.
To start, let’s acknowledge that change is happening. Sometimes we can get so caught up in resisting change, that we turn away from actually dealing with it. To say the least, things are drastically different now. We are spending more time alone, away from friends and family. We are less social, staying away from restaurants and bars. The news stations are feeding us staggering numbers around the clock. Stress and anxiety during a time like this is completely normal. Use some of the below affirmations to not only acknowledge the change, but build trust within yourself to persevere:
I believe in my ability to get through tough times.
I will not stress over things I cannot control.
The feelings in my body are normal and I fully accept them
It’s ok that yesterday felt like a hard day.
All of my feelings are ok.
I can take things one day, or one hour, at a time.
I have been through hard things before and have survived them.
This will not break me.
I let go of what I can’t change and do my best with what I can.
I am going to focus on things I love to get me through this.
This is hard, and I can do hard things.
In the midst of everything occurring, remember to give yourself a break. I’ll say it again. Give. Yourself. A. Break. This is a new reality, and it should come with adjusted expectations. Let’s say you could run an 8-minute mile, then someone comes along and asks you to run it with a 50lb bag on your back. You might be able to run it, but you might need a break, you might walk for part of it, and it might take you longer than 8 minutes. Giving yourself a break can look different for everybody. It can mean setting boundaries so you’re not overwhelmed at work, or ordering takeout so you don’t have to deal with cooking and cleaning. Whatever it is for you, remember that you deserve it and don’t feel guilty for taking it.
Try to reset your expectations and focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. Frustration can grow out of inflexible expectations. If you are juggling work and caring for toddlers, I can almost guarantee you that they will pop onto a video call from time to time. That’s to be expected. Anticipate the interruptions. Remind yourself it’s ok. It’s not terrible, just inconvenient.
As mentioned earlier, stress and anxiety from all the changes during a time like this is completely normal. We’ve all learned that great ways to deal with this are to eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise. Another best practice – mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation. You focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment. Do this without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.
Mindfulness can actually improve your capacity to deal with change. Additionally, it increases your capacity to choose your response to change. With practice, it can be a way to quiet all the noise around you.
If you are really feeling overwhelmed, seek support. It is okay to ask for help; that’s a sign that you know yourself well enough to realize you need some assistance. Working with a psychologist, therapist, or counselor gives you a chance to explore your thoughts, feelings, and patterns of behavior. It can also equip you with a toolkit of coping skills to better manage daily stressors (something that talking to your cat just can’t do).
One little thing that I’ve found helpful during this time is to write down the positives that have come from change. Since the pandemic started, I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with my daughters. I’ve learned to cook and bake a ton of new dishes (including banana bread). I’ve started reading books that I put off for years. There are positive moments that happen each day, and we should remind ourselves not to get overly bogged down with the negative to overlook them.