In a pandemic, our old ideas about how life works no longer apply. We don’t know when or how this time of quarantining will end. Hell, we can’t even predict what will happen next week, so much is changing so fast.
As a psychotherapist, it’s clear to me that the coronavirus has greatly upset many people’s emotional well-being. It’s completely normal right now to feel a full range of emotions in a short period of time: you might feel really grateful and fortunate now, five minutes later you’re sad and depressed, and fifteen minutes later you’re zoned out and numb.
How to navigate all of these intense feelings (and all of the headlines) we’re currently experiencing? You can begin by going easy on yourself – and others. Focus on taking care of yourself and your loved ones, making sure that your needs for food, safety, prescription refills, and supportive community are met.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, establishing a daily routine can help you feel more “in control”. For example, you could wake up every morning at a certain time and make coffee: that would be the foundation for your morning routine. Creating some kind of “structure” for your days make them feel more predictable and safe.
In a time like this when all the days feel the same (and seem to blend together), writing down your daily routine can add to your sense of purpose and make the parts of your day feel more “real”.
Journaling about your feelings can also be a calming part of your daily routine. Start with a couple of lines a day about how you’re feeling and see if it’s helpful.
Mindfulness and meditation (aka “M&M”) are popular buzz words right now, but, don’t be intimidated by them. They simply invite you to slow down and pay attention to what’s going on with you in the present moment.
If you feel worried or anxious, a little M&M can lower your stress. A lot of our fears and anxieties are about the future. M&M give us the opportunity to “be here now” and notice our feelings without letting them overwhelm us.
M&M strategies can be as simple as sitting down in a chair with your feet on the floor, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breathing while you feel your body in the chair. M&M apps can be a helpful meditation tool: you might check out Headspace or Calm. They’re both free, easy-to-use, and offer short, guided meditations to get started.
Do you like to doodle? If so, you could pick up a pen (or some colored markers or pencils) and doodle a little. See where the shapes and colors take you: you might find yourself drawing something. Drawing/doodling can be a playful creative outlet. And, remember, your “creations” don’t have to be profound, just enjoy the process.
Movement – from going on a walk around the block to joining a virtual yoga class – is a good way of reducing stress. Find a way to get your body off the sofa and moving, no matter how big or small the movements. I like to dance around the house to music that moves me. Nobody’s watching and it makes me feel good (and, my body likes not being glued to my computer monitor, constantly checking the news).
As LGBTQ people, it really helps to stay connected to our community: when you go for short walks or bike rides, say hello to the people you meet, and enjoy safe, physically distanced conversations. You can also support queer-owned or LGBTQ-friendly restaurants by getting delivery or takeout. There are two restaurants in my neighborhood that I’m supporting by ordering takeout on a regular basis. They told me that they appreciate my support. It feels good for me and for them, and I like their food! You can be sure that big chains like McDonald’s will be around in a few months, but smaller businesses are going to have a much harder time. Support them NOW so they’ll be there for you in the future. Together, we’ll all make it through this New Normal and come out the other side: it’s not a question of “if”, but “when”…