Coping Under Quarantine Issue #4-How are you doing? What are your hopes for the rest of the year?
My neighbor has a 10 foot tall T-Rex skeleton by his front porch, because...why not. Throughout the year he dresses it up in different costumes or uses various props or signs to let us know how his T-Rex is celebrating various holidays, events or seasons. Recently the sign held up by the Mr. Rex said "make no bones about it, I am done with 2020." You may be feeling the same way.
How are you feeling about 2020 now that we are at the halfway mark? Are you done with it despite what the calendar says? There is certainly no right or wrong way to feel. In March or April as you adjusted to being part of a worldwide quarantine, you might have had an "alright let's do this, it's all hands on deck," mentality as you were willing to put life on hold for a while for the greater good. It seemed that many people were feeling this way. Admittedly, it was easier at that point for me to write the first few newsletters. To me, it felt like I could address what it seemed like were more universal experiences with the pandemic. That has become harder over time (which could explain my not sending a newsletter out for a few weeks now) people's circumstances, level of return to normalcy, and overall experiences have become more widely varied.
So, now that some aspects of life have returned to normalcy, while many have not, all while the virus rages on, again I ask, how are you feeling about 2020? How are you doing? No need to be ashamed with your honest answers. We've all been affected. Some of those effects have been universal, some unique. Perhaps it's time to check in with yourself to be honest about how you and your mental health are really doing as the year drags on. The following are just a few statements to which you can use to assess yourself. Simply respond with Always, Sometimes or Never, or any other adverb of your choice. This is certainly not an exhaustive list of experiences, and so be sure to acknowledge anything important you have noticed outside of these few examples.
I'm afraid of people and see them all as potential carriers of the virus.
I'm worried about the health of a loved one.
I find myself regularly checking the news to see how many Covid-19 cases are in my area.
Watching the news makes me anxious.
I'm worried about the health of the economy.
I find myself regularly checking the stock market.
I feel lonely and isolated.
I'm sleeping in more than I used to.
I'm escaping into social media more than I used to.
I've gained weight since the pandemic started.
I miss sports and worry that we won't get a football season this year.
I feel like I've forgotten how to socialize and feel awkward when I encounter people now.
I've stopped worrying about the virus and am back to socializing like I used to.
Perhaps you are feeling like you are doing okay, all things considered, or perhaps you are worried about yourself because you aren't doing too well. That may be the case, and of course it's okay to ask for help from a trusted friend, relative, or professional. If you are worried about yourself, it may be helpful to ask yourself, "what's keeping me going?" Is zoning out and just waiting for the next few months to pass keeping you going, or are you like the person I spoke with recently who said "I'm excited to see what I can accomplish over the next few months and see what I can learn from this time. Of course I am looking forward to the pandemic being over, but it feels good right now, it's like anticipating Christmas. I'm enjoying the process."
Whether you are like this person-thrilled with the prospect of personal growth, or my neighbor's T-Rex-just ready for it to be all over, it's worth us each asking: What are my hopes for the rest of the year?
Assuming that the pandemic continues to forbid, or at least alter, many aspects of the ways in which we prefer to live, what would the future you be proud you had accomplished? Asking these questions engages creative thinking-thinking that may be dormant if you are in survival mode or zoned out. Giving this serious thought and planning can be a powerful antidote to the depressive funk you may be in.
For years to come how would you prefer to look back at your behavior during this time? What would you like to be able to tell people years in the future you did with your time in 2020? Survived? Understandable. Me too. I hope I survive too. Took care of your neighbors? Finished some projects that have been put off? Transformed and/or transitioned your career? Reconnected with friends or family? Etc.
Hopefully somewhere in there a bit of energy and motivation is found to make 2020 one to remember for more than one reason.
Best of luck,
Tyler Andrus, LCSW